An empty Hensville greets the Mud Hens Opening Day that wasn't

TOLEDO (WTVG) - Thursday was supposed to one of the biggest unofficial holidays in Toledo.

Mud Hens Opening Day.

But with each passing day, it seems to be acknowledged an event gone by, postponed or canceled because of COVID-19. Opening Day was no different.

"Mud Hens Opening Day has become a major league celebration at a minor league ballpark," Erik Ibsen, Mud Hens general manager, said. "It's a rite of passage every spring. It's really a party along with a game."

Instead, the best view of Fifth Third Field is through padlocked gates. A normally bustling Hensville is filled with empty bars and restaurants.

The only action inside the park is a grounds crew member raking the warning track and workers installing new netting to extend down the baselines to the foul poles.

"It's a very strange year," Mud Hens fan Jim Sander said. "It's lonesome, it's empty."

Work being done inside Fifth Third Field is in the hopes of a season around the corner. But will that season happen without fans in the stands, at least for the start?

"Playing games in minor league parks without fans doesn't work from a business model standpoint," Ibsen said.

Like other minor league clubs, the Hens are dependent upon ticket sales, food and drink concessions, and merchandise sales. All of those components are on hold.

For the time being, the key word is optimism. Plans are in place if a season does come around, but those plans are complicated, premature, and unique.

"Will is be a June 1 start? A July 1 start? The plans are ready, so we'll be ready like we always are," Ibsen said.

The sun will shine on the Hens Opening Day at some point. But when that day is is anyone's guess.