It is not news that baseball is much better with a stadium packed with fans. Loud and boisterous and cheering for their team, the Indians last night got a taste of what the entire summer could be like every time they take the field if they continue to play the way they are.
I was there last night at Progressive Field. It was my 10th game of the season. Other than opening day (mainly because there were over 43,000 people there), that was easily the best and most vocal crowd of the year. When I saw the attendance figure read just 22,000 on the dot, I couldn’t believe it. It seems like way more to me. Maybe I have been to too many games where there are 8,000 people there. I received a number of tweets after the game that were dead on – imagine how loud it would have been with double the people in the stands?
For the 22,000 who were in attendance like I was, we were greeted to a playoff type atmosphere. This was one of those nights that makes going to a baseball game on summer night “the thing to do.”
My boss was in town for the first time since I came over to my new job (contrary to popular belief, none of the WFNY crew, me included, do this as our real gig. Now if someone wants to pay me a nice salary to do so, I am all yours!). The weather last night couldn’t have been more perfect. 65 degrees, a slight breeze, sunny skies at first pitch. Just a magnificent night. Before the game, I took him by the new casino (which looks great by the way) and walked him up and down 4th Street. If there was ever a weeknight to “show off” Cleveland. People were everywhere, decked out in Tribe gear. There was a buzz in the city.
Then we went inside the stadium to a very nice crowd. The game itself was excellent. Yes, there was sloppy defense, but both The Tribe’s Zach McAllister and Detroit’s Doug Fister were taking turns trying to out-duel each other. With the spector of Justin Verlander looming the next day, the Tribe and its fans all had this sense of “we must win this one.”
With each passing at-bat after Shin-Soo Choo’s sixth inning botched play in right on an Andy Dirks line-drive, you could feel the tension in the air. The Tigers took a 2-0 but the crowd wouldn’t let the Indians, who had just two hits heading into the bottom of the sixth, go away. After a Kipnis leadoff single, I turned to my boss and said “I’m calling my shot here – two-run homer from Asdrubal.” That didn’t happen. However, the next batter was Travis Hafner. I started telling my boss about his recent 1-33 with RISP slump and then said “I’m bad-mouthing so much, he will probably hit a homer to tie the game.”
Sure enough, Pronk delivered.
The place erupted. The game was back on. But the fans would get even better and louder.
Fast forward to the eighth where a Kipnis error, a bloop hit from Delmon Young, and a Brennan Boesch single loaded the bases with nobody out against Tony Sipp and Vinnie Pestano. Vinnie, with the flair for the dramatic, first K’d old friend Jhonny Peralta, and the crowd rose to its feet. We would stay there after the great defensive play by Casey Kotchman on a Ramon Santiago grounder, nailing Prince Fielder at home. There was just one out to go, and the crowd was not going to let Vinnie down. Vinnie didn’t let us down either. On a 3-2 pitch, he whiffed Alex Avila looking and pumped his fist.
Progressive Field was up for grabs. “That eighth inning with Vinnie on the mound, that might’ve been the loudest I’ve ever heard it here,” said Chris Perez.
I am telling you folks, it was an electric feel down at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. It felt like a playoff game considering the opponent and all of the nervous moments. As the Tribe eventually took the lead on a Hafner fielder’s choice and a Carlos Santana sac fly, there was another deafening moment to come – the entrance of the closer.
Pure Rage said what he said over the weekend, and it may have just energized this fan base. For the second straight time, Perez ran onto the field to a thunderous ovation. After he neatly retired the Tigers 1-2-3 for his league leading 15th save, all 22,000 fans roared as “Cleveland Rocks” blasted from the speakers.
Just a perfect night at Progressive Field. And there will be plenty more to come.