LA Angels of Anaheim
L: J. Guiterrez
W: M. Albers
S: C. Perez
Late inning Rally
I did not have high expectations coming into the stadium formerly known as Jacobs Field, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun there is to be had here in Cleveland. It took them a while to warm up to me, but after a couple of innings, the amazing Indians fans embraced this humble Tigers fan and created an experience that I will never forget.
At each of the 24 stadiums I have visited leading up to Progressive Field, I have worn my Detroit Tigers hat proudly. As much as I am a lover of all things baseball, my first love was the Old English D. Thus far it has not been too much of a problem as the American League Central rivalries are currently not as dramatic as those in the AL East and NL West. Wearing my Tigers gear in Chicago, Kansas City and Minnesota drew some gentle ribbing and nothing more. Cleveland was a little bit different. From the moment I stood in line I was getting some catcalls and some not-so-nice things yelled at me. During my life as a sports nerd, I have always been a respectful visiting fan in any park, stadium or arena I have been to. I am not the loud, obnoxious, braying idiot who calls attention to himself. I may not be a supporter of your team, but when I am in your house I am mindful of your rules. Throughout my tour I have always rooted for the home team, and that did not change once I arrived to the city whose team is in a battle with my Tigers for the division crown.
I calmly spoke to several people in line and ended up making a couple of friends. Once people realize that I am not there to start trouble, their defenses slowly come down and we all start to realize that we are all just baseball fans. There was a bit more of a relaxed atmosphere in the air as this was a family day at the ballpark. I ended up meeting several parents with young children whom I had some fun conversations with. I have been to many “family days” at different stadiums, but this one was by far the most fun. Most of these days are mainly about the discounted prices and maybe the chance to meet the team mascot. This was not enough for Cleveland. The Indians had organized a plethora of entertainment options for the young kids to keep them busy before first pitch. In one line I watched as a magician brought out his bag of tricks and mesmerized a group of kids waiting to get ice cream. Next was a gentleman with a basketball net attached to his head offering kids the chance to make a basket on a moving target. Alongside the basketball man was the guy with a baseball bat attached to his head creating a roving game of ring toss. There was never a dull moment from the time I walked through the gates to the moment I got back in my car.
I am always interested in how each team honors their past. Most of the stadiums either have statues, artwork or plaques scattered throughout the parks that remind the fan base of days gone by. Progressive Field is home to Heritage Park, which houses the plaques of Indians Hall of Famers including Bob Feller, Satchel Paige, Larry Doby and more. It is a simple area that is somewhat reminiscent of Monument Park at Yankee Stadium, but different enough to be unique to Cleveland. There is nothing I love more than watching the younger generations learn from their elders about the men who played decades ago.
It was now time for my pregame meal so I wandered the concourse browsing the culinary options that Cleveland has to offer. I have noticed the Food Network vendor at many of the parks across the country, but have never been too interested in checking out their menu. I am not much of a Food Network watcher and due to my own ignorant prejudices I falsely assumed that any hot dog sold from the hoity-toity food network would not be true ballpark food. I am happy to say that I was dead wrong. I tried the Cleveland Hot Dog from the Food Network Hot Dog Bar and guess what? It was fantastic. Shocker I know, but the people at the Food Network seem to know what they are doing when they prepare food. The Cleveland Dog featured pulled pork and coleslaw all on a jumbo frank with a side of chips.
The Indians were coming off a rough week. They had just dropped four games to the division leading Tigers and their post-season hopes were beginning to dwindle. They had also lost the first two of this three game set to the Angels as they continued their tailspin. Luckily, I was on a four game home winning streak myself so I brought some good luck to The Tribe.
During the first couple of innings, the fans around me were none too pleased with my choice of headwear. I tried to make it as clear as possible that I was rooting for the Indians, but it took some time for my fellow seatmates to warm up to me. The game started poorly for the home team as the Angels put up four runs in the first two innings. To make things worse, Indians cleanup hitter Asdrubal Cabrera was thrown out of the game by home plate umpire Vic Carapazza after arguing balls and strikes. There was a different vibe in this stadium that I had not felt all season. The season was coming to a close and the fans were starting to get a bit panicky. For the teams who have no playoff hopes the atmosphere at the ballpark is very relaxed and calm. The Indians fans in attendance could feel their season slipping away and the intensity was palpable. Watching a fan base simultaneously be disappointed, frustrated and hopeful is quite powerful.
In the third inning, already down 4-0, Cabrera was ejected from the game. It was at this point that the fans sitting around me snapped. They were not angry with the umpire for throwing out their star player, but with their ball club for not being able to keep it together. This passion is not exclusive to sports fans, but it is a psychosis that we all have. The city of Cleveland has had its share of sports related trauma for the past several decades, and this was looking like yet another promising team not living up to its potential. In the fourth the Angels tacked on another run to make it 5-0. The anger was dissipating and apathy was beginning to set in.
These quiet moments gave me the opportunity to walk around the stadium a bit and not miss any of the on field excitement. I went to buy my Indians ice cream helmet and noticed something wonderful about Progressive Field. Every modern baseball-only stadium includes an “open” concourse which allows for fans to see the action on the field even when walking around the stadium. This comes in especially handy when trying to buy concessions during the game. One of the many reasons why I eat before the game is so that I am not stuck in line and forced to miss any on field action. They have solved this problem in Cleveland. There was an extraordinarily long line for the ice cream - could have been the 5-0 score, could have been the 80 degree weather, we will never know – but this was my view (pictured above). Did not miss one pitch (even with the little girl camped out in front of me).
I made my way back to my seat and began chatting with my seatmates about Cleveland baseball. This is a town that is desperate for a successful baseball season. I chatted with the lovely Cora (pictured left) for the podcast which as always you should subscribe to – for free – and enjoy. No sooner did Cora and I start our conversation did the Indians wake up out of their slumber and put some crooked numbers on the board. The bottom of the sixth inning saw the Indians launch a pair of two-run shots to left field bringing the crowd to its collective feet. One inning later, after a Carlos Santana shot to right field tied the score, Michael Bourn singled in the eventual game winning run and Progressive Field came alive. It was a playoff baseball atmosphere and the potential turning point of the Indians season.
It was the perfect day at the ballpark. The sun was shining, but not too hot. I had a fancy hot dog that was delicious. The home team made a dramatic come back to electrify the fans. And despite being heated rivals at the moment, we were all able to look past our differences and I made some great new friends. This was a great ending to my time in Ohio and now it is time for me to finally come back to my own home ballpark. Detroit is my next stop and I can not wait.
Next up: Comerica Park
Game Time Temp: 76
First Pitch Time: 1:05 PM
National Anthem: Jennifer Grosh
Seventh Inning Stretch: God Bless America
Total Pitches Thrown: 300
Total Hits: 16
Total Singles: 12
Total Doubles: 1
Total Triples: 0
Total Home Runs: 3
Total Walks: 10
Total Strike Outs: 18
Total Errors: 1
Game Time: 3:13
Attendance: 23,433 (55.5% full)
Home Plate Umpire: Vic Carapazza
Miles Traveled: 60 miles
Time in Car: 2 hours
Sleep Time: 7 hours 30 minutes
Bottles of Water: 6
Food Eaten: Chicken shawarma and hummus from Taza a Lebanese Grill
Ballpark Food: Cleveland Dog, ice cream helmet
Scoreboard Cap Game: Under Card #1
Money spent on parking: $12
Money spent on ticket: $85.85
Cost of Program: Free
Money spent on food: $15.00
Total money spent on Merchandise: $19.40
Total Money spent at stadium: $132.25
Total Money spent today $178.26