Jun 27

Craig’s Stadium Recap: Progressive Field

We stopped at Danny’s friend’s apartment for the night in Hilliard, Ohio, a suburb right outside of Columbus. Another night of saving money on hotels! We took off for Cleveland in the morning. I listened to the Drew Carey Show’s theme song: Cleveland Rocks twice on the drive into Cleveland to get myself psyched for Progressive Field. Trust me: This one was WELL WORTH IT!

SUNDAY: June 19, 2011 Game 4 of 14
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Cleveland Indians

What stuck out to me the most about Progressive Field was its spacious concourse areas behind the outfield. The very left field concourse was big enough for little kids and their fathers to play catch. Walking further, I snapped a bunch of pictures of the Indians’ Heritage Park. This was a nice open area for fans to walk, with bronze plaques aligned in a circle, each representing the most celebrated athletes in Cleveland Indians history. My favorite plaque was Cy Young, the greatest pitcher of all time. 511 career wins!!!

cy young plaque

The fans of Cleveland were awesome and very friendly. Most were curious about our sign. We sat in the outfield and had a lot of fans moving down and across sections to talk to us. Most got a kick out of putting their signatures on the back of our sign.

The game started fast in the first few innings and then slowed down. After the 7th inning, the ever-darkening skies over Cleveland opened up. Down came the rain and out came the tarp over the infield. The baseball fan’s most dreaded event at a ballgame: The Rain Delay. The players scattered off the field and fans went for cover. Ugh!

rain delay from luxury restraunt

I wandered around the stadium while Danny was playing secret agent, managing to sneak into a private suite and eating ‘free’ hot dogs. Since it was passed the 7th inning, most of the food vendors were already closed/about to close. Because of it being so cold and wet, combined with no food being available, almost everybody decided to leave. Danny and I decided to stay and wait the delay out. GOOD DECISION.

A long two hours later, we were back to playing baseball. I thought it was cool how the Indians stadium staff to let the fans that stuck around sit wherever they wanted. We found some cardboard at a concession stand and used that to keep ourselves dry when we sat down. Danny and I decided to sit in the right field bleachers for a few reasons. 1.) There was only about 30 fans in the entire right field bleachers and 2.) We had been making comments during the game how the Indians had a lot of left-handed batters, which means if one would happen to hit a home run, it would most likely would land in the right field bleachers. With the bleachers being so empty, we figured we could grab a potential home run ball after it was done ricocheting off the seats.

We decided to split up. That was we would be able to cover more ground if a ball was hit into the bleachers. The innings flew by and the game went into extra innings. Danny got on the Jumbotron with our sign, wearing his yellow poncho again. I wish I could have gotten a picture of him on the giant screen but I had put my camera in its case because of the rain.

The Indians were down to their last out in the bottom of the 11th inning. They had runners on 1st and 2nd base and I looked up to the Jumbotron. The batter was rookie 2B Cord Phelps. He had just been called up from the majors a few weeks back and had zero home runs with 1 RBI. Needless to say, I figured the game was going into the 12th inning. That worried me because the rain had begun to pick up again. What happened next I will never forget.

CRACK! Cord Phelps hit an absolute bullet and the ball was heading right at me. I jumped out of my seat and moved about eight seats to my left of the front row of the right field grandstand. I put my glove up and heard a loud pop: the sound of Cord Phelps’ first career home run snapping right into the webbing of my glove! It was the sweetest sound I had ever heard.

Instantly I had both my hands in the air and was celebrating. I think the 5-year old a few seats down from me was the most excited. He ran right towards me and was the first one to give me a high five. I had never caught any kind of ball at a baseball game before. Catching a walk-off home run never crossed my mind.

After many more high fives from fans, I was approached by three members of the Indians PR (Public Relations) staff. They asked if I would be willing to give the ball back to the team so they could present Phelps with his first career home run ball. Even before the PR staff approached me, I asked a few Indians fans if that was his first career home run. I’ve been watching baseball long enough to realize how big of a moment that is for a player. Not many players in baseball history have hit their first career home runs in walk-off fashion either. The ball would mean a lot more to him than it would even mean to me.

My only requirement of giving the ball back was if Danny could come with me into the PR office. They were more than willing and I gave the ball back to the team. They told me I could have any player autograph a ball for me. I asked for Travis Hafner, the most popular Cleveland Indians player and quite frankly one of the few I knew. While they were downstairs trying to get Hafner’s autograph for me, Danny and I had a great conversation with one of the main PR guys, Rick. Rick was a retired teacher and had been working with the Indians for many years now. He was very impressed with our baseball trip and was glad to talk to a fellow teacher as well!

After about 15 minutes, I got more than a signed baseball. One of the PR guys came up from the elevator with two Grady Sizemore bobbleheads, a Chin-Soo Choo t-shirt, umbrella, and the autographed baseball. I also got a certificate for catching an Indians home run. The best part was they had the same stuff for Danny, too! Rick said he got us some extra items because we were so willing and generous in giving the ball back. He told us most people try to get some cheap money or jerseys for the ball. Personally, I don’t believe that’s what baseball is all about. I’m going to have a great story to tell when I get back home, but the ball belonged to Cord Phelps.

I called my Dad right after exiting Progressive Field and he was a little surprised, needless to say. I told him to watch for me on SportsCenter that night. Soon after the word got out, my phone, Twitter, and Facebook began to ‘blow up’. The whole process was one of those ‘Holy crap. I can’t believe that happened!’ moments you don’t get too often in life.

Final Thoughts: Even before the events that followed the game, I was extremely impressed with Cleveland, which I now think gets an unwarranted bad wrap from the national media. The fans were extremely friendly and the stadium was beautiful. The food was well priced and the team offers a great atmosphere for fans. On top of that, they were extremely classy after I gave the ball back. The Indians appreciate the best baseball fans well!

The Teacher’s Grade: A

Stadium Rankings
1. Busch Stadium A+
2. Progressive Field A
3. Wrigley Field A-
4. Miller Park B+
5. Great American Ballpark B

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  1. Brandais

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  2. Jacky

    i tried to use your rss FEED but feed site displays me some xml errors..

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