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Opening night fun for all - Indianapolis Star

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Opening night fun for all - Indianapolis Star
Apr 14th 2012, 06:09

It wasn't just the Indianapolis Indians' night to enjoy another home opener at Victory Field.

Before the Triple-A team threw out the first pitch Friday, it honored retired Pike High School teacher Joe Drescher for attending his 60th consecutive home opener. That's four more than the Downtown venue's most familiar fixture, longtime Indians Chairman/President Max Schumacher.

"I appreciate you coming on the field," the 79-year-old Schumacher told Drescher, 72, as the guest of honor watched the Indians face the Toledo Mud Hens from eight rows behind the visitors dugout.

"I appreciate you saving Indians baseball," Drescher said to Schumacher, the instrumental influence for Victory Field, which hosted a crowd of 14,073, largest for an April home opener in the stadium's 16 seasons.

Tribe designated hitter Nick Evans played the role of hero with a two-out single in the ninth to plate Gorkys Hernandez with the deciding run in a 3-2 thriller.

"This was a great night," Evans said after taking a shaving-cream pie to the face.

Perhaps the only bummer was no free tickets to another April game. A first-pitch temperature of 62 degrees marked the first time the Indians haven't had to ante up on that 60-degree warm-weather guarantee promotion in six openers.

Drescher, surrounded by 28 of his former students, couldn't have been happier anyway.

"I don't know what I enjoy the most," the Spencer resident said, "the game or being with my former students. They're both a pleasure."

His former students sat in three rows around their mentor. Carmel's Julie Black organized the get-together to help him celebrate No. 60, written with a felt pen on the right side of his Indians cap.

"This man has meant an awful lot to a lot of people," said Black, 54. "He taught us all how to live the right kind of life."

Longtime Indians radio voice Howard Kellman, who called his 32nd straight home opener, offered that these games are always special for fans old and new.

"It's a wonderful feeling to come here and see so many people support this team," said Kellman, 60, who watched Hall of Famer George Brett play for the Omaha Royals in his first home opener April 20, 1974, at Bush Stadium.

The Romans family of five looked forward to it. Cory and Kyla brought their three children: Payton (11), Emerson (5) and Cooper (2). The Southsiders spread two blankets on the lawn just inside the left-field foul pole and feasted on hamburgers and hot dogs, among other things.

Payton led the charge to talk mom into going to an air-brush stand to get a fake dragon tattoo. Who said home openers didn't have everything? Yes, even a girl with a dragon tattoo. Why?

"Because it's cool," Payton said.

The family provided an ideal picture of contentment.

"This is what I want for my family," said Kyla, 39. "We've been planning this for a while."

Rambunctious Cooper typically decides the family's departure time.

"We try to make it to the fourth inning until we leave," said Cory, 39. "That's a good night."

They departed in the bottom of the fifth inning. Good night, indeed.

Drescher and Schumacher saw the game to its dramatic end. Then fans were treated to another Victory Field tradition, fireworks.

Drescher's day was made long before that.

"Congratulations on a great run," Schumacher told the teacher midway through.

"I'm looking for at least 10 more," Drescher said.

Call Star reporter Phillip B. Wilson at (317) 444-6642. Follow him at twitter.com/indystar_pwilson24

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