On the Road: Citizenship and Costumed Characters in Toledo
Yesterday’s post ended on a spectacular cliffhanger, in which the ceremonial first pitches at the Toledo Mud Hens game were about to transition into a Naturalization Ceremony. And –spoiler alert! — my MiLB.com article on the ceremony appeared later in the day.
If you haven’t read said article I certainly suggest that you do. I tried real hard and used big words and everything, and there are even links to a photo gallery and player interviews. But in the interest of continuity let me pick up the narrative thread here as well.
As far as I know, the Mud Hens are the only team that stage annual ballpark Naturalization Ceremonies. They were inspired to do so by the parent Detroit Tigers (who served as the venue for Placido Polanco’s naturalization), and this year individuals from 13 countries officially became Americans.
I’ll be honest — a lot of patriotic ballpark events seem to be of the “going through the motions” variety, comprised of standing, rising, rote memorization, and unthinking applause. But I was truly inspired by this, that the 20 people on the field renounced the governments of their native countries in order to make a go of it in Toledo. It was a great reminder that this country is still a wonderful and highly desirable place to live, despite pervasive post-industrial economic malaise compounded by partisan strife and the frequent inability to find something good to eat while writing in a hotel at 1:30 a.m.
And the pomp and circumstance only continued, as one of the first promotions once the game began was the “seat graduation.” I loved the creativity here, as the Mud Hens tweaked the standard seat upgrade gimmick by having the two chosen fans (Steve and Stu from Wisconsin) march to their new seats whilst wearing gowns. Upon arriving at their new location, they were instructed to move their tassels from right to left before sitting down.
But graduation gowns are nothing in the overall scheme of things, for Fifth Third Field is a wall-to-wall funhouse of outlandish costumes. Over the course of the next innings, I ran into the following individuals on the concourse:
The first two individuals are representatives of the ECHL’s Toledo Walleyes, who share an ownership group with the Mud Hens. In fact, many Mud Hens employees also fill a similar capacity with the Walleyes. They’ve got dual-sided business cards and everything.
And that inflatable Mud Hen is just plain terrifying — it has a fully operational tongue and will not hesitate to lick you. And then there are these characters, named after Toledo celebrities Jamie Farr, Jim Leyland, and (in the background) Katie Holmes.
These three individuals take part in a nightly on-field race, and I was given the honor of suiting up as Jamie Farrmadillo (who, truth be told, should probably be wearing women’s clothing ala Klinger).
I can’t tell you much about this race, except that I did not win and was winded afterward. I then stuck around with the promo crew for the next inning break, running onto the field and displaying my gross ineptitude with a t-shirt gun. Video of this exists, and I hope to soon share it with you.
But, for now, its best to leave things to the professionals. Like primary mascots Muddy and Muddonna, seen here doing dancing during a between-inning skit.
And wouldn’t you know it? This cavalcade of costumed characters was taking place while there was a professional baseball game going on. Who knew? Here are a few Fifth Third points.
The right field “Roost” overhang, accommodating 350 fans and usually sold as part of a group package.
Concourse, behind home plate:
But all vantage points are enhanced by victory. As this hallucinogenic scoreboard graphic makes clear, victory was indeed achieved.
Welcome to America!
(I finally hit 1000 Twitter followers yesterday! Thanks, and here’s to 999,000 more!)