Before heading out to Cleveland, we had to stop in Wilmington Ohio to meet up for lunch with Rita, Tony’s mom that we both met last night at Great American Ballpark. She invited us for lunch so we could talk about our experience. Apparently, it is in Wilmington that the Banana Split was invented! Rita is a really big fan of the Reds and we loved to hear about her stories. After this nice lunch (thank you very much!), we headed to the Technicolor headquarters where Tony is working. They do the distribution of movies in Canada and the United States. Adry was very excited since she worked for many years at her hometown cinema. Tony gave us a nice tour of the facilities and even gave us a movie poster of ‘’42’’, the Jackie Robinson movie. Thanks a lot to Tony and his mom for giving us this great experience!
We headed to Cleveland and precisely to the city center. We went to attend a charity event that was organized partly by the Cleveland Indians. One player and two coaches of the team were guest’s bartenders in this trendy bar. They were giving guest their beer and taking pictures with the fans. A part of the sales were given to charity. We were lucky enough to take a picture with the famous Terry Francona, manager for the Cleveland Indians and former first round draft pick for the Montreal Expos in 1980.
We left downtown and we headed to Parma, a suburb town of Cleveland. We were to meet with Dan and Sarah. They live in the Cleveland area but Dan grew up in Detroit as a Tigers fan and Sarah grew up in Indianapolis as a Reds fan. They followed our trip closely during the summer and they offer us to sleep at their place when we were in the area. On that night, we sit and watch on TV the last game of Derek Jeter at the Yankee Stadium. It was a great moment of emotion for us and it couldn’t have finished better than that!
The next morning, Dan and Sarah toured us around Cleveland. We’d say that we didn’t know much about the highlights of this city other than their famous Rock and Roll hall of fame. Our first stop but very important stop: The Honey Hut. This place is well known in Cleveland to be very delicious and one the best 25 ice cream parlors in the United State. By the way, Dan was a judge in a contest to find the greatest ice cream in Cleveland! Second stop: League Park. This ballpark was the former home of the Cleveland Indians and Spiders. This ballpark was partly demolished when the team left but it was refurbished a few years ago. Today it’s a park own by the city. It still bears some walls from the old building. This ballpark is very important in the history of Cleveland: Cy Young pitched out there and Babe Ruth hit his 500th career home run.
We went over by the hospitals area: Cleveland is well known for its high quality hospitals and very qualified doctors. They also showed us a park where every nationality of the citizens of Cleveland is represented with small gardens where they built statues and plaques. We drove pass the Cleveland Browns Stadium, which is located next to the Rock and Roll hall of fame. We than took the freeway to get away from downtown.
The next stop was a public park located on the Erie Lake waterfront. From there, we had a breathtaking view on Cleveland’s down town. Let’s say that this Cleveland tour really impressed us since we didn’t know that much about the city. We now have a lot of reasons to go back there as tourist to visit the science museum, art museum, etc.
After the tour, we left Dan and Sarah but we will see them again during the game. We met up with a Professional working for the development sales for the Cleveland Indians. He offered us to go on the field during the Indians batting practice. We really love this moment when we are only a feet away from the big league players! We had a lot of questions for Matthew concerning the Cleveland Indians. First, we all saw those embarrassing pictures showing progressive field completely empty earlier this season. He told us that it is not a secret that the attendance was terrible this year at progressive field and that the organization is working towards changing this. The team will probably be second to last in attendance this season. One of the Indians problems is that people prefer to go watch the game with their friends in one of the many sports bar in Cleveland. They have to find a way to drag these people to the ballpark. This is why, during the offseason, the organization is going to proceed to a series of renovation in the ballpark. A large seating section of the grand stand (which was almost always empty) is going to be removed to be replaced by an entertainment section: bar, food and standing room. Also, a two stories bar will be added to the ballpark. This ballpark, which was opened in 1994, is still in pretty good shape.
The Cleveland fans suffered a lot in their lifetime talking sports in general. The baseball team hasn’t won the World Series since 1948, the Cleveland Browns never won a Super Bowl and the Cleveland Cavaliers lived in misery after Lebron James left the team. The sports fans have a very difficult relation with their different teams. They will critic a lot the teams and the players but, as another employee of the team told us (native from Cleveland), they prefer to have critic fans filling the ballpark than have no fans at all! For example, it’s the first time since the 2000-2001 seasons that the Indians are going for back to back winning seasons but still, the fans already are talking about a new manager! Don’t get excited, the Indians are staying in Cleveland and they will always stay there. Even though Cleveland and Ohio are mostly all about football, the baseball fan base is very important.
Even if they haven’t won the prestigious trophy since 1948, the team had successful seasons during the 90’s. When the Cleveland Browns left town from 1996 to 1998 and when great players evolved with the team, it was the perfect recipe for success for baseball in Cleveland. They had a 455 games sold out streak. The number 455 is retired by the team. During this era, the Cleveland fans could see great players like Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome. By the way, Thome owns the record for longest home run at Progressive field, a 511 feet long ball!
After batting practice, our friend toured us around the ballpark. Next to the ballpark entrance, which is located right next to the street, we discovered the Indians hall of fame. Players are honored over there and quite a few are issued from the Negro Leagues. Not to forget: Louis Francis Sockalexis who gave the Indians name to the team. We kept visiting and we’ve been showed us the seat reserved for John Adams. John Adams is an Indians fan who is known for batting the drum during the Indians home games in the belachers! We also observed the ballpark lights that have a particular toothbrush shape and inspired many ballparks. We passed by the kid’s zone which was pretty empty… Thanks a lot to our friend for answering all of our questions and to give us the opportunity to go on the field for batting practice. We wish him good luck for his continuity with the team for next season!
We went back to meet with Dan and Sarah to our seats. We had very good tickets for that Friday night game. The Indians were still having playoffs hope by a very small margin. They were playing against the Tampa Bay Rays. Starting pitchers were Corey Kluber for the Indians and Chris Archer for the Rays. Kluber is a serious candidate for the Cy young trophy, given to the best pitcher in each league. This season, he has an 18 wins and 9 losses record and 269 strikeouts! He will start off the game with three strikeouts in the first inning! He is a very impressing player! In the bottom of the 1st inning, Jose Ramirez will hit his 2nd home run of the year good for one run: 1-0 Indians. For the rest of the game, it will all be about the pitchers. Archer will only allow 2 hits to the Indians for the whole 7 innings and 2\3 he’d pitch. Kluber would get 11 strikeouts in 8 innings! Cody Allen will come as a closer in the 9th and he will be perfect: Indians win 1-0, our 4th shutout in a row…
When we are looking at the Cleveland Indians, we all see the empty stands and a team finishing 3rd in its division this year. We have to look at Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley that are the future of the team. Cleveland got it really bad during the economic crisis a few years ago. Today, the downtown is full of life and a lot of young professionals are buying condos. Cleveland is a big sports city but it stays a small market. It is one of the rare small markets that have 3 professional teams: Indians, Browns and Cavaliers. Our friend told us how the Indians felt the new excitement when Lebron James announced that he was coming back home to the Cavs: people were more motivated for sports in general. As he told us: the Cleveland fans love to hate themselves. We will have to observe closely Cleveland during the process of getting a new team in Montreal.
After the game, we headed back to Dan and Sarah’s to get a good night of sleep. They really welcomed us in the best way there is. We really felt at home out there! It is incredible how we’ve met with so many nice persons during this whole trip. They even offered us gifts! It was a great pleasure for us to learn more about Cleveland and the American Culture in general. A big thanks to them and we hope to see you guys soon enough in Montreal for a Montreal Canadiens game! (Dan created his own ‘’Red Wings zone’’ in his basement!)
Next stop is in Canada: the Toronto Blue Jays!
P.S. Did you knew that, John Adams, the Indians Drummer, is the only MLB fan that had the honor to had a bobble head figurine created after him!