Girls can be legitimate baseball fans – and not just butt watchers

Archive for the ‘Cleveland Indians’ Category

The Andrew Miller jersey giveaway

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?

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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…

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…

A Cleveland Love Letter

No matter what team we’ll be cheering for tonight, baseball fans everywhere can agree this is going to be a good World Series. Both teams, along with their fans, have been waiting their whole lives (or longer) for this moment.

For just the third time in my lifetime, the Cleveland Indians are going to the World Series, and I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve been told several times, by a variety of people, that you can’t have more than one favorite team. To be honest, I don’t really care what any of those people think. There are four teams in Major League Baseball I would be incredibly happy to see in the World Series because they’re my favorites. And there are a lot of other teams, the Chicago Cubs included, whose bandwagons I would jump on…if only they weren’t playing one of my favorite teams.

It has been 68 years since the Cleveland Indians won the World Series. Yes, it’s been longer for the Cubs – the whole world knows that – but 68 years is still a long time, especially in a city like Cleveland.

For my fellow Yankee fans who miss seeing their team in the playoffs, think of it this way: it’s only been nine years since the Yankees won it all (and it was great!). Imagine living those same nine years another nine (almost ten) times. That’s how long it’s been for Indians fans.

Until the Cavs won their championship earlier this year, Cleveland wasn’t considered a winning city. (Maybe it still isn’t?) The Indians came close a few times since 1948, but they never sealed the deal. The Cavs were pretty good, but then LeBron bailed (but eventually came back). And the Browns may not win a single game this season – there’s very little hope they ever see a Super Bowl in my lifetime.

Cleveland is “The Mistake by the Lake” is the butt of many jokes, sports included. I first realized this when I was a young child watching an episode of Saved by the Bell. When Kelly Kapowski said the Cleveland Indians were one of the biggest jokes in history, I asked my dad why she was being so mean to our team. “Because,” he said “the Indians were really bad for a very long time.”

I’m fortunate enough to have been too young to remember the really bad years. I do, however, remember exactly where I was when the Indians lost the 1995 and 1997 World Series. I could walk into my childhood homes (we moved in early 1997), stand in the exact same spot, and feel like the moment just happened. To be so close to winning it all and it slipping through their fingers…well, Cleveland never wins at anything anyway.

Cleveland is my home, and regardless of what people say, it’s a pretty damn great city! We’ve had our very public struggles (did your river ever catch on fire?), but we’re pulled through. The Cleveland I still visit today is very different from the Cleveland of years and decades past, and it’s getting better every day.

For most of my life, the Indians were the only baseball I had in my life, so I will absolutely be cheering for them tonight and for the rest of this season. I’ll be cheering with my 91-year-old Gramma who will be watching it at home (hopefully with a cold beer). I’ll be cheering with John Adams, the “annoying drum guy” who has sat out in left field for every game since 1972, including the bad ones. And I’ll be cheering for my Grampa, and many others who are no longer here to watch their team play ball.

It’s been a good year for Cleveland, and there will never be more excitement downtown than there is tonight. Let’s use that energy and #RallyTogether for our city.

 

I only wish I had a Great Lakes beer to drink with the game.

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A Tale of Two Cities

When you have the opportunity to travel 786 miles to see four MLB teams play in two separate games, you just have to do it. Because after all, this is summer. And even if football has returned to our TV screens, summertime is baseball time.

So maybe that’s not exactly there reason these two games happened within days of each other. As luck – and my work schedule – would have it, I had the chance to drive to Cleveland midweek to see the Yankees and Indians play, and then travel to Baltimore to see the A’s and Orioles that weekend. It was a lot of baseball in one week, or as I would call it – heaven.

11873495_806461130381_1585491247349533703_nWednesday August 12 Yankees at Indians
Final Score: Yankees 1, Indians 2
WP: Danny Salazar LP: C.C. Sabathia S: Cody Allen
Distance traveled: approximately 694 miles

The circumstances surrounding this game might make it the most perfect game I will experience all season long. After spending Tuesday and most of Wednesday with my family, I met up with my best friend Lisa who is the reason I ever started watching baseball. We made plans to head into Cleveland so I could be fitted for my matron of honor dress (Lisa is getting married next July), have dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, and see two of our favorite teams play. Lisa decided to wear an Indians shirt since we were in our hometown and her beloved Jeter is retired, and was very supportive of my Rodriguez jersey. For friends cheering for competing teams, we were very peaceful. And our seats were so good, I could have probably carried on a conversation with Chase Headley if I yelled loud enough.
Before the game, I was worried for the Yankees for a number of reasons: the previous night’s game lasted 16 innings (past midnight), the Blue Jays were closing in on 1st place in A.L. East, and the struggling C.C. Sabathia was starting. Surprisingly, it was a fairly good game despite the Yankees loss. Sometime Wednesday afternoon I had a sudden feeling of confidence in Sabathia. Cleveland is where he started his career in 2001 and won the Cy Young Award in 2007. He was incredibly gracious when he left, and I’ve always felt there was a mutual admiration between him and the city. Sure enough, he settled in well and allowed only 2 runs (all the Indians needed to win) on 9 hits in 6IP (2BB, 2SO).
Another cause of pregame nerves was hearing the Yankees had brought up Chris Capuano after he was previously been designated for assignment. When I saw a left handed pitcher warming up during the 6th inning, I was nearly in tears in the stands expecting Capuano to appear for the 7th inning. Much to my surprise, the lefty was actually Chasen Shreve who is not only a far better pitcher than Capuano (at this point in their careers at the very least) but one of my favorite players to watch this season.
A funny thing about this game are the Indians’ bullpens. During the past off season, the bullpens were moved closer to center field and are “stacked” (they used to be parallel to the foul lines and had very limited exposure to fans in the stadium). Late in the game, both Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances were halfheartedly warming up (neither made an appearance in the game). Both are so tall (Miller 6’7” and Betances 6’8”) they both looked like they might hit the ceiling of the bullpen just by walking. It was a little surprising (at least from my angle) they were able to bring their arms up and around to throw.

11892035_807091866381_7279539388366583417_nSaturday August 15 Athletics and Orioles
Final Score: A’s 3, O’s 4

WP: Zach Britton LP: Pat Venditte
Distance traveled: only about 92 miles
When you think of a really good baseball games, this was one of them.
Camden Yards was packed, and everyone was wearing orange thanks to the J.J. Hardy jersey giveaway. (Some of us arrived too late for the jersey, but were already wearing orange Chris Davis and Manny Machado shirts.)
It started out rough. After Billy Burns hit a triple (to center field – but he’s kind of fast), Mark Canha grounded out to first and of course speedy Butler scored. Miguel Gonzalez settled down for a few innings, and then gave Sam Fuld a nice pitch to hit over the right field wall for his second home run of the season (right after I laughed at home for having only one).
There we stayed with a score of 3-0 and about 44,000 disappointed Orioles fans (the 10 A’s fans in attendance were quite content). In the 4th inning, Gerardo Parra (one of the newest Orioles) hit a single, and stayed there until Chris Davis sent a pitch over the right field wall. Two innings later, Parra continued his impressive start with the Orioles by also hitting a home run over the right field wall – tie game.
After that, the game was up to the pitchers. First, fan favorite Darren O’Day came on to pitch for the Orioles in the top of the 8th, followed by closer Britton in the top of the 9th. The A’s left their starting pitcher Chris Bassitt in through 8 innings, and was relieved by SHP Pat Venditte.
Seeing Venditte pitch was a unique experience. The scoreboard listed him as a RHP, and he did throw considerably faster with his right arm. When he was first announced, I quickly looked to see who was up for the Orioles – Parra (L), Jones (r), Davis (L). If I had the chance to see Pat Venditte pitch, I wanted to see him pitch with both arms! After Parra flew out, Venditte switched to RHP as my husband watched in disbelief. When Adam Jones grounded out and Venditte switched back to LHP to face Davis, my husband yelled “What kind of gimmick is this?!” Suddenly, the ball goes flying into the air – and again, over the right field wall. (Wouldn’t you know we were sitting in left field?)
The Orioles won in the bottom of the 9th by a walkoff home run, and the place exploded in excitement. As is Baltimore tradition after such a big moment, Adam Jones came out of the dugout to throw a pie in Davis’ face, which he gladly accepted after being the hero of the game.

This past week met a few weird fan goals for me this season. First, I (again) saw my 4 favorite teams play in their home stadiums (Yankees, Orioles, Indians, and Nationals). To top that, I’ve seen my favorite team (Yankees) play in all four of those cities.
From this point, it’s a long wait for another live MLB game. Next game on the schedule is September 18 when the Marlins take on the Nats in DC, followed by Yankees at Orioles to close out the regular season the first weekend in October. So far – and looking ahead – it’s been a good baseball season for this fan!

Lonely Island

There is really no reason for me to be a baseball fan. So many of us “inherit” our love of this wonderful game from older generations – we spend afternoons with Dad or Grandpa watching a game, and we begin to understand it, and have our own favorite team and favorite players. It’s one of my favorite things about this sport – seeing older generations teach younger generations how the game was “in their day.”

Each generation witnesses their own moment in baseball history that will never be seen by a future generation. When our kids or grandkids are old enough to appreciate baseball, it will be a different game from what we experienced, and from what our parents and grandparents experienced before us. When legendary players are gone and historic games are over, there is nothing left but the stories. You’ll hear about it on TV or in books, but it’s all the more special and real if you know someone who saw it with their very own eyes.

I never had this early exposure to professional baseball – my love for the game developed much more randomly (not that I appreciate it any less). Growing up outside of Cleveland, the only baseball I was exposed to were the Indians – and in my youngest days, they were the laughingstock of professional baseball. Still, there was no talk about “the good old days” – and there were many good times in the franchise before the abysmal 1960’s through early 90’s. I never heard my Grampa talk about Bob Feller, or the World Series of 1948 or 1954, and I never heard my dad talk about Cleveland’s first Cy Young Award winner (Gaylord Perry, 1972) – or wonder “what if” George Steinbrenner had successfully bought the Indians when he tried to in 1972 (his offer was rejected; he went on to buy the Yankees and the rest is history). If anyone in my family was paying attention to what the Indians were doing, it wasn’t interesting or important enough for anyone to talk about.

The earliest baseball memory I have is knowing my oldest cousin (11 years older than me) played baseball, and that he once went to an Indians game and met Bobby Bonds, who was on the team that year (1979). Even though I did not appreciate the significance of that story for many years and my cousin and I have not been in contact for most of our lives, it laid the groundwork for what was to come.

I don’t remember ever formally learning about baseball, and at the same time I can’t remember a time when I didn’t understand the game. For many years in school, I played softball. When my mom referred to it as “baseball,” I would respond with a speech about the differences in the two games, and how baseball was better. (Why did girls have to play softball? Why couldn’t we throw overhand and play real baseball?)

If I hadn’t seen my cousin so excited for baseball, I may have never developed an interest in the game or understood it like I do. He never sat down and talked baseball with me, so I did not learn anything from him directly, but it must have been just enough to spark my interest.

The Indians turned things around in the 1990’s after a 30 year slump. By 1995, Cleveland was back in the World Series, and my heart broke with every other Clevelander when we lost to the Atlanta Braves. In 1997 I attentively watched Cleveland host the All Star Game at the new Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field). My best friend was at the game and told me to watch at home in case she was on TV. Of course she wasn’t, but from that night on I was hooked. For the rest of the 1997 season and all of the 1998 season, I watched every single Indians game I could. From that developed a general appreciation of the game, and of it’s players, and of three particular teams.

Most of the time, being a baseball fan feels like being on a lonely island: there was no one here before me to share stories of the great games and players they saw in their day. There’s only me and what I’ve witnessed in baseball history during my lifetime. I don’t have children yet, but I look forward to someday sharing my passion for baseball and all the stories I have. Until then, I get my stories where I can: A cousin who met Bobby Bonds. A friend who met Cal Ripken, Jr. A patient who played catch with Babe Ruth as a child (true story).

And if you’re wondering about my cousin and I, we’ll never be close – but I did reach out to him, the first contact we’ve had in almost a year and a half:

I was just thinking about how I became a baseball fan since no one in my immediate family is. I realized that if I hadn’t seen you into baseball when I was a kid, I might have never gotten interested in it myself. I know that is *really* random, but I guess I just wanted to say thanks…30 years later! lol

Thanks Jess! That means a lot!