JD’s 2015 Ballpark Tour; Cleveland, Ohio… take two.

Part X: Progressive Field (Second Visit)

After a couple days away from visiting anything baseball related in Ohio, Mike gave me an incredible surprise while I was still in town. He keeps track of a wonderful group called the Wahoo Club. As you may guess, this is an official club for the Cleveland Indians. Just about every month, they hold a Wahoo Club event that features a player from the Indians past or present with a full meal. Yes, they have even held breakfasts with classic players. For this particular event, Mike and I got tickets to the Wahoo Club luncheon with former Indians All-Star, Max Alvis! Oh, and some current rising star named Carlos Carrasco! This luncheon took place inside the Terrace Club at Progressive Field, a very nice place within the stadium. I knew I’d be in for not only a great luncheon, but a great game afterwards.

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Ballpark 24 (again): Progressive Field, elevation 667 feet

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After League Park Saturday morning **which you can read about here**, Mike and I headed to Progressive Field for the luncheon, and we headed to where the security guard was. With our tickets in hand, we made our way to the terrace club where we grabbed a table closer to the field. Yes, we were bathing in the sun for maybe two minutes, but we got an excellent view of the field! Right away, we were treated to some good pasta and a damn good piece of chicken. The food was great, even the lunch alone was worth it.

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During this time, we walked around the top of the terrace club where silent auctions were being held. There were some great Indians items, but given how much stuff I was already bringing back, I knew I couldn’t make any more room in my luggage! While I was heading back to my seat, I was greeted by Max Alvis. He was very personable and we got to talking. I told him I was only a one-time guest visiting from California. After being asked why I was visiting Progressive Field, I told him about my tour, and we talked a few minutes about different parks and the such. After a few minutes, I asked if I could get a picture with him. Since my camera was downstairs, he followed me down, and both Mike and I got a picture with the former All-Star. He signed my score book, and I finally got a picture with him. Already, this was turning about to be a great day.

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Later on, we were told that Carlos Carrasco would sign either three items, or up to two items and a picture. Since I only had the score book, I was originally going to have him sign just that. However, Mike found an old Carrasco baseball card for me to get signed. What a guy! I had my two items, and wanted a good picture with him. For the record, Mike got two amazing items signed: a nameplate with Carlos’ name on it, and a specialty jersey with Carrasco on it. Once our numbers were called, we quickly sauntered up the stairs to where Carlos Carrasco was. He was very kind talking to everyone, and was willing to take pictures with almost everyone. After getting my two items signed, I was able to get a picture with him. We talked briefly about his season, and wished him luck as he was pitching that same night!

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Right then, I thought the event was over, and I would have said it was totally worth it at this point. But wait… there’s more! We were treated to a Q&A session after the signing. He talked about his season, his career, and answered most of the usual questions. A few of the questions related to his near no-hitter from his previous start that week in Tampa Bay. Carlos came within ONE STRIKE of completing a no-hit bid which would have been the first no-hitter for the Indians since Len Barker (1981). This near no-no made huge news in baseball that week, and I applauded him for putting on a great performance, but also for being so gracious in his answers about it. My favorite thing Carrasco said about the near no-hitter was that he smiled because Joey Butler worked so hard just to get that line drive, and he appreciated the work Butler did to get that hit.

When I heard there were two questions remaining, I knew I had to get one in there, and maybe end on a lighter note. I then asked about his favorite memory from all his time playing baseball, including the minor leagues. He said this one was easy, and really gave everyone a good laugh when he proclaimed that he actually beat Pedro Martinez for one game. He was playing in AAA for the Columbus Clippers after being traded to the Indians earlier that week. When he was told who he was pitching against, he was excited. It was special because he moved to his current team, and Martinez happened to be rehabbing for the Phillies at the time. Upon further research, that game took place July 31, 2009 where Carrasco got the best of the Hall-of-Famer. What a neat story!

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After Carrasco left, we looked around the artifacts all around the terrace club. There were some great items from Bob Feller’s career, and the decorations pay homage to those classic teams, especially the 1948 team that won the championship for the Indians. To date, that is the last time a Cleveland Indians team won it all.

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In addition to that, I had the privilege of meeting John Adams, who is the drummer that attends nearly every Indians home game… banging his bass drum. He was extremely cordial to me, and we even talked a little baseball. Adams is knowledgeable in everything that has to do with the Indians history. Of course, he’s been banging that drum at Indians home games since 1973, so he’s seen it all. After that, I wandered over to Babe Ruth’s bat from his farewell speech shortly before he passed away. Yes, this is the bat, without a doubt. I was left speechless at that point. It’s that magnificent. After saying goodbye to the terrace club at Progressive Field, it was time for another game that night.

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The game: Athletics @ Indians on July 11, 2015

I will admit that my first visit to Progressive Field wasn’t an entirely positive one. With the dishonesty of the box office still fresh in my mind, I decided to use StubHub for this game. With a little bit of luck, I snagged a pair of field level tickets for just under fifty bucks. The best part was that there was a $3 credit towards food! For this ballpark, StubHub is easily the way to go because the prices you see online for the Indians tickets are not the price you will end up paying. Be forewarned!

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One highlight of this trip was finally getting to meet fellow Touch ‘Em All podcaster, Ian McLinn. We both got food from Melt, which meant more grilled cheese sandwiches! We talked baseball for a bit, and went into detail about the recent winning streak the Indians were on. At the time, the Indians were only two games under .500 and were looking to make a push into postseason contention. He ended up sitting in the right field district while Mike and I got our field seats. It was good to finally meet him, thank you Ian!

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Another reason more fans came out for this game was that it was Sandy Alomar jersey night! We got there early enough to snag a jersey and make it to the right field area, which was open early (some parts of the park do open much later, so watch out for that). This much bigger crowd was the kind of attendance I wanted to see initially. I’d much rather attend a contest with a great attendance instead of seeing mostly empty seats in a seemingly cavernous stadium. After finishing my Melt sandwich and getting another hot dog with the famous mustard, we were ready for…

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The game: I was more excited for this game than usual since I had just met that day’s starting pitcher earlier in the day. Yes, Carlos Carrasco was starting just after his brilliant performance against the Tampa Bay Rays. Unfortunately, the Oakland A’s manufactured a run on a sacrifice fly to take an early 1-0 lead. With the way Carrasco had been pitching, the best way to beat him would be with some small ball and timely hits. After that, the game was scoreless for the next five innings. Chris Bassitt scattered a few hits, but managed to allow zero runs against the tribe. This has been a huge problem for the Indians throughout the season. Cleveland has great pitching, but sub-par hitting. If their offense isn’t clicking, they have no chance of obtaining any quality scoring opportunities.

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Carlos Carrasco, on the other side, was also pitching well. His next two innings were both “1-2-3” innings, including striking out the side in the 3rd inning. Through six innings, Carrasco had only given up the one run in the 1st inning, and it was beginning to look like another tough-luck loss for the young pitcher. Then, with a lead-off triple, Jason Kipnis was only 90 feet from tying the game with no outs. Two batters later, Michael Brantley hit an RBI single to tie the game at one. We had a new ball game after six innings. Runs were certainly at a premium for this game.

Then in the 7th inning, both teams traded runs, each coming off of base hits. At the end of seven innings, the score was tied at two, and Carrasco finished his day with 7 innings pitched. It’s a shame that he pitched brilliantly and will only earn a no-decision in this contest. After getting to converse with him earlier in the day, I was rooting for him to perform well. He wouldn’t get the loss, so that counted for something. Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t provide the support he needed (yet again) to give him a chance to win. Even worse, the Indians ended up blowing the lead late and giving the A’s a one-run win. Their winning streak would end that night.

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However, there was reason to celebrate after the game because it was fireworks night! This was different from most ballparks as the fireworks were being shot off FROM THE FIELD. The fireworks show was great, but there was so much smoke afterwards that I couldn’t get a decent shot with me and the stadium background. Either way, this trip to Progressive Field was far better than the first one, and I’m glad I came back. Once again, a huge thanks to Mike for taking me to this park! Until next time, thank you for reading, and see you at the ballpark!

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-JD

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