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February 22, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Toledo hosts Triple-A All Star Game

Recent bad weather had many Toledoans looking forward to last Wednesday’s Triple-A All Star Game as a bright spot in these otherwise soggy times. Still, early rain and dark clouds threatened to take that away.

Luckily, thanks to hard work by the grounds crew and what seemed like sheer good luck, the International League All Stars were able to put on a show for the sellout crowd of 11,300 in a 6-0 route over the Pacific Coast League All Stars. The game was highlighted by a two run home run by first baseman Kevin Witt of the Durham Bulls and capped off with back to back solo home runs by Syracuse SkyChiefs first baseman Kevin Barker and Mud Hens outfielder Ryan Raburn.

Witt earned IL Player of the Game honors going 3-for-3 from the plate with three RBIs, one home run and a double. He played for the Mud Hens for about a month in 2003 and said it felt good to back in Toledo.

“I miss Toledo, I always had a good time here,” Witt said. “The fans are nothing but great, and the city of Toledo has been great. The city of Toledo deserves a great week like this.”

Witt said his performance in the game felt like redemption for his first round exit in the Home Run Derby. He hopes it will keep him in the Toledo fans’ good graces next time he’s in town.

“Hopefully when I come here with Durham they’ll still be polite to me,” he said.

Iowa Cubs southpaw Rich Hill’s two scoreless innings and two strikeouts were good enough to earn him PCL Player of the game honors. Despite the lopsided final score, Hill said he still had fun.

“Toledo did a great job putting this on,” he said. “As far as the outcome of the game, it’s kind of irrelevant. It’s just about going out there and showcasing what you have and having fun.”

Hill has spent time in the majors with the Chicago Cubs and said it helped him avoid the nerves of playing in the All-Star Game.

“It helps being up to the big leagues, playing in front of 40 to 50 thousand fans,” he said. “Then coming here and playing in an event like this after playing in front of such a big stadium, you become more calm.”

One player without nerves of steel was Raburn, who homered in the eighth to add the Illinois’ final run.

“You couldn’t even talk to him he was so nervous,” Mud Hens trainer Matt Rankin said.

Raburn said getting to play in the outfield before having to bat helped him shake some of the nerves out but as soon as he hit the home run, he couldn’t think about anything, literally.

“I went out in the outfield after I hit it and tried to replay it in my mind and I couldn’t. I was just blank,” he said. “I was so excited.”

He said playing in front of the home crowd helped but not in the way he would have hoped.

“It helped out making me feel more nervous,” he said.

Mud Hens outfielder Ryan Ludwick also got a hit in the game and said doing it front of the home crowd made it that much more satisfying.

“Raburn got a home run in front of the home crowd. I got a hit in front of the home crowd and [Mud Hens pitchers Chad Durbin and Lee Gardner] threw well so everything turned out real good,” he said.

Charlotte Knights lefty Heath Phillips got the win pitching scoreless third and fourth inning while giving up zero hits and striking out one. Phillips was part of an impressive IL staff that didn’t even give up a hit until the fifth inning and only allowed two hit and two walks.

The last time a team was shut out in the All Star Game was 2002 when the PCL beat the IL 9-0. Only allowing two hits is also an alltime low matched only once by the American League in 1995.

The win means that IL will be the home team in the “Bricktown Showdown”, the Triple-A championship, but the game will be played in Oklahoma so the benefits are minimal. More importantly, the win gives the IL bragging rights and redemption for the shutout in 2002.

“We put a little whooping on them,” Ludwick said. “I guess you could say this game determines which league is better, so tonight, we were better.”

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