I kept an eye on the Indians website over the off-season and bookmarked the Social Suite application page when it appeared with a message saying the team would soon be taking applications. Meanwhile, I planned out about the application essay I’d write, making a point to include mentions of The Ballpark Guide, my blog, my Twitter account, my Facebook page and my baseball road trips in general.
Eventually, the application process opened and the essay I’d mentally mapped out was not a factor. Instead, in keeping with social media trends, applications had to be no more than 140 characters. Hmmm. Back to the drawing board.
I thought long and hard about how to sum up my passion for baseball in just a handful of words, and eventually came up with:
Top 15 blog on MLBlogs / The Ballpark Guide founder / Visited 40+ parks since 2010 / Passionate about baseball & chatting with fans
In early May, I heard from the Indians that I was selected to watch a game from the Social Suite on May 18. Cool, right? Yes, but May 18 was the day I’d planned to attend the Field of Dreams game in Rochester. Fortunately, the Indians were able to juggle the date for me and invite me to the Social Suite on May 29, which would be the last day of my first big road trip of 2013.
I drove to Cleveland from Charleston, WV, on the day in question and parked in my usual $10 parking garage a block from Progressive Field. The game was scheduled for 7 p.m., and the Social Suite members were to gather at 6 p.m. to have dinner in the media dining room. Since I was so early, I had some time to kill.
As I waited, I peered through the fence outside the park and took this photo of the suite …
… and then passed the time in the team shop. Specifically, I spent the time in the authentics section, where I checked out the great selection of game-used stuff:
Here’s Ubaldo Jimenez’ game-used cap, for instance:
Thankfully, the time passed quickly and before long, I got my ticket and entered the park. Here are the tickets, which I photographed a moment later at Heritage Park:
Everyone who gets invited into the Social Suite gets two tickets, but since I was traveling solo on this road trip, I didn’t take anyone with me to the game. I did, however, get the day’s giveaway item, a throwback Indians dry-fit T-shirt:
I actually wondered if I might get two T-shirts, given my two tickets. That question, however, was answered clearly (and loudly) when the ticket taker turned to the usher giving away the T-shirts and yelled, “This guy has two tickets but make sure he only gets one T-shirt!”
All right, then. One T-shirt for me.
Although I could get to the stadium’s suite level by taking the stairs, I chose the elevator and after showing my ticket to get into exclusive “suite territory,” I took this photo:
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the elevator had an attendant — actually, he’s ever so slightly visible at the left of the door. As I took the photo and turned around to take in all the new surroundings, I was surprised when I heard a voice call out, “Is anyone going up?” Oops.
It was still well before 6 p.m., so I had a bit of time to wander around the suite level. From up here, I had a different vantage point of the players’ parking lot:
And I could look down into a very nice restaurant:
After walking around for 10 minutes or so, I was dying to get to the suite and check it out, so after taking this quick photo …
… I walked inside and got my first view of where I’d be hanging out for the next four hours or so:
Wow! I’ve never watched a game from a suite in an MLB park, so this was a huge thrill. The suite had a kitchen, a nice sitting area with a couch and a couple comfy armchairs and bar-style seating on each side of the door leading outside. I can see how renting it with a handful of friends or family members would be an absolute blast. Before I stepped out to get a good view of the field, I checked out the chalkboard’s welcome greeting:
And in case you missed it in the photo above, here’s a close-up that shows my Twitter name:
When I stepped out into the outdoor seating area, I took a bunch of photos to make up this mammoth panorama, which you can click on to enlarge:
A couple of the Social Suite guests were already sitting outside, and after saying hello and taking this shot of Cincinnati‘s batting practice …
… I went back inside the suite to take this photo:
Full disclosure: I’ve never been a “suite guy.” For me, going to a ballgame is about being close to the field, smelling the popcorn, hearing the sounds of the game and, in general, just wandering around and taking everything in. The suite experience, however, was quickly changing my mind. I mean, I still love going to a game and getting that authentic baseball experience, but seeing it all from a bird’s eye with the suite amenities? Pretty darned perfect, too. In fact, the jury’s still out for me, so if anyone wants to invite me to watch a game from a suite, I’ll be more than happy to conduct further field research.
Up next, I checked out this 2013 Social Suite banner …
… and added my Twitter name to it, as you can see here:
For the next while, I just hung out and took various photos of the suite, field and stadium as a whole. This next photo shows the nice chairs in the outside part of the suite and, in fact, the chair on the right is where I spent most of the game:
At 6 p.m., most of the suite guests had gathered, and after we introduced ourselves, we went for dinner in a dining room most Indians fans won’t ever get to see, so I’m happy to show it here:
There was an enormous buffet with all sorts of items, from ballpark staples such as Italian sausages and burgers to salads, cold meats and a variety of vegetables — the latter of which was noticeably sparse on this trip, so I was happy to add something green to my plate:
For the record, my meal included a garden salad with grated carrots and fresh Parmesan cheese, a hot Italian sausage with peppers, onions and mustard, a pile of pulled pork with BBQ sauce, broccoli, dill pickles and kettle chips. It was all delicious.
After hanging out and talking baseball with others in the suite, primarily Shane Rogers and Jacob Rosen, both of whom you can follow on Twitter by clicking their names, the game began and I grabbed a spot in the aforementioned seat where I had this mega-glorious view:
From here, I watched as Joey Votto stepped to the plate …
… and crushed a home run:
Sorry, Indians fans, but as a huge fan of Votto, I was secretly smirking.
He wasn’t, however, the only player to go yard. Mark Reynolds hit a bomb for the Tribe, as did elder statesman Jason Giambi, who celebrated his three-run home run with a forearm bash a la McGwire-Canseco:
One of the many things I love about baseball at Progressive Field is the city’s skyline, especially as the sun begins to set. I think you’ll agree that this view is absolutely perfect:
Around the midpoint of the game, we got a visit from Courtney Shilling, who works in PR and communication with the Indians. She’s also the person who picked me to join the Social Suite, and the one who juggled my Social Suite date to ensure I could attend, so I owe her a huge thank you.
Here’s the sun continuing to set over the Quicken Loans Arena:
And here’s Progressive Field’s awesome video board as the sky darkened:
Cleveland won 5-2 despite Cincinnati scoring one run in the ninth to give me a slight hope the game would be pushed to extra innings just so I could spend a little longer in the Social Suite. After the game, I got this photo taken of me …
… and made the short drive to my hotel, the Hyatt Place Independence. If this hotel sounds familiar, you’ve definitely been paying attention. It’s the place I visited back on May 19 when I visited Cleveland, and everything was so great I decided to stay here again. If you read my previous post, you’ll know the hotel is just seven miles south of Progressive Field, making it ideal for fans visiting C-Town on baseball road trips. One thing I didn’t note in that blog entry, however, is the Hyatt Place Independence is ranked second on TripAdvisor among Independence hotels. Part of the reason for this high ranking is the professional staff at this hotel. One front-desk member recognized me upon checking it and said she was glad I was back. It’s nice to get that personalized touch.
As this was the last day of my 13-day road trip, I was exhausted and looking forward to crashing when I got to the hotel — especially since I had an eight-hour drive ahead of me a day later. Blogging tonight wasn’t in the cards, but relaxing on the bed and watching ESPN certainly were:
The next morning, I took this shot that shows the bathroom setup:
I’m not a huge fan of having to cram into a small bathroom to brush my teeth or wash my hands, so this room design was perfect. As you can see, the sink and counter aren’t in a closed-in room; rather, they’re in a big, open area several feet from the foot of the bed. And, if you’re wondering, the bathroom is to the left of the photo and there’s a closet to the right.
As perfect as the hotel stay was, I wish I’d been able to hang out a little longer. I planned to be on the road by 7 a.m. so it was a quick stay. I quickly packed up my suitcases — with ESPN on, of course …
… and then checked out and took the following photo of the front of the hotel before hopping in the car and pressing the “Home” button on my GPS:
The outstanding hotel stay wrapped up a hugely memorable baseball road trip, but there’s more to come. In the coming weeks, I’ll have blog posts about some of the cool souvenirs I picked up along the way, a look at my visit to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and more. I’ll also be revealing the schedule of my next baseball road trip, which will begin before you know it.
As always, if you’re planning your own baseball trips this summer, check out The Ballpark Guide to read tips on how to make the most out of your holiday.