When we woke up in Buffalo on the morning of August 7 last summer, it was the start of another exciting day. Day one of our August 2010 baseball roadtrip was down, but there were still a bunch of glorious days ahead. The plan was to have a quick breakfast in Buffalo, then make the three hour drive to Cleveland. Given this was a Saturday, the Indians played an evening game, but the plan was to get to Cleveland before noon, then have lunch and explore the city a bit.
While I love baseball wherever it’s played, I was excited to see Progressive Field
for the first time. This would be only my second MLB stadium and the home of the Indians looked amazing from what I’d seen. I’d bought left field bleacher tickets before the trip, but as always, the plan was to move around during the game.
But back to Cleveland. Prior to getting there, I didn’t know much about the town. It turns out that Cleveland, at least the parts we saw, was really nice. Here’s our first view as we approached the city:
After stopping to eat, we wanted to check out the U.S.S. Cod, a World War II submarine that’s docked in the harbor and available for tours. I’ve been on a modern-day nuclear sub in the past, but never in a small WWII-vintage boat, and it was very claustrophobic/neat. Here’s a picture of the sub from the outside:
One neat thing about Cleveland is that there’s lots to do in a small area. Nearly within walking distance from the sub is the Cleveland Browns stadium and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Progressive Field isn’t much farther away, and there’s a big area along the harbor, including a long pier, that we wanted to walk down. The traffic was psycho in this area because the Browns were having their first intra-squad scrimmage of the summer, and it was free for fans. See the traffic getting off the highway in the picture below?
As tempting as that might’ve been, we headed to the area of Progressive Field and found a great covered parking garage for just $10. After parking, we loaded up my backpack and walked the two blocks to the stadium, passing by numerous illicit vendors hawking anti-LeBron T-shirts. My favorites? “The Lyin’ King” with a Disney’s Lion King motif, and “LeBron may be taking his talents south but his mom is still ridin’ West,” in reference to Mrs. James’ alleged relationship with LeBron’s former teammate Delonte West. I regret not buying some of these silly T-shirts, but I’m sure the vendors will still be out there next time I visit.
Here’s my first photo of Progressive Field:
As you can see, we were quite early. I’d spoken to some Indians fans prior to the trip and learned that Gate C, the one with the Bob Feller statue, opens first on game days. There was no one in line yet, so we walked around the area a bit and snapped a photo of me sitting under the famous Bob Feller statue as well as the Gate C sign:
Feller was an amazing pitcher and human being. I was fortunate enough to get his autograph on a baseball through the mail about a year ago. He would be in attendance at this game and unfortunately, he’s since passed away.
For those of you who are wondering where my ticket shot is, I was so excited to get to this game that I forgot to take one. Never fear, though. I remembered the next day.
Tonight was a special night at the Prog: Kenny Lofton Indians Hall of Fame night. When the gates opened, we each got a Kenny Lofton bobblehead depicting his famous wall-climbing catch. Gate C lets you in sort of the center field area, so I ran into the stands to check if batting practice was happening yet. The screens were set up but no one was hitting just yet, giving us time to check out Heritage Park and the other sights around the area:
Heritage Park is absolutely awesome. It’s beyond the left field fence, and you take a few steps down into a museum-like atmosphere full of plaques celebrating former Indians:
As I mentioned, it was Kenny Lofton night and I found Lofton’s soon-to-be-unveiled plaque, though you can’t really tell from this picture:
We checked out the Ridgid Jobsite bar behind Heritage Park, which looked pretty fun. Lots of drinks and cool games to be played there, and if you’re the casual fan who doesn’t need to be glued to every minute of the game, I’d definitely recommend spending a couple innings here:
und an open area in the stands for batting practice but was completely skunked in terms of getting a ball. One note, however, is if you’re at Progressive Field for BP, watch out for the paved-looking area just over the fence, seen here:
If a ball hits this area on the fly, it spins like crazy and can be pretty dangerous to people who aren’t paying attention.
After BP, I took some photos of the different displays commemorating former Indians:
And the hilarious sign reminding visiting team relievers to watch their language:
Good luck with that. Asking pro ball players to cut out the swearing is like asking them to stop chewing tobacco. At Progressive Field, the visiting team’s bullpen is in the right field corner. The Indians’ is located in center field, and I guess to give the team home field advantage, has three spots for relievers to toss. This is the first such setup I’ve ever seen:
Here’s a look at the bleachers where we’d later be sitting:
I should mention that when Gate C opens, fans are allowed only in the right field area for batting practice. That means that some balls make their way to the left field bleachers and are typically scooped up by ushers. In fact, in the above photo, you can see the usher on the left looking for balls.
Batting practice was now finished, but the stadium was pretty empty: (That would all change soon enough.)
See that large windowed area in the above panorama? It’s a high-end dinner club. To each his own, but that’s not the way I’d want to watch a ballgame. I hear the food is great at this place, but I like to get out in the fresh air with the crowd. Here’s a close-up:
And, of course, the ever-present ushers scouring the stands for BP balls and wiping down seats. Progressive Field has a cool outfield fence. In right field, where I was for BP, it’s short. In left, it’s very tall. Here’s a shot that gives you an idea just how tall it is:
Because it was Indians Hall of Fame night, the clubs were wearing throwback uniforms. Here are some Cleveland players warming up:
Think those uniforms are neat? Wait until you see Minnesota’s. I walked around a bit more and took some photos here and there. By now, it was getting close to game time and the pregame ceremonies were kicking off.
Here are a bunch of Indians Hall of Famers, including the late Bob Feller second from right:
And here’s Kenny Lofton, taking a ceremonial trip around the ballpark:
After the ceremonies were over, I snapped a photo of one of Progressive Field’s neatest features, the home run deck in left field. It’s standing room only, and anyone can lean on the rail and watch the action. You’re up quite high, so it takes a monster shot to get a ball onto the deck:
Remember the throwback unis? Here’s Minnesota’s Delmon Young, complete with a collar on his jersey, three-quarter sleeves and the pillbox hat:
We watched the first couple innings, as I usually do, then took a long walk around the stadium, snapping photos along the way. In the sequence below, you’ll see a merchandise shop geared toward women,
another Twins uniform shot (that’s Denard Span), a panorama from the top of the 100 Level, a look away from the stadium at downtown C-town and a sneak peek at the players’ parking lot.
We then took a climb (and I mean a real climb) up the 100-plus steps to get to the upper deck. It was a little dizzying. If you look straight down, you get a weird vertigo feeling. I mean, you’re really, really up there. Does the second photo make your head spin? Here’s a look from waaaaay up top:
Up there, we bought some nachos for dinner. It’s good to see the recession hasn’t caused the Indians to skimp on their jalapeno servings:
Here’s the LeBron-less Quicken Loans Arena, as seen from Progressive Field’s upper deck:
In the empty upper deck …
… we were able to look down at a few attractions, including the home run porch and Heritage Park:
By now, the sun was setting and I snapped a couple pics of the sunlight beaming through the sign above the scoreboard:
Back to the scoreboard. It has to be the best in the Majors. It’s certainly the biggest, but I love scoreboards that you can study to get a whole wealth of information. I love that all this information is in one spot, not located on ribbon boards throughout the stadium. Don’t get me wrong — Progressive Field has its share of informative ribbon boards, but the main scoreboard is a treat. It’s enormous and has a wide range of player stats:
And even a breakdown diagram of what each player did at the plate:
Cool, huh? Soon, I headed to the right field corner in the upper deck and snapped the shots that would make up this panorama:
Good night, Cleveland. I’ll see you again in about 12 hours!