I always like to book a two-day visit when I’m checking out MLB ballparks, so after getting the awesome chance to take in the Cleveland Indians #TribeLive experience on August 25, I made plans to stay in Cleveland and enjoy the game 24 hours later. That meant I had the day to myself in my outstanding hotel, which you’ll hear about more later in this post. The day flew past quickly and before long, it was time to load up the car and make the short drive north to Progressive Field.
It was a gray day that had rained on and off, so I was pretty sure that batting practice would be canceled. Despite this suspicion, I still got to the ballpark about an hour before the gates opened, which equated to three hours before first pitch. I parked at my usual parking garage a couple blocks away from Progressive Field and once I made it out of the garage and onto the sidewalk, here’s what I was looking at:
I never get tired of seeing this sight!
The Indians were giving away T-shirts for this game, but the crummy weather meant that the lineups were non-existent at the time of my arrival. This gave me time to once again walk around the park, but to also take the opportunity to enjoy a lap around the nearby Quicken Loans Arena:
Though not an NBA fan, it’s always interesting to see sports facilities, so I stuck my head in the team shop and enjoyed a reprieve from the humidity outside as I browsed through the myriad LeBron-related items. After spending maybe 15 minutes in the shop, I went back to Progressive Field, bought a ticket for the night’s game …
… and had a brainwave. Instead of standing at the gate for the next half hour or so waiting for it to open, I decided to enter the relatively quiet team shop through the street entrance and browse through everything. As you might’ve read in my last post, I always visit the memorabilia part of the shop, but this time I had a longer opportunity to take some photos to share with you. Here’s the knob of a Michael Bourn game-used bat:
Some bottled Progressive Field dirt, which I thought was really neat:
And the barrel of a Carlos Santana game-used bat:
After spending time in the team shop, I walked past the Indians player/staff parking lot to check out the cars. As you can see here, there wasn’t anything absolutely out of the ordinary, at least as far as I could tell:
At 5 p.m., the gates opened and I grabbed my free T-shirt and headed over to the visiting team’s bullpen, where longtime MLB starter Matt Garza was playing catch and then talking with pitching coach Rick Kranitz and bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel:
The new layout of the bullpens means that was the visiting team’s pitcher throws, you’re just a few feet away from him, which offers a great vantage point. I took another bunch of photos to form this panorama, which is similar to this one from yesterday’s post, only you’ll now see gray skies, a damp field and the tarp:
Before I left the area, I took a quick shot of myself with Heritage Park and the Progressive Field video board as a backdrop …
… and then took a short walk over to the new concession stands in the right field area. As you might’ve read in my previous post, there’s an extensive list of food choices available in this new area from a wide range of vendors. A day earlier, I’d eaten the “sounds-appealing-but-wasn’t-as-good-as-I’d-hoped” Parmageddon, a grilled cheese sandwich packed with a pierogie. On this day, I was hoping to find something a little more appetizing and this was the selection of choices awaiting my decision:
I browsed the concession stands and nothing immediately jumped out, so I decided to take a little climb and shoot this photo that shows The Corner and the surrounding area from above:
(The #TribeLive area, where I’d spent the previous day’s game, is the standing-room area adjacent to the right field foul pole.)
After enjoying the sights for a few minutes, I went back down to the main concourse and watched a few minutes of the Indians pregame show, on which Columbus Blue Jackets winger Brandon Saad was being interviewed and would later throw out the first pitch:
I watched the interview for a few minutes from just a few feet away and it was neat to be able to hear Saad tell his story about growing up in Ohio and playing sports. Once I’d enjoyed a bit of the conversation, it was time to complete my quest to find something delicious to eat. As I perused the available options you saw a few photos ago, one of the vendors cheerfully called out to me, “Hey, Mr. Photographer!”
I looked over and saw that he was standing at one of the gourmet hot dog concession stands that I’d seen earlier, so I walked over and said hello. “I’ll make you up some special,” he promised, so I figured I’d play along. I asked him which of the hot dogs was the best and he directed me toward “The Thomenator,” named for slugger Jim Thome. It was a foot-long dog with three pierogies, onions and sauerkraut. It sounded a little too similar to my sandwich yesterday, plus I can’t stand foot-long dogs. It’s a weird thing; I can happily eat four or five normal hot dogs in one sitting, but put a foot-long dog in front of me and I have no interest. Anyway, I asked about his second-best recommendation and he suggested one with a name that escapes me but that sounded interesting:
- Pretzel bun
- Banana peppers
- Some sort of hot sauce
In any case, I ordered this one and totally bought into the seller’s enthusiasm about a strawberry milkshake and bought one of those, too. Here’s what the meal looked like:
The hot dog’s ingredients were good — lots of bacon and some nice heat from the peppers without being ridiculously hot. The pretzel bun, however, was a letdown. Every time I have one of these buns I vow I won’t make the same mistake again. Anyone with me here? They’re so dense and hard that they just taste like a stale bun. Let me know what you think in the comments. Do you agree? Disagree? As for the strawberry milkshake, it was the worst thing I’ve had to drink at a ballpark. It tasted of neither strawberry nor milk, but I suppose “Sweet Goo” is probably a poor name to market. I’m sad to say that it went the way of the dodo bird after just a couple saccharine sips.
It takes more than an unpleasant milkshake to deter my day, so when I finished dinner, I headed to the Family Deck section above right field, which I hadn’t explored a day earlier. In fact, I don’t recall ever being up in this section, for some reason — and it was awesome! The view was perfect …
… and the entire section had a small, intimate feel that was appealing. There were a ton of attractions and games for kids and the overhang provided some dry seats, which was nice. I hung out and rested my legs for a little while and then went over to the bleachers where I shot this picture that shows the Family Deck where I’d previously been:
The Family Deck is the section directly above the concourse and, as you can see from the photo, there’s lots of open space behind the seats. As I sat on the top row of the bleachers and took in all the wonderful sights, I started thinking about the game’s starting lineups. A day earlier in the #TribeLive section, we were joking how we didn’t know that many names on the Brewers for whatever reason. With that thought in my mind, I noticed this name on the ribbon board …
… and briefly thought, “Nelson Bosoto. That’s a weird last name and I’ve never heard of that guy. And it’s weird how they’ve used a different font for his last name.”
I quickly realized, of course, that the pitcher is Jimmy Nelson and that the “Bosoto” is actually his empty pitch tracker — zero balls, zero strikes and zero total pitches. But, hey, if you can’t laugh at yourself, who are you going to laugh at, right?
Soon after taking this photo, I knew that Nelson would be heading to the bullpen to get warmed up, so I went that way, too. My plan was to grab a close vantage spot along the railing, just as I had done earlier when Garza was throwing, and shoot some photos. The plan worked and I was able to get a dozen or so photos like this one:
As first pitch approached, I decided to go back to the Family Deck area that I’d enjoyed a little earlier. As you can see in this panorama, it was a dreary night but the view from up here was fantastic:
After a couple innings, I wanted to make a last visit to the team shop. One of the perks of the #TribeLive experience is that each visitor gets a $4 coupon to use virtually anywhere in Progressive Field, from the concession stands to the team shop. I had two coupons because each #TribeLive guest gets one, and since I didn’t need to eat more, I wanted to find something inexpensive to buy at the shop. I settled on an Oyo figure of Michael Bourn because, hey, I guess I’m eight years old at heart:
I spent the rest of the game sitting in the Family Deck and it was a perfect way to end my two Progressive Field visits.
My stay in Cleveland wasn’t done just yet, though. Once again, I was staying at the Hyatt Place Cleveland/Independence and it continued to be perfect. Here’s what the hotel looked like after I made the short drive back from Progressive Field:
Every time I visit a Hyatt Place, I’m struck by the size of the rooms. I lived in tiny dorms and apartments when I was in university that were a fraction of the space offered by this hotel. In yesterday’s post, you saw photos of the living room and bedroom area. Here’s the desk and kitchen space:
And an enormous open area beside the bathroom, which is basically the view you have while lying on he bed:
Another super-cool feature? The TV swivels so that you can watch it comfortable from the couch or the bed.
I’ve often said that while the opportunity to enjoy different ballparks on my baseball road trips is awesome, I’m also a big fan of having some downtime to relax in a nice hotel, and the Hyatt Place Cleveland/Independence definitely delivered on that front. Whether it was chilling on the couch and watching some Little League World Series games, burning off some ballpark food calories in the indoor pool or grabbing a salad from the nearby Panera, a steak dinner at the nearby Outback or some snacks at the supermarket just a few minutes away, (I did all of these, for the record!) my stay at this hotel was perfect.
But don’t just take my word for it — earlier this year, the Hyatt Place Cleveland/Independence was awarded its fifth TripAdvisor certificate of excellence, earning a spot in the TripAdvisor hall of fame. Whether you’re visiting Cleveland to take in a ballgame or have other plans in the city, you’ll be pleased if you make this hotel your home base.
Next up, some independent league action in Washington, PA!
Attending the Indians Social Suite at Progressive Field back in 2013 ranks as one of my most memorable experiences since I started The Ballpark Guide in 2010. Don’t remember my account of that adventure? Here’s the link if you want to read it and get caught up.
The Social Suite was so great that I made a point of applying for it again last year. I was accepted, but wasn’t able to put a trip together and had to cancel my invitation, unfortunately. Fast forward to last off-season and I’d read that the Indians were discontinuing the Social Suite and introducing something called #TribeLive. Like the suite, you had to apply for #TribeLive and if you were picked, you’d get to visit Progressive Field for free and hang out in a special area during the game with other selected fans. To make a long story short, I applied, got invited and three hours before the first pitch on August 25, I was looking at this view after parking my car:
Progressive Field was the first MLB park outside of Toronto that I visited when I began traveling to games in 2010 and this trip would mark my sixth and seventh times visiting. It’s one of the nicest parks you’ll find and certainly one of my favorite places to watch baseball.
In addition to my excitement about #TribeLive, I was also curious to check out the recent changes to the ballpark. The Indians reportedly spent more than $25 million this past off-season to drastically change the appearance of Progressive Field, specifically the area in the right field corner and the old Gate C, which is the gate I always used to enter the park. I could see from my first view of the park (in the above picture) that things were indeed looking different, so I was eager to look around.
As I approached, I saw that the main attractions in the area were the three statues of Indians legends Larry Doby, Bob Feller and Jim Thome. The Feller statue has been a longtime focal point in this area, but the other statues are new since my last visit. A sports reporter from the local Fox affiliate was filming a report in front of the Doby statue …
… so I headed over to the Thome statue. It’s got a neat connection for me. Back in 2012, my brother and I visited Progressive Field on Jim Thome Night. The Tribe was honoring the slugger for recently hitting his 600th home run and part of the celebrations included unveiling plans for the statue. If you read my post about that game, you’ll see some early images of how the statue would look, so it was awesome to see the actual statue in person:
The new area around the gate was cool — in addition to the statues, there were a ton of plaques recognizing key Indians players and moments in history. The team does a great job honoring the past (Heritage Park is a testament to that) but it was nice to get a bit of a history lesson before even entering the gates. Here’s what the new spot looks like in panoramic form:
As always, I’d arrived at the park early enough to enjoy a nice walk around its perimeter before the gates opened. I set off counter-clockwise and headed down this street:
See the building at the end of the alley with the yellow “Q” sign? That’s Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers:
When I got to the front of the park, I decided to cross Carnegie Avenue and stand on a traffic island to take a bunch of pictures to build this panorama:
I continued my walk around Progressive Field until I made it back to the right field gate, where I lined up at about 4:40 p.m. and began the 20-minute wait until the park opened. I was nearly at the head of the line and when I looked straight forward, these scourges mocked me:
I first experienced metal detectors at an MLB park last year when I visited Comerica Park in Detroit. The Tigers were trialing metal detectors a season before they became mandatory at all parks. I get that they’re “needed,” but they definitely make it slower to enter the park. Your bag gets checked, which was always the norm, but then you have to put anything bulky or metal into a tray like at the airport before you pass through the detector. There’s always someone in front of you who didn’t hear the instructions and sets the machine off, which stops your line dead in its tracks. I figured out the quickest way to get through, though — take everything you have in your pockets or on your person and load it all into your backpack. This way, instead of putting your backpack, camera, keys, cellphone, wallet, etc. in the tray separately and then trying to fish them out while the next person’s stuff slides onto your possessions, you can just grab your backpack and unload it a few steps away at your leisure.
When the gates opened at 5 p.m., I headed in and went straight down to the right field seats to check out the view:
As you can see, batting practice was on, but I didn’t stick around for long. I watched a couple minutes of the action and then was excited to walk through all the new changes to the park. One of the notable differences is that the bullpens are now together and stacked. Previously, the Indians’ pen was in center and the visitors’ was in right; now, they’re side by side (Cleveland’s is the one closest to the field) and they’re directly behind a cool new section of a select number of seats:
Here’s a panoramic view from behind the bullpens to put things in perspective a little:
My next stop was Heritage Park, which has always been one of my favorite destinations at Progressive Field. If you’re a baseball history buff, this is a place you need to visit. It’s still the same — pillars and plaques on the upper level …
… and more plaques and the top 100 players in Indians history on the bottom level:
I didn’t spend too long in Heritage Park as I’ve read all the plaques during previous visits. Instead, I ascended to the main concourse and soon noticed this set of intriguing stairs:
At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I descended, but I soon remembered that I’d read about this new feature, which might just be the best of all the recent changes. Since the visitors’ bullpen is no longer in this area, the Indians have opened it up to fans! Fans are free to check out this area before the game and after first pitch, you’ve got to line up at the top to receive a wristband that gives you access to the section for one full inning. Twenty-three fans can enjoy this zone per inning, and then they have to return to the concourse for the next group of 23 to come down. The best part is that you can go straight to the end of the line and get another wristband to enjoy this area for a later inning. Check out the seating:
And here’s the view of an Indians player about to toss a BP ball to the fans overhead:
This new section is not only a good spot to get a ball during BP, but also gives you a field-level view of the action, which is something you won’t find at every park. Here’s another cool feature — the old bullpen phone box is still mounted on the wall:
Of course, I had to be nosy and open it up to see if the phone was still there. Alas, it was not:
I took a quick shot of myself sitting on the bench …
… and then it was time to continue my exploring. I next visited The Corner, a new two-level bar with ample seating, tons of TV and even some radiant heaters, which were welcome on this semi-chilly night:
There’s also some cool memorabilia on display at the bar, including Corey Kluber’s 2014 Cy Young Award. After walking through The Corner, I found the #TribeLive section, but it was still empty:
There was no one milling around, either, so I figured the other guests were either not at the park yet or, like me, were simply off exploring elsewhere. At this point, I was weighing my options about where to go next when my camera made the decision for me — I looked down to see that my battery was almost dead. I charge my battery before each park visit but when I’d grabbed my camera out of my bag upon arriving at Progressive Field, I noticed that I’d left it turned on, which had obviously drained the battery. I couldn’t help but be partially amused; I’d given my wife trouble for leaving the camera on and letting the battery run down less than a week earlier, and now here was doing the same thing.
The amusement turned to a bit of panic, though — I had a lot of photos that I wanted to take and the battery would be dead any second. I always travel with my battery charger, so I grabbed it and began the hunt to find a wall outlet somewhere in Progressive Field. It wasn’t long before I tracked one down, but it was either dead or turned off. Hmmm. Time for Plan B. I noticed an usher who was standing right beside an outlet. I decided I’d just ask him if I could use the outlet for a little bit and figured there’d be no issue.
I approached him and asked, “How’s it going?” to get his attention. He responded with, “What?” This response wasn’t “what” as in, “what did you say?” but rather, “what do you want?”
I was caught off guard by his rudeness: “Uh, I see there’s a wall outlet there and I wonder if I could just charge my camera battery for a few minutes. I’ve traveled a long way for this game and my battery is about to die.”
His follow-up response as he pointed at the standard wall outlet: “That’s not an outlet.”
Other than wanting to visit the Indians team shop and buy him a custom jersey that read “World’s Worst Usher,” I didn’t have an idea of what to do. And then, I remembered that the attendant in the Field View Bullpen section was quite friendly. I went back down the stairs, spotted an outlet in a storage room off to the side of the seating area and explained my predicament. “Sure,” he said. “No problem — and if you want to keep walking around and come back later, I’ll watch the charger for you.” I didn’t want to let it out my sight so I hung out in the area and told him that I’d give him a shout-out in my blog. Thanks for helping me, Brandon!
It was inconvenient to have to spend the next 40 minutes waiting for my battery to charge, but the view couldn’t have been better. I watched more BP from the area and when my battery was full, thanked Brandon for his help and returned to the concourse. By this time, the gates allowing access to the rest of the park had opened so I went to the team shop and straight to the memorabilia section, which is my favorite area:
As you can see, there were game-used bats and helmets, signed balls, photos and all sorts of cool stuff. I didn’t buy anything, but did spend about 15 minutes thoroughly examining everything.
Next, I went back to The Corner, climbed up the stairs to the second level and immediately noticed this fire pit:
Comerica Park has recently added a fire pit and the first park I ever saw this feature was Dow Diamond, home of the Midwest League’s Great Lakes Loons. What a great idea for parks where it’s chilly in April and September, eh? The area around the fire pit has couches and standing-room spots and treats fans to an awesome view:
By now, it was about 6:15 p.m. and I was ready to eat. The new right field area has a ton of great-looking eateries, many of which offered an appetizing lineup of products. I’m always in favor of trying something different, so I lined up at Melt, a concession stand that sells various types of grilled cheese sandwiches. My choice was the Parmageddon, which you know is going to be ridiculous (in a good way) just from its name. It’s an enormous grilled cheddar cheese sandwich loaded with vodka sauerkraut, sauteed onions and a potato and onion pierogi! Here’s this beast in all its glory:
It was solid (in every definition of the word) but didn’t absolutely blow me away. The sauerkraut was very good but, overall, the sandwich could’ve used an additional ingredient to provide a textural change, like bacon or ham or something. It all sort of blended together.
A sandwich of this nature calls for a little exercise, so as soon as I’d wiped the last crumbs from my face I set out to tour around the other parts of Progressive Field. Besides, the #TribeLive area was still surprisingly empty. My first stop was the bleachers in left field, which is a spot I rarely visit at this ballpark. There’s no reason why; I just don’t often make the climb up there. The bleachers have a fun atmosphere, although they were still largely quiet at this point. Here’s the view from this area:
My next mission was to head to the upper deck to shoot some photos. On the way to the top, I had this cool view of part of the city. The “Welcome to Cleveland” sign is new since my last visit:
I made it to the upper deck in time for the anthem and then took a number of photos to build this panorama:
The #TribeLive area still looked empty, although I couldn’t be 100 percent sure because of the distance between the area and me. I switched to my zoom lens to survey the scene and here’s how the area looked shortly before first pitch:
As an aside, do you see the bullpen view area in the bottom left of the image? And see the staff member standing directly above the yellow University of Toledo crest? That’s Brandon, the guy who helped me with my dead battery issue.
Since first pitch was approaching, I descended back to the main concourse level and made my way to the #TribeLive spot. From a distance, I could see that it was now occupied and, as I got closer, I was shocked at who I saw. Jacob Rosen, who was one of the Social Suite guests when I sat in that area two years ago, was standing right in front of me! He and I chatted a lot during the Social Suite experience, follow each other on Twitter and have occasionally exchanged tweets over the last two years. I think I was staring at him with my mouth wide open, and he noticed me and said, “Ballpark guide?” It was a funny moment and good to catch up with him in person. Want to give him a follow on Twitter? Just click here. His Twitter account is full of interesting and varied sports stuff.
Jacob told me that I had to go elsewhere in the park to pick up my nifty-looking #TribeLive credential, so I ran to grab it, returned to the section and shot this photo:
The view from this section was great. As you might have seen in other photos, we were right behind the right field foul pole, as you can see at the edge of this panorama:
I watched the first inning or two from this spot and then met with a pair of other #TribeLive guests, Mark Firkins and his son Travis. They live near Rochester but are huge Indians fans and make a number of trips to Progressive Field each year. (It actually turns out that they were staying in a hotel about two minutes from my hotel, too.) I spent the duration of the game talking baseball with the Firkins. It’s always fun to meet other baseball travelers and Mark and Travis have been to several MLB and MiLB parks over the years so it was interesting to compare notes. We essentially never stopped talking right until the end of the game, and I definitely hope to run into them again on my trips.
Summed up, my #TribeLive experience was this: Talk a bit to Jacob, watch some baseball, talk to Mark and Travis, watch some more baseball, take some photos — and repeat. Overall, the #TribeLive didn’t have as much to offer in terms of its setting as the Social Suite. It was basically a standing-room area at the front of a larger standing-room area that any can can use. But, it was still a fun experience with some fellow passionate baseball fans, and I’d love the chance to do it again in the future.
Since I spent the rest of the game in this designated area and didn’t wander around the park, I only took a few more photos. Here’s a shot of one of Mark’s tweets on the huge video board:
I wasn’t able to get on Twitter during the game because you now have to be an Xfinity customer to use the Progressive Field connection. I get that business is business, but after having dedicated Wi-Fi in the Social Suite, I couldn’t help but think the Xfinity idea wasn’t very fan friendly.
Wi-Fi aside, here are two photos that I found funny. The Progressive Field upper deck features giant tributes to the team’s all-time greats (more on that in my next post) and one of the players I could see across from where I stood was Tris Speaker. Speaker, of course, is a hall of famer and one of the best hitters in the history of the game. He’s also a little controversial because he was apparently a member of the KKK. Anyway, I couldn’t help but think that his display looked a little sinister:
The other amusing thing I noticed was over to my right on the Progressive Field video board. This board is arguably the best I’ve ever seen and provides great situational stats and tidbits that really provide value to the fan. Normally, these messages shine a favorable light on the Indians, but poor Yan Gomes got the short end of the stick on this one highlighting his 5-for-33 streak (that’s a .152 average) over the last nine games:
Finally, here’s one last panoramic shot from where I stood for the entire game:
When I left the ballpark, I made the short drive to my hotel for the next three days, the Hyatt Place Cleveland/Independence, where I’ve previously stayed twice in the past. It’s one of my favorite hotels to visit on my trips and, for fans visiting Cleveland, makes a lot of sense. The hotel is a little more than 10 minutes from Progressive Field and its location offers the many amenities of hotels in the suburbs, like being close to the highway and close to an impressive list of shopping and dining options.
Here’s a shot of the outside of the hotel:
As with my previous stays, all the staff members I encountered were exceedingly friendly. The room, too, was outstanding. The Hyatt Place has enormous guest rooms that feature a separate bedroom, living room and office/kitchen area. I’ll have more photos of my room in my next post, but here’s the living room:
And a shot of the living room and bedroom with the small partition between the two:
Other perks if you’re thinking about visiting the Hyatt Place Cleveland/Independence during your next baseball trip? Free parking, free Wi-Fi, one of the best complimentary breakfasts you’ll ever come across and a pool and athletic center. Whether you’re traveling with a few people or are solo and you just want a little more space in your hotel room, this one definitely provides that. It’s the one for me when I visit Cleveland and you won’t regret making that choice, either.
My next post will be detail my follow-up visit to Progressive Field and I’ll have it up soon!
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.
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. (For a list of everywhere I’ve been, click here.) 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.
I’ve taken several thousand photos since I began traveling and compiling research for TheBallparkGuide in the summer of 2010. (If you’re new to this blog and are curious about where I’ve visited, look at the tag cloud on the right side of the menu or click here.) The vast majority of my photos focus on the elements of each ballpark I visit, but one thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve missed getting photos of myself in most locations. I often travel alone, and while it’s possible to hold the camera at arm’s length to shoot myself, some of these photos don’t turn out that great.
That said, I’ve got a handful of photos taken at different locations that I’m posting below. Click the date to read my blog about the visit.)
The second ballpark I visited, back on July 17, 2010, was Auburn’s Falcon Park. While I was snapping shots of the front of the ballpark, the man who lives next door to the facility offered to take my shot:
Later that summer, I traveled to Cleveland for two games on Aug. 7 and Aug. 8. During the second game, I got a few autographs around the visitors dugout, and then had my photo taken by another fan while sitting on the Indians dugout:
… and a day later, took one of me along the fence during batting practice. I snagged two balls here:
I toured around Michigan in May 2011, and watched the second of two Detroit Tigers games on May 25. Unfortunately, this game was called because of the rain after a few innings. While the tarp was still on the field, an usher took my photo:
On June 27, I watched the Hagerstown Suns play at Municipal Stadium. Bryce Harper was hurt and didn’t play, but that didn’t stop me from finding his truck in the parking lot and taking a photo of myself in front of it:
And on the second day, up on a deck in the left field corner:
The third-last game I watched in 2011 was on July 31 at Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs. Before entering the ballpark, my wife took a photo of me out front:
The Sea Dogs are the AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, and Hadlock Field is equipped with a mini green monster. During our visit, fans were able to play catch on the field before the game. Here’s me in front of the scoreboard:
And while throwing balls off the wall and catching them:
And pretending to relay them to the imaginary cut-off man. (I can’t lie.)
As always, thanks for reading. If you don’t do so already, check me out on Twitter.
Ballpark food can be one of the best things about going to a baseball game. If it’s plain ol’ hot dogs and pop, it’s not necessarily noteworthy. But if it’s exceptional food, like the fare served at Rochester’s Frontier Field, it can truly improve your whole experience.
The next morning, my wife and I had breakfast near our hotel at the Cleveland airport and began to plan our day. We didn’t have tickets for the day’s 1 p.m. game (it was Sunday) but planned to buy them at the ticket office. Then we had a change in plan. Our stay in Cleveland was breezing by, and there were still some things we wanted to see. My wife wanted to check out the botanical gardens, but there wouldn’t be time to do so after the day’s Indians game. So, we decided that she’d drop me off at Progressive Field at 11 a.m., then visit the gardens herself and pick me up later. I had another day to check out Progressive Field for my website, TheBallparkGuide.com.