April 2010 Issue
Toledo teams provide year-round entertainment.
When most people think of Toledo sports, they think of the Toledo Mud Hens, the minor-league baseball team made famous by actor Jamie Farr on the hit television series “M*A*S*H.” The Glass City native infused his character, Maxwell Klinger, with a passion that matched his own. Even as a cross-dressing private determined to get out of the Army during the Korean War, Klinger wore his love for the Mud Hens on the sleeve of his very best dress, a figurative badge of hometown honor.
Farr remains a huge fan of the team, now a Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, which will begin its 72-game 2010 home schedule April 8 at the 8,943-seat Fifth Third Field (406 Washington St., Toledo 43604. 419/725-HENS, mudhens.com). According to Mud Hens public-relations director and broadcaster Jason Griffin, the actor tapes prerecorded announcements shown on the ball park’s video board and watches televised games on a computer at his California home.
“It’s not uncommon for Jamie to shoot me an e-mail during the game saying, ‘Hey, I’m watching. Go Mud Hens!’” Griffin says.
But Mud Hens baseball, as Toledo residents will tell you, isn’t the only game in town. The city has something for fans of every major sport — and a few lesser-known diversions.
The most recent addition to Toledo’s sports scene is the ECHL Toledo Walleye, AA ice hockey affiliate of the NHL Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. The team played their 2009–2010 home games (the season wraps up on the road on April 3) at the new 7,431-seat Lucas County Arena (500 Jefferson Ave., Toledo 43604, 419/725-WALL. toledowalleye.com).
“It is just a beautiful facility,” Walleye radio and television broadcaster Matt Melzak says of the place. “People have been coming in droves, which has been a lot of fun. It really is a great atmosphere.”
Those looking to catch walleye — the fish, not the hockey team — head to the Maumee River for the largest walleye spawning run in the state. Larry Goedde, a district fish supervisor for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, estimates that “hundreds of thousands” of the Lake Erie favorite make the trip up the Maumee during the run, which typically begins at the beginning of March and continues through the end of April. Anglers from as far away as Wisconsin and Missouri harvested about 57,000 walleye during that period last year. (The state bag limit is four hook-and-line-caught walleye of 15 inches or longer per person per day.) Goedde says the majority of fish are hooked in the stretch of river between the Conant Street and Interstate 475 bridges, near the cities of Maumee and Perrysburg.
“There are fish that will go all the way [south] into Waterville,” Goedde says. “Most of those fish are caught later in the run, at the end of April or first part of May.”
Sports fans who crave a little more excitement will want to check out Raceway Park (5700 Telegraph Rd., Toledo 43612, 419/476-7751. racewayparktoledo.com), where they can bet on 12 to 16 live harness races every Saturday and Sunday night, from April 17 through Oct. 24, and wager on simulcast races at tracks around the country seven days a week. The park’s amenities include a sports bar and concession stand, as well as the Trackside Bar & Grill and the Crazy Horse Clubhouse, a 500-seat buffet restaurant.
“We have televisions by the tables, so you can watch whatever races you want,” says John McNamara, director of marketing for the Crazy Horse Clubhouse, which serves seafood and prime rib on Saturdays and home-style items such as baked chicken and meatloaf on Sundays. “The seating is all tiered, overlooking the track.”
Nearby is Toledo Speedway (5639 Benore Rd., Toledo 43612, 419/727-1100. arcaracing.com), a 5,500-seat facility that hosts Friday night stock-car races, a few open-wheel car contests, and “gimmick events” such as the popular monster trucks, April 16–Oct. 2. General manager and marketing director Scott Schultz calls the half-mile high-banked track one of the nicest short tracks in the Midwest — and one of the fastest in the country. He lists visitors such as NASCAR drivers Tony Stewart, who comes to town for the supermodified and sprint car show every June, and Kyle Busch, who raced at the speedway last year.
Farr, too, returns to Toledo every year for the LPGA Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, June 28–July 4 at Highland Meadows Golf Club (7455 Erie St., Sylvania 43560, 419/882-7153. jamiefarrowenscorning.com). The tournament, now in its 26th year, has raised more than $6.5 million through sponsorships and ticket sales for children’s charities in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. “This is Jamie’s hometown,” Heather Warga, the tournament’s volunteer coordinator, says of Farr’s participation. “He wanted to do something to support the Toledo community as well as help out children.” The purse — $1 million this year — attracts golfers such as Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, Lorena Ochoa, Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie.
By late summer, local football fans are gearing up for the University of Toledo Rockets season, which kicks off with a Sept. 3 home opener against the University of Arizona Wildcats at the 26,248-seat Glass Bowl (2801 W. Bancroft St., Toledo 43606, 419/530-GOLD. utrockets.com). Paul Helgren, associate athletic director for media relations, says the Mid-American Conference team will play five more regular-season home contests through November. Second-year coach Tim Beckman and a recruiting class that includes the likes of Steubenville High School quarterback Dwight Macon, named Division 3 Player of the Year by the Associated Press, are already generating plenty of media buzz.
“For the first time in anyone’s memory, the University of Toledo recruiting class was rated the No. 1 recruiting class in the MAC by all the recruiting analysts,” Helgren says. “We’re very excited about that.”