The Indians do as much as they can from a PR standpoint to reach out to the community and engage with their fans. Its something they obviously must do, considering the economics of our market. The Tribe was dealt a significant blow this past week when the rival Detroit Tigers decided to replace the injured Victor Martinez with the biggest fish in the free agent pond, Prince Fielder. Nine years and $214 million later, Tribe fans coast to coast felt as though we had been kicked in the stomach. In the meantime, a couple of days later, Manager Manny Acta and some of his players hit the road on a four mall PR run called “Tribe on Tour” and undoubtably be asked about it, and the opening at first base.
Things wrapped up Sunday at Beachwood Place mall. Acta, Josh Tomlin, Jason Donald, Jason Kipnis, Vinnie Pestano, Jack Hannahan, and Shelley Duncan all met the fans for an hour of Q & A followed by an autograph session.
With a die-hard almost five year old son with me, I headed to check it all out. There is nothing like being woken up by your Tribe-loving kid at 6:45 AM with him saying “Daddy, guess what today is? We’re going to see the baseball players!” He couldn’t have been more excited and has been talking about it for weeks. We arrived around 11:30 figuring we’d be early enough to be near the front of the line. We weren’t. Literally there were 500 people ahead of us as the line went out the door. It was a monster turnout. I didn’t realize there autograph session wasn’t going to be until 1 PM and the Q & A would come first. So instead of waiting in the line, we got ourselves a spot right in the front of where the Q & A session would be. My son doesn’t know from getting autographs, so this was actually a much better play for us.
As we waited, John Adams was around beating his drum, which my son was able to do along with taking a picture with the legend himself. The Hot Dogs – Ketchup, Mustard, and Onion – were there as well, which he loved as well (another solid photo op). Slider was was present. Tommy Hamilton was in the house. We were interviewed for the Channel 8 News where my son delivered a classic “Go Tribe” at the end. He was just so excited to be able to see some of his heroes up close. It felt like every 60 seconds from 11:50 to when the players appeared, he asked me “are the Indians here yet?”
When they came down the escalator to take their places on the makeshift stage, they walked right past us. My son turned around and high-fived Acta, Hannahan, and Duncan. If you could all have seen the excitement in his face – its one of those things that makes parenthood so great. My wife had no personal interest in being there, but when we got in the car to go home, she and I just basked in how much we enjoyed watching the pure, unbridled enthusiasm of our son.
Back to the players. Hamilton was the emcee of Q & A. Kids and adults alike were able to ask the manager and the players whatever they wanted. From questions about Duncan’s new mountain-man beard to the health of Hannahan’s son, the topics ran the gamut. I have to say that I came away VERY impressed with how these young men handled themselves. A couple of questions really illustrated this.
A kid asked the players how they try to eat healthy. Pestano had a great answer, talking about how he wished he had eaten healthier as a kid and that he is still running off the Big Mac’s from his youth. Duncan, who was hands-down the star of the show, killed it when he said “if I read the ingredients and I have no idea what any of these things are, I don’t eat it.” Donald told the crowd he stays away mostly because Duncan has ruined junk food for him.
The question about staying away from alcohol and drugs came up as well. Duncan was terrific, saying that there are so many temptations out there but to be a ball player you have to dedicate yourself to your craft and allow nothing to get in the way of your goals. I know it sounds cliche, but if you were there and you saw how many impressionable young kids were there listening, you’d have been impressed as well.
Lastly, the players were asked what their best piece of advice is to young kids who want to be ballplayers when they grow up. Pestano said that you have to always hustle, never take a play off, and give it your all at all times. Acta told the crowd that repetition and practice is the key, to really hone your craft. Again, some of this stuff may sound cookie cutter to you, but even my son, at almost five years old, was listening intently and even brought up to me last night before bed how we have to make sure that we practice as much as we can so he can get better.
I have to give a big kudos to all the players and staff involved in the Tribe on Tour events this weekend. As a Tribe fan, I thought it was a great way to reach out to the community, and as a father I loved the enthusiasm Acta and the players showed toward the crowd and the message they brought across.