Outside of Toronto’s Rogers Centre, Progressive Field in Cleveland is the MLB park I’ve visited the most since I started traveling regularly to ballgames in 2010. I saw two games at the Prog in 2010 and one in 2011. It’s one of the nicest parks I visited, and I was there again on May 19 for the matchup between the Indians and Mariners.
Pulling up to any park is an exciting part of the visit. I always park in the same garage when I visit Cleveland and when I walk down to street level, I’m presented with this view in a few seconds:
This, of course, is Progressive Field’s Gate C. It’s the most happening spot of the park before the gates open. Gates here open earlier than others and between the Bob Feller statue, the personalized bricks that make up the pavilion and the “Who’s on First” spelled out in giant concrete blocks, it’s a fun place to be.
Instead of going straight to the gate, I needed to walk to the ticket office to buy my ticket. Plus, I always enjoy a complete circuit of any park I visit. After walking down Rally Alley, which was still mostly empty given that it was about 2.5 hours before first pitch, I decided to walk across the grass area between the Prog and Quicken Loans Arena, as I haven’t in the past. During previous visits, this area has been hopping with fans and kids’ games. This time, it was quiet and I took this shot. Here, you can see the parking garage, bridge, Rally Alley, video board and Gate A:
Once I bought my ticket, I went to the front of the stadium, where I took this shot:
And this giant panorama:
Next, I wanted to check out the players’ lot. I’ve seen it before, but this time, I decided to walk up the driveway toward the lot …
… and see the cars and trucks up close. It’s always exciting to see a professional team’s lot, as it’s brimming with amazing rides. Some guys prefer the ruggedness of a truck:
While others prefer the smooth curves of an import — with the obligatory custom rims, of course:
Once I’d scouted out the scene through the fence for a few minutes, I continued on my way and resisted the urge to throw this switch next to the lot:
By the time I got back around to Gate C, it was open and I went straight to the right field bleachers. Actually, that’s the only place you can visit right away. The rest of the park is closed off initially, but opens soon enough. Cleveland was done its BP, but Seattle hadn’t begun. I took the opportunity to capture the bleachers and video board. It’s perhaps hard to officially call one video board the best, but I love this one. The look of it is incredible, but the team also does a great job of displaying interesting info on it throughout the game:
From a spot in the bleachers, I watched Seattle starter Brandon Maurer throw a bullpen session, and then went over to check out Heritage Park. This spot is definitely one of the coolest you’ll encounter at any ballpark and should earn several minutes of your time. I’m sure you could easily spend an hour there, especially if you’re interested in baseball history. Funny enough, I was the only person in Heritage Park for the five minutes I was there. I’ve never experienced this before, but it was neat. I shot a video that I’ll eventually edit and upload to YouTube, but for now, here’s a look at the park’s lower level:
Next, I went down the first base line and watched BP from next to Seattle’s dugout. As I glanced around, a sign caught my eye:
Yep, that’s the Indians Social Suite, where I’ll be spending the May 29 game. Excited is an understatement. It should be awesome.
It was still very early, so I decided to find something to eat. I’ve always been impressed with the food quality at the Food Network carts at Progressive Field, but for one reason or another, have never eaten at one. Time to change that. I visited the Food Network’s Hot Dog Bar cart and had an absolute winner of a meal:
It’s a spicy Italian sausage on a bun, loaded with bacon, onions, pulled pork, baked beans, sauerkraut and cheddar cheese. I could take or leave the chips on the side, but the meal was outstanding. The sausage was spicy and didn’t have that gross gelatinous texture that is common at ballparks. The toppings were plentiful and I was glad I retreated to the privacy of the upper deck to devour this beast. It took quite a while to eat, as I’m sure you can guess.
I resisted the urge to crawl under the seats and take a nap after eating it, and went down to field level. I wasn’t aware of the game’s starting pitchers until I got to the park, but when I saw Cleveland’s Justin Masterson and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez long tossing in the outfield, it made for an even more exciting visit. Hernandez was relatively close to the right field side, so I camped out there and watched him throw:
Once he retreated to the Seattle bullpen to warm up, I scurried back to the Heritage Park area, which is next to the Cleveland pen. From above, I watched Masterson make his pre-game throws:
I watched the first inning from the Home Run Porch in the left field corner, but decided to climb up to the upper deck to sit for an inning or two. What a perfect view:
King Felix was far from perfect, though. The Cleveland bats got to him early and often, and thanks to some clutch hitting and smart base running, the Tribe was up 6-0 by the time Hernandez left the game after the fifth. Masterson, meanwhile, was dominant. He ended up going seven innings with 11 strikeouts, while allowing just three hits.
After a few innings of relaxing, it was time to continue my tour. I wanted to check out the players’ parking lot from above, which is possible from the open concourse at the Prog. From up here, I could better see some of the vehicles that I couldn’t view on the ground. If you’re a car fan, you’ll appreciate this clump of rides here — how many hundreds of thousands of bucks are sitting there?
Before this visit, I made a vow to get to some parts of Progressive Field that I hadn’t previously seen. One of those spots was the pedestrian bridge that goes from the ballpark to the parking garage, so that’s where I headed next. From here, the view is spectacular. I’m surprised more people don’t hang out in this area. Granted, it’s a fair distance from home plate, but it provides a great view of everything:
While I was here, I used my camera’s self-timer to take this shot:
Next up, it was over to the team shop. The Indians have a small authentic game-used and autographed item kiosk outside the team shop, but in the back corner of the shop itself, I found a selection of stuff that commanded about 20 minutes of my time. Behold:
Game-used hats, helmets, bats, scorecards and more were part of this outstanding selection. I didn’t buy anything, but it was a blast to go through the items one by one and maybe I’ll pick something up when I’m back next week. Also interesting was the assortment of balls:
All the walking had me thirsty, so I decided to get one of my favorite ballpark staples — freshly squeezed lemonade. At the stand I visited, though, you could get strawberries added to your drink, which made for a great way to beat the heat:
(And add to the day’s growing calorie intake.)
I spent the rest of the game in the upper deck and I’ve gotta say, the Indians are sure exciting right now. They won this game and the following day’s game, and are 18-4 in their last 22 games. I can see why this city is pumped about Indians baseball. Hopefully they can keep things going and still be playing well when I visit again on May 29.
By the time I got to my car, I was exhausted. Road trips are awesome, but they’re not exactly conducive to sleeping a lot. Fortunately, I wasn’t staying too far away. I booked a room at the Hyatt Place Independence hotel, which is about seven miles south of Progressive Field. I stayed in Independence when I visited the area in 2011, and it’s definitely an ideal choice if you want to be close to the ballpark but not stuck downtown.
The hotel, which is where I am right now as I’m working on this blog post, is awesome. Here’s the outside:
It’s close to the highway, which means it’s a breeze to get here after the Indians game, but it’s quiet at the same time. It’s a few minutes away from a supermarket and a number of fast food restaurants, but if you want to sit down for your meal, a LongHorn Steakhouse and Applebee’s are less than a minute away. (For the record, I got the best of both worlds — some snacks at the supermarket up the street and a take-out dinner from Applebee’s.)
My room is outstanding, too. First of all, it’s enormous. There’s a kitchenette, desk and a sitting area with an L-shaped couch. (I’m a sucker for L-shaped couches.) The room also has a 42-inch TV, king-sized bed and upscale bathroom area. Here’s a view from the far side of the bed, looking toward the front door:
And here’s the sitting area, which is where I hung out to watch Sunday Night Baseball:
I definitely recommend this hotel if you’re visiting Cleveland for a ballgame. Every staff member I’ve met has been professional and friendly, and while I didn’t have enough time this visit to enjoy the hotel’s gym or pool, I checked them both out and they look great. You get a complimentary breakfast with your night’s stay and Wi-Fi is free, too. It’s the perfect choice for baseball fans.
And speaking of baseball, I’ve still got a lot of games to see on this road trip. Please give me a follow on Twitter to keep tabs on where I am and where I’ll be, and remember that visiting The Ballpark Guide helps support my travels. If you really enjoy hearing about my road trips, please consider making a small donation to keep my trips rolling along.