Nearing the end of its yearlong bicentennial celebration, Avon Lake is going back a couple of centuries through baseball. The city will host the Ohio Village Muffins at 2 p.m. Saturday at Weiss Field, in a nine-inning game played under 1800s-style rules.
The Muffins are a team of baseball lovers who, according to their website, “live and breathe vintage base ball circa 1860.” The sport was “base ball” rather than “baseball” in those days.
Avon Lake’s team will be captained (essentially managed) by high school Athletic Boosters President Marty Gallagher and City Council President Marty O’Donnell and will be made up of city and school leaders including Fire Chief Jeremy Betsa, Police Chief Duane Streator, Municipal Court Judge Darrell Bilancini and Shoremen head football coach Matt Kostelnik.
“I think everybody was for (the game),” O’Donnell said. “I used to coach a softball team for a number of years, so being council president, they just said, ‘Can you put a team together of some of the celebrities and local leaders?’ We actually had our first practices with the (1860s) ball because some of the rules are a little different.”
Among the rules that will be in effect, according to the Muffins’ rulebook, are: The ball must be pitched underhanded; pitches are not usually judged as balls or strikes, but the umpire may call a strike if the batter persists in not swinging at “well-pitched” balls; and runners may not steal bases.
Members of the Muffins will be on hand before, during and after the game to teach fans the rules and answer questions. The team also will supply all the equipment for both teams, including uniforms.
Along with wearing uniforms like those from the 1800s, players will not be allowed to use gloves when playing with a rubber ball rather than the current rawhide-covered ball.
“In talking to the Muffins, their main thing is to make it as genuine as possible to the 1860 setting,” O’Donnell said. “Our guys had a heck of time (at our first practice) because they’re so used to gloves. The little rubber ball just slips out of your hands so it’s a little bit of a different animal to deal with. It was a lot of fun, but it’s a little bit different.”
The event is free and open to all. The first 200 fans to come out to the ballgame at 33401 Webber Road will get Cracker Jack. The Lake Erie Crushers dance team will perform before the game, and Mayor Greg Zilka will throw out the first pitch. The game will be played on Field No. 2.
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