Baumhower: Welcome home, Mike. Welcome back, springWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I can feel the cold in my bones. For the first time in my 38 years, a winter told my body that I am getting old. My joints ache from my new extra pounds as it appears my body was fully in hibernation mode.
The weather the last four months has been so terrible that Toledo finally received No. 1 status on a list; the Weather Channel ranked the Glass City as having the worst winter in 2013-2014. Yay? We’re No. 1?
The last winters have spoiled Toledoans with their mildness. This year we were reminded of who we are and where we live.
On April 4, we have the first definitive proof that time is moving forward and the cold winter days are in our rearview mirror. Our Toledo Mud Hens and the game of baseball return to Fifth Third Field.
Mud Hens’ 2014 Opening Day will feel very different than any other first day of baseball we’ve ever enjoyed. This city has changed. The citizens have changed. We’ve all grown an extra layer of skin. We’re tougher than we were a year ago.
The game scheduled against Louisville will be proof the city of Toledo survived the last 120 days.
Fifth Third Field will feel like something out of the Wizard of Oz. We will all experience the same emotions as the munchkins did when Aunt Em’s house landed on the wicked witch — for us it was the wicked winter. Blizzards and vortexes and cold … no more! Blizzards and vortexes and cold … no more! Our yellow brick road begins at the corner of Washington and Huron and we will follow it through the spring and summer in hopes of getting to Oz/ playoffs in early September.
12,500 Toledoans will stand and sit in complete awe while staring at the green grass, wondering why our lawn is still brown. It won’t be just the fresh air, the ironically ice-cold beer and the sound of a ball hitting a wooden bat that makes us feel better, but that handshake and embrace from friends you have not seen since last season. There will be no way around it: the topic of weather will be discussed more than the Tigers’ off-season maneuvers on that first Friday in April.
Growing up Catholic we were required/encouraged to attend a weekend Mass. The “accepted times” were anything after 4 p.m. Saturday through Sunday night. My family attended the Sunday morning 9:30 service at St. Clement’s. During a Mud Hens home stand, Friday and Saturday nights become a different kind of must-attend, near-religious event. Instead of Father Kirkland leading the congregation with “amens,” we have Manager Larry Parrish leading the way with “hit and runs.” I am a Saturday night guy; that’s what game my family attends.
The Mud Hens are not just a pastime in Northwest Ohio. They are part of our extended family. Like many grandparents who spend the winter abroad in warmer states like Florida and Arizona, they return for the spring just as our baseball heroes do.
The names of players change every year, but their stories rarely do. The Mud Hens’ roster is filled with grown men chasing their dream of making it to the Major Leagues. Some players, like the city of Toledo itself, are working on their comeback, trying to reclaim a spot on the Tigers team through hard work and dedication. These men can be rehabbing some injury, fighting Father Time and in some cases figuring out a way to lay off the slider or learn when to throw one.
This comeback player is normally the guy who will come out early to sign a ball, a glove or a baseball card, the athlete who learns the names of the fans who never miss a game. These players are the ones who always receive the loudest cheers from us, the fans. When they succeed they have a magical way of making us spontaneously stand on our feet, yell their name and clap. When they fail, we seem to be the ones shouting some encouragement to them as they make their way back to the dugout.
Toledo has always loved the underdog, because that’s what this city has become. This year we will be cheering again for Mike Hessman.
Hessman, the now 36-year-old all-time Mud Hens’ home run king is returning to Toledo after signing a minor league deal with the club. The Tigers’ brass needed a seasoned veteran to help guide their young talent through the ups and downs of the game, the Mud Hens needed an everyday fan favorite. They made the perfect choice. It could be an even better story.
Hessman is believed to have zero chance at making it to the big time once again. Baseball writers are saying there is no way: Mike’s too old and strikes out too often. Doesn’t that sound like the very way critics describe the city of Toledo?
If Mike has a pulse and a bat he has a chance.
If the city of Toledo would remember how to swing for the fences, so do we.
Welcome home, Mike. Welcome back, spring.
Let’s play ball!
Jeremy Baumhower can be found in section 108 during Saturday night home games. Instead of emailing him at email@example.com, leave your comment or a note with the usher. If you want him to receive it, make sure you properly tip.