‘Hens and Hogwarts,’ ‘Royal Wedding’ among promotionsWritten by Staff Reports | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Many fans show up to Mud Hens baseball games for more than just the sport itself. With special appearances, theme nights and giveaways, crowds don’t keep their distance from Fifth Third Field for long.
“I get weighed down with all of my classes and work during the actual weekdays,” said Catlin Willard, a University of Toledo student. “So me and my friends like to just have fun on some weekends and go to Mud Hens games.”
School Celebration Days let younger scholars enjoy the games too. Each spring, more than 25,000 kids attend games with their classmates on those days, said Erik Ibsen, assistant general manager of ticket sales and operations.
“School Celebration Days are always great because you see kids that come from as far as an hour and a half away that might not get to see many games,” Ibsen said. “It’s just great to see thousands of screaming kids.”
The Mud Hens even established a curriculum guide with baseball-themed lessons that teachers can incorporate into lesson plans. Many schools use the game as an end-of-the-year reward, so the guide adds an educational component, Ibsen said.
Other popular youth events are the scout sleepovers. There are various Boy Scout and Girl Scout sleepovers throughout each season, with about 7,000 scouts attending in all. They watch the game and then camp out on the field afterwards.
They can use the game to work toward different scout badges too, Ibsen said.
Willard said she especially likes the fireworks, one of the many recurring attractions offered at the games. But this season will bring some newer additions to go along with the fiery displays.
“New this year, we have The Amazing Christopher and The Bucket Boys,” said JaMay Edwards, manager of promotions. “We’re excited to offer the funnier theme nights too, like Hens and Hogwarts Night, which is a tribute to the Harry Potter books and movies.”
Hens and Hogwarts Night, set for July 9, will feature in-game movie trivia, “Potter glasses” and magic wand giveaways, a magician and the “Potter-ization” of player headshots, Edwards said.
The Amazing Christopher (June 26) is a puppeteer while The Bucket Boys (July 16 and 17) create musical rhythms using buckets, garbage cans and more.
Some other quirky themes include the Royal Wedding Rehearsal Night (April 23), several Spring Cleaning Giveaway Nights, featuring items from seasons past, and a Cinco de Mayo Celebration on May 5.
The Royal Wedding event will include giveaways of crowns and imported commemorative royal engagement stamp sets as well as wedding cake sampling at select concession stands, Edwards said.
“We are also searching for a real ‘Kate and William’ couple to recognize during the game and win prizes,” she said.
Other themes include Catholic Youth Organization Family Night (May 6), Relay for Life Night (Aug. 20) and Veterans Appreciation Night (June 10).
Fans can also get directly involved in the entertainment. Those with singing voices are able to show off their talent and sing the National Anthem. Another attraction is Autograph Sundays, where players sign autographs from an hour before the game starts until the half-hour countdown.
The ceremonial first pitch is usually a big hit, too, Edwards said. This opportunity is usually reserved for a fan representing a group of 100 or more at the game. The pitch also helps charity, as $150 is donated to the Helping Hens Charitable Fund. The first pitch ball is also autographed by a Mud Hens player.
Yet another way to contribute to the Helping Hens Charitable Fund is with a $1 donation that buys fans the chance to send a message across the scoreboard. During the fifth inning they get to see their messages in bright letters, whether “Happy Birthday” or even “Will you marry me?”
“We are also paying homage to Toledo’s rich baseball history with our annual Moses Fleetwood Walker Tribute Night,” Edwards said. “That night will also include a bobblehead giveaway.”
Walker, an Ohio native, played for the Toledo Blue Stockings in the 1880s and is credited as the first African-American to play professional baseball. His tribute night is set for June 23.
Giveaway seems to be a popular word with fans.
“Fans love free stuff,” Edwards said. “Who doesn’t? The most popular promotions usually include a free giveaway item. Any special entertainment that visits Fifth Third Field can also be a crowd-pleaser. People love to come out to Mud Hens games, and the promotions definitely play a part.”
Jessica Marquis, a UT student and Mud Hens fan, agreed.
“It’s fun to go to games because my siblings love the free stuff,” Marquis said. “If I ever happen to get anything, I usually give it to them. They love it.”
As warm-weather sports have finally arrived, Marquis plans on attending a few more ballgames herself.
“Me and my siblings have fun at Mud Hens games,” Marquis said. “It’s always part of the summer we look forward to. I think it’s something we’ll always be able to remember, too.”
For a full schedule of promotional events, visit www.mudhens.com and click on Promotions (all promotions are subject to change).
By Blair Bohland
Toledo Free Press News Editor Emily B. Gibb and Toledo Free Press Special Sections Editor Sarah Ottney contributed to this report.