Mud Hens kick off kids programs and campsWritten by Kevin Moore | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Baseball is a source of fond memories for many. In years past, whole childhood summers revolved around the sport. It is “America’s pastime,” after all. Many adults can probably even remember going to their first baseball game — “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” the seventh-inning stretch, “Popcorn! Get your popcorn here!” Each season, the Toledo Mud Hens go to great lengths to make sure a new generation of kids will have those experiences.
“We have always been active in getting kids involved and promoting a family-friendly atmosphere, but in recent years we’ve evolved to focus on the variety of interests and groups that make up our fans,” said Emily Croll, special events coordinator for the Toledo Mud Hens. “We have people come and tell us the fond memories they have from the old Ned Skeldon Stadium. They remember going to their first baseball game. We want to preserve that. We want the kids in our community to have those kinds of memories as they grow up and then share them with their kids one day.”
One of the most popular ways the Mud Hens get kids involved is through the Muddy’s Buddies Kids Club. Children age 12 and younger are treated to a new member’s packet of prizes when they join and can then participate in special events throughout the season. Notably, members are invited to attend Muddy’s Buddies Field Day where kids can play catch on the field, play in batting cages and have lunch.
“It’s a lot of fun. They get to take over the ballpark before the game,” Croll said.
Kids can register for the club at Fifth Third Field, through the Fan Center page at MudHens.com or at participating Toledo McDonald’s locations. Membership is free.
Throughout the summer, the Mud Hens host several baseball camps: a one-day camp, an adult-child camp, a camp for children with special needs and two three-day camps. The three-day camps are scheduled during the week, one in June and one in August, whereas the others take place on weekends.
The camps last three hours during which attendees practice hitting, pitching and fielding at stations run by Mud Hens players. Attendees also receive a T-shirt, ticket for that day’s game and a baseball they can get signed.
“We’ve had registration for the camps open since December. They’re popular as Christmas presents,” Croll said. “But we’ll keep registration open until the date of the camps or until they’re full. They do tend to fill up fast.”
Specifically for its girl fans, the Mud Hens began the Chicklets dance team four years ago. Girls ages 5-11 can join the Chicklets to perform during one of the Mud Hens’ home games throughout the season, and then once more for a group event in August. The Chicklets practice three times during the week leading up to their performance under the guidance of a professional dance instructor.
“You don’t need prior experience to be a Chicklet,” Croll said. “We have girls who have been dancing their whole lives and girls who have never danced a day in their lives.”
Participating girls get a Chicklets uniform and two tickets for them and a family member to both the home game performance and the big event in August.
The team also opens Fifth Third Field to Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops for sleepovers. This season, there will be six sleepovers for Boy Scouts and two for Girl Scouts.
“The sleepovers are organized by the troop leaders, and the scouts come in [and] pitch tents on the field, we put a movie on the big screen and they sleep right on the field. These are popular and tend to fill up quickly,” Croll said.
The Mud Hens will have a special day geared toward kids April 6 as part of opening weekend.
“We’re always a family-friendly ballpark, but the opening day game on Friday, April 4, tends to have more of an adult atmosphere. It’s Friday afternoon, and we have a lot of people who come straight from work. Keeping that in mind, we’re going to have a special kids day,” Croll said.
On April 6, kids will be able to participate in activities and games on the concourse during the game and spend time with the Mud Hens mascots as well as their friends representing the Toledo Walleye, Spike and CatTrick. Before the game starts, young fans can get autographs from two players on the team and, if they stick around after the game, have an opportunity to run the bases. There will also be a drive at the park for kids to join Muddy’s Buddies and collect their membership prize.
“Sunday is the day we always focus on kids activities. We have pre-game autographs and the postgame base run every week. Our opening weekend kids day on April 6 is really a kickoff for what we do every Sunday,” Croll said. “Our weekend activities will begin to ramp up once kids are out of school for summer.”
Once summer vacation starts, Fifth Third Field will host several themed games, during which fans are encouraged to dress up. Star Wars Night, which was a tremendous hit last year, will be May 10; the Mud Hens will sport special jerseys for Ghostbusters Night on May 30 in commemoration of the movie’s 30th anniversary; and Spider-Man is scheduled to make an appearance on Superhero Night on June 28.
“Kids love to dress up for these days, and honestly, adults do too,” Croll said.
Additionally, between 20 to 30 of Muddy’s fellow mascots, a list that in the past has included mascots from Bowling Green State University, the University of Toledo, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Wendy from Wendy’s and several local high schools, will come to celebrate his birthday July 13. Once again this year, the Mud Hens will host fireworks after home games on weekends.
Other kid-favorite entertainment planned includes the ZOOperstars! on July 11 and BirdZerk! on Aug. 1.
For more information on any of the Toledo Mud Hens’ children’s programs, visit www.mudhens.com.
Tags: baseball camps, BirdZerk!, Bowling Green State University, Emily Croll, Fifth Third Field to Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops for sleepovers, Ghostbusters Night, Mud Hens mascots, Muddy’s Buddies Kids Club, Ned Skeldon Stadium, special events coordinator for the Toledo Mud Hens, Spider-Man, Spike and CatTrick, Star Wars Night, Superhero Night, the Chicklets dance team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, The University of Toledo, Toledo Mud Hens, Toledo Walleye, Wendy from Wendy’s, ZOOperstars!