JD’s 2015 Ballpark Tour; Cleveland, Ohio

Part X: Progressive Field (First Visit)

After a very lengthy game at PNC Park, Mike and I knocked out and didn’t do much before the Indians game Wednesday night. The events that morning were filled with wondering how we would get tickets. I was told that one of Mike’s relatives could have free tickets for that night’s game, which was also a bobble head night! Our task was to get bobbles for the two young boys who couldn’t attend the game… but I’ll save that story for the end.

To keep an already long post somewhat short, we acquired FREE tickets for that night’s game thanks to some kind family members. Myself, Mike, and his cousin, Dan, all went to the game on a nice Wednesday night. This was Carlos Santana bobble head evening, but after visiting some excellent ballparks, how would Progressive Field compare? Was it even possible to top Great American and PNC?

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Ballpark 24: Progressive Field, elevation 667 feet

The game: Astros @ Indians on July 8, 2015

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Getting to the ballpark doesn’t take too long, so that’s a plus. Parking is only $12 at a nearby parking garage, double plus! The walk to the stadium was not bad, and there were a decent amount of people waiting for the center field gates to open, and to receive their bobble heads. Upon first glance at Progressive Field, there are a couple monuments outside the main gates that denote the 1920 and 1948 World Series titles won by the tribe. The 1920 World Series is famous for some unique history, but I will get to that on my next post. The 1948 World Series is the last time the Indians won a title. That is 67 years… and counting! Unfortunately, there is no end in near sight for the Indians to end their drought any time soon.

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As we entered the gates, we got our bobble heads, and they looked very nice! The Indians always do a great job with their promotions, and this is another home run for them. Right after that, we were met by the cheer squad and received mini foam fingers! This was one of the cutest free items I’ve ever received at a ballpark… and wearing right now! After that, we decided to explore the New Era shop where thanks to a check-in offer from the MLB “At the Ballpark” app, I got a “C” cap for half off. As nice as that was, I stuck with my Chief Wahoo hat for that game.

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We then made our way to Heritage Park out beyond the center field seats. This open-air tribute to the Indians showcases some of the best players in team history with plaques and bricks on the ground. Some of these legends include Cy Young, Larry Doby, Bob Feller, and a host of others. I’m glad I spent a lot of time in there because what I found out next stunned me.

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As I tried to make my way to the main team store and bleachers, I was met with security and learned that all other gates open only ONE HOUR before the first pitch. WHAT?!? I thought that was utterly ridiculous because no other ballpark in the major leagues has that short of a window to open up the majority of the ballpark. Yes, PNC Park had the main gates open 90 minutes before the game, and even that was a slight bit of a stretch… but only one hour? We moseyed around the batter’s eye and Heritage Park before the gates finally opened a mere one hour before the first pitch.

This barely gave me enough time to check out the rest of batting practice from the left field bleachers. At least we got to congratulate Dallas Keuchel on making the All-Star team. He actually acknowledged us and said, “Thank you!” After that nice moment, I was finally able to get another free check-in prize (an Indians coozie) and walk around the rest of the concourse.

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The food: It was at the concourse that I finally got my hot dog with some Bertman original ball park mustard. I’m not going to lie… that was the best $3.50 I spent that day because the mustard is delicious. I would get more food later, but while I was in the area, I thought I would stop by the team shop to get my scorebook stamped, and inquire about tickets for Saturday’s game.

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Ticket prices: This is the part of the stadium that I hated the most. Mike and I wanted to check out the Indians game on Saturday since it was jersey night, and we saw there were tickets available online with a price of $38. So, I did the logical thing by going to the box office and get some tickets there. The lady found us some great tickets in the 400 section… but when she gave us the price of around $45 per ticket, I was floored. I asked why the prices were so high for an upper level ticket, and she just said it was a high-demand game. I then politely said that the tickets were showing $38 on the official Indians ticket website. She then said that online prices are special and do not reflect the actual ticket prices. I saw what she was doing, and this is one of the most dishonest practices I’ve ever seen. Typically, the ticket prices displayed on the website, especially for advanced sales, remain the same at the box office. Plus, buying tickets online always carries some kind of convenience charge and other fees with it. This was a huge negative against the park in my book.

To get my mind off that unpleasant experience, I bought some good food at Melt restaurant in the right field district. That area has some mouth-watering food at decent prices. Melt specializes in gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, which I was definitely in the mood for. Anybody that knows me knows that I’m almost always up for a good grilled cheese. Melt at the Ballpark had five different kinds of grilled cheese. I ended up getting TWO different sandwiches… and they filled me up immensely. I got the Parmageddon which has pierogies inside, and the BBQ Pulled Pork grilled cheese with sweet slaw inside. I really enjoyed the Parmageddon, but the BBQ Pulled Pork won my taste buds over with the delicate combination of sweet slaw, pepper jack cheese, and BBQ sauce. At $9.50 apiece, these sandwiches were somewhat pricey, but high-quality as far as ballpark foods go. That sandwich just tasted so much better to me, and that put me in a great mood to watch…

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The game: The Indians were starting to get on a roll, and they were ready to take on the AL West leading Houston Astros. I had my grilled cheese in one hand, my $6.50 Dortmunder Gold beer in the beer rest (thanks to a great beer suggestion from Dan), and my scorebook ready to go. The free seats we received were in section 311, row B as in beautiful! From here, fans can look across the road and see “The Q” where the Cleveland Cavaliers play their NBA games. The scoreboard is massive and displays a vast amount of information including total bases, and whether the batter is a switch hitter or not.

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The game started off with Houston scoring right away on an Evan Gattis 2-run home run into the Home Run Porch in left field. That area is a standing area with tables to socialize and eat. But when home runs fly to that area, it can become a war zone out there.

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The Indians answered back promptly with Jason Kipnis scoring on a groundout. After one inning, it was 2-1 in favor of the Astros. The next couple innings seemed to move quickly, so I knew I had to down my food and just enjoy that cool weather. I also enjoyed checking out Mike try the Thome-nator. This is a footlong behemoth of a hot dog topped with onions and sauerkraut… and three pierogies! If I didn’t already have a hot dog and two sandwiches from Melt, I might have been all over this, but I was barely surviving from all the food I’d already consumed. This hot dog looked delicious, and it could fill most people’s stomach.

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The Indians tied the game in the bottom of the 4th inning with Michael Brantley scoring on a groundout. Now the crowd had started to get really interested in the game… and before we knew it, the 4th inning was over. At this point, we were treated to the hot dog races around the warning track. For this race, there were only three racers: ketchup, mustard, and onion. Whoever won the race would net a prize for their section. This seems to be a trend out in the Midwest as we were treated to the pierogi race the night before. Now racing hot dogs? At least it’s not nearly as bad as the tools race in Atlanta. The hot dogs were fun and a delight to watch.

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The next two innings breezed by as both teams went out in order each time. After Trevor Bauer retired the Astros in order in the top of the 7th inning, we all sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” followed by the apparent Ohio anthem, “Hang On Sloopy”… and I loved it. Mike didn’t seem to care for the song, but I thought it was cute! During the chorus, the lyrics would be sung followed by the crowd spelling out, “O – H – I – O!” A nice tribute to the state of Ohio, if you ask me.

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After Carlos Santana drew a walk and Yan Gomes was hit by a pitch, the Indians had something going with nobody out. Unfortunately, their next three batters went out in order, and the game remained tied at two. Yes, we were beginning to think that we would see some free baseball. But in the bottom of the 8th inning with two men on, David Murphy solidly hit a fly ball into the gap for an easy double. Two runs would score, and the Indians finally had their first lead of the night, 4-2. What little of the crowd that was left erupted, and it was about time I saw some fire in these fans! At least this crowd had the fire within them. Sadly, with a paltry attendance of 15,255 (on a freaking bobble head night), the overall crowd enthusiasm didn’t seem as grand as other ballparks.

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Anyway, Cody Allen shut the door with a quick 1-2-3 inning, and that was the ball game! The Indians won, 4-2, and the loud speakers blared the opening theme from the “Drew Carey Show.” Yes, Cleveland rocks! I have to give a bonus point to the formerly-named Jacobs Field for using that great song for a Tribe victory. After looking for bobble heads, we quickly made out way downstairs… only to be told by the ushers that we were forced to leave the ballpark. Sadly, I couldn’t get any pictures downstairs which bummed me out. I thought with a game that lasted only two and a half hours, we might be able to stick around long enough for pictures. Those ushers wanted to get home and get out of there quickly, which is sad but understandable. With a light crowd like that, why keep the ushers there for only a few dozen people who wanted to explore the ballpark after the game?

Overall, Progressive Field didn’t have the best first impression on me, especially compared to the previous few parks I had just visited (particularly Great American and PNC). But, Mike was determined to let me leave there with a better impression of the Jake. I didn’t hate the ballpark at all, there are just a few things that should be addressed there for the fan that wants to see what Progressive Field has to offer. Fortunately, I would get that chance another day. I’d say our story ends here… but it doesn’t stop here!

Remember the two young boys I had mentioned at the beginning of this post? They were deeply saddened that they couldn’t attend the game and get a Carlos Santana bobble head. Well, we were able to get them each a bobble and present it to them the next day! Since Thursday was an off-day of sorts for Mike and I to catch our collective breaths (and get some laundry done), we made a special delivery to the two young boys, Hayden and Evan. We placed each bobble head inside one of the All-Star bags we had received in Cincinnati the previous weekend as a gift to each of them. Their reactions were priceless! This is one of the great things about doing this ballpark tour, the amount of good will being done throughout the country. Getting to see those smiles is a great footnote to this story, and I know it made me feel really good to give them great joy.

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With that, I will leave you all with this footnote… pay it forward! Do something nice next time you’re at a game. If you catch a foul ball, don’t hesitate to give that ball to a little kid, it will make their year! Treat a good friend to a hot dog. Better yet, treat a good friend to a baseball game, or five! In the middle of all this, I haven’t forgotten about my friend, Mike, who has joined me on this part of the trip. Baseball games have been fun with him coming along, and it’s been such a blast. Thank you everyone, and please continue to follow me on my journey of all the ballparks across the major leagues. See you at the ballpark!

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-JD

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