Have you ever gone to baseball game that was absolutely perfect?
Not just because your team won or your favorite player hit a homerun – but a game that every part of the experience, top to bottom, was as great as you could ever dream of?
That’s how I felt this past Saturday in Cleveland.
Like many things in life, the experience (good or bad) depends on who you’re with. Saturday, I was fortunate enough to attend the game with five awesome people, and two great little people. For one of those little people, my eight-year-old nephew Hunter, it was his first MLB game. Who better to take him than Aunt Jess?
But before we even left for the game, we found ourselves the Yankees beating the Brewers on a Clint Frazier homerun. Of course, that name is significant for Indians fans and brings up two baseball debates – Frazier or Bradley Zimmer, and The Andrew Miller Trade. On this particular day, it also foreshadowed a few key moments of the game that was yet to happen.
We don’t take ourselves too seriously…
The whole reason for making this whirlwind trip to Cleveland to attend this specific game was because it was Andrew Miller jersey giveaway night. You may have heard (along with half the rest of the world) that I’m a pretty big fan of Miller. When my best friend’s husband told me about the giveaway, we immediately started making plans. Eventually, the plan expanded to the six of us adults, Hunter, and Lisa’s nephew Tyler.
Let’s have Jess do something ridiculous with Miller Lite cans!
No matter how seriously the players or the fans may make it, baseball is still a game. It is a form of entertainment that is meant to be enjoyed by fans and yes, even the players. Baseball is not a necessity in life, and for those of us lucky enough to become fans, it often bring great enjoyment.
Seeing Tyler and Hunter at the game together was a very real reminder that fun is what baseball is all about. The two have been friends for a few years but have been unable to spend much time together lately. Even though they spent most of the game talking about video games and whatever else young boys talk about, they were surrounded by all things Cleveland baseball wearing their own (adult XL) Miller jerseys – and having a great time.
The game itself was a solid battle between starters Mike Clevenger and Justin Verlander. Even though the Indians typically hit Verlander well (and he accuses them of stealing his signs), he was able to hold the Indians at 1 run through 6.2IP. Clevenger caused fans some anxiety by throwing 115 pitches through 6 innings, but did not allow the Tigers to score a single run. At the top of the 7th inning, it was time…
IT’S MILLER TIME!!!! pic.twitter.com/9WwkgT0AO2
— Jessica (@FinnGirlJess) July 9, 2017
Miller Time completely snuck up on me. From my seat in the left field bleachers, I could clearly see the Tigers bullpen, but a line of trees blocked the Indians bullpen. I couldn’t see if anyone was throwing, let alone who – so when a tall figure with the number 24 on his back appeared at the warning track, all I could do was say “It’s him! That’s my guy!!” as he jogged toward pitcher’s mound.
And of course, Miller didn’t disappoint! We were treated to two excellent innings from Miller – three up, three down in the 7th – and three up, three down in the 8th. “Do you think they have him come out for the 9th?” someone asked me. No – this was everything I could have dreamed of – thirty pitches for two perfect innings. That’s right around Miller’s limit for the regular season. Cody Allen could have his moment and get the save.
At the time Miller took the ball, I hadn’t even been in Ohio for a full 24 hours…
But the Indians weren’t done wowing us yet. They scored three runs in the bottom of the 8th off Bruce Rondon to take a 4-0 lead over the Tigers (which would remain until the end of the game). Lonnie Chisenhall scored on a Carlos Santana double, and Santana scored when Bradley Zimmer tripled. Zimmer then scored on a sacrifice fly from Yan Gomes. Unsurprisingly, Rondon was then replaced by Daniel Stumpf, who was able to record the final out of the inning when Francisco Lindor flew out to centerfield.(Sidenote: Bradley Zimmer is utterly amazing. There are very few players who have impressed me so much so quickly.)
In the bottom of the 9th, Allen recorded two outs before allowing a base hit to Miguel Cabrera. At that point I got a little nervous because Allen has a history of being a bit of a Houdini and not making his saves easy. But, my nerves were calmed when JD Martinez lined out to second baseman Erik Gonzalez (who replaced Jason Kipnis when he left the game injured after the 3rd inning).
Ballgame over – Indians win. Was it a success? Yes. Even though Hunter told me his favorite player was Adrian Peterson (not even the same sport!), called Slider “the guy in the purple suit”, and thought the racing hotdogs were dressed as trashcans, he still said he had fun and would go to another game – but maybe a day game.
Just before the game started, I asked Hunter if he knew which team was the Indians – and he answered correctly. I told him “We want them to hit and score runs” and he pointed to Francisco Lindor “Even him?” “Yes, especially him” I said as I thought about how easy it is for Lindor to hit, score runs, and field like a dream. In that moment, I couldn’t help but wonder if Lindor would be that player Hunter would “grow up with” – if he would be around Cleveland for years to come, and Hunter could look back and say he saw him play when he was young, similarly to how I talk about seeing young Manny Ramirez and Bartolo Colon.
The whole evening was nostalgic as I looked around the stadium and thought back to the first game I went to in 1996. The stadium had changed – mostly for the better. There are several flags in right field to celebrate everything from division titles to American League pennants. Since the 1995 World Series, the Indians have had a lot to celebrate, especially compared to the decades of disappointment and embarrassment. How many games had I seen at this stadium…? There are too many to count. Too many teams and players to remember. It’s a good thing I saved all my tickets from back then and can lookup box scores from 20 years ago.
While leaving the stadium, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years. He had been across the street at The Q seeing another game and decided to wander over for the Indians postgame fireworks.
As I was laying in the grass at a small park on Ontario Street, with The Jake to my right and The Q to my left, I couldn’t help but smile and feel totally in love with Cleveland. As I was reliving the night while driving home the next day (really, just a few hours after leaving the game), I couldn’t help but remember what one Cleveland Indians executive said to me less than a year ago when the Indians acquired that tall, left handed reliever from the Yankees: “Welcome home.”
And it was so good to be back…
— Jessica (@FinnGirlJess) July 14, 2017