Mark Vulich

Clinton Mayor Mark Vulich throws the ceremonial first pitch at the LumberKings’ season opener Thursday at Ashford University Field in Clinton.

Submitted photo
Herald Sports Editor

Ted Tornow has been in the baseball business long enough to avoid having “expectations,” but he said Thursday’s opening night for the Clinton LumberKings provided indications of a successful season ahead.

The LumberKings drew 1,003 fans to Ashford University Field for their Midwest League baseball game against visiting Burlington — the largest opening-night attendance since the stadium renovation in 2006.

“Oh, gosh, yeah,” Tornow said when asked if he would term the first game a success. “Despite the wind and cold, it probably beat three- or four-game series last year in attendance and weather. We all got spoiled by the weather of the past two weeks, but compared with last year this is very easy to take.”

The party areas beyond the third-base stands were especially popular with fans.

“The sun, I think, made it a lot more palatable for people out there,” Tornow said. Those areas were in full sunlight during the early innings of the game, while the stands are shaded by the stadium overhang.

Tornow was pleased to see many fans enjoying the new bullpen area just beyond the left-field foul line.

“We got a lot of positive comments on the left-field area,” he said. “We want to try to make that a destination, of sorts. Now through mid-April it will be open to the general public. You are right on the field.”

Not only did opening night go well, but Tornow said offseason sales and corporate involvement also were better than in recent years.

“We have high hopes for a good season,” he said.

But after spending decades involved with minor-league baseball, he has learned that weather and other factors can change things in a hurry.

 “As for expectation — ‘I expect this’ — expectation almost has dropped out of my vocabulary,” he said.

Opening-night crowds

Here’s a look at the attendance figures for the Clinton LumberKings’ home openers each year since the stadium renovation in 2006.

2006    2,200

2007    704

2008    rained out

2009    rained out

2010    600

2011    809

2012    1,003

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