ROAD TRIP! On an overcast June morning, I, along with my friends Sean and Harry, embarked on a what would be one of the best times of our lives: a baseball road trip across America. Over the course of 5 days, we’d be going to 4 games in 3 different stadiums. We have had this planned for months, and the excitement continually built up as we got closer and closer to the long awaited day.
We had everything perfectly planned do out; starting in New Jersey (our collective home state), we would then drive to Cleveland for an Indians game, Chicago for two Cubs games (one night and one day game), and then on the way to Jersey we’d stop at Pittsburg for a Pirates game and and Goo Goo Dolls concert. It really couldn’t have worked out any better. So with our bags packed, we set off!
From Left to Right: Me, Sean, and Harry
It started off in the typical fashion of three college students driving across the country: with a speeding ticket. Going a measly 3 miles over the speed limit, Sean was handed a parking ticket by a Pennsylvania State Trooper mere hours into our grand adventure, but we were unfazed. After a solid 8 hour drive (with Sean and Harry complaining about my choice getting Cherry Poptarts for the trip), we finally made it to Cleveland. This first day was just for travel, so we decided to take it easy, get some sleep, find the nearest Chipotle, and prepare for the game tomorrow.
Since the game the next day didn’t start until 7:05, we had all day to explore the city of Cleveland. When I think of a city, I think of overcrowded places like New York and Philly. Cleveland was a substantially different change of pace. It almost seemed empty when compared to the largest East Coast cities we were used to. The traffic was near nonexistent. There wasn’t an uncountable number of people walking in the streets in between stopped traffic. It just seemed eerily quiet. While Sean and I had nothing really on our agenda, Harry was ecstatic about finally being able to go to First Energy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns.
Harry, doing what Cleveland Fans do: sulking
Harry has the unfortunate distinction of being a Cleveland Browns fan. Just to be very clear I have tremendous respect for the Browns’ fan base, but there is the stigma of being a cursed team, as well as a cursed city, having experienced am almost tragic championship drought. Luckily, at the time we went, things started to be on the upswing for the city of Cleveland. At this point, the Cavaliers has just secured the number one overall pick in the NBA draft (who turned out to be Andrew Wiggans), and the Browns drafted Texas A&M superstar Johnny Manziel, better known as Johnny Football, and there was the optimistic feeling that LeBron James would finally come back to Cleveland, which he eventually did. We learned when we got there that Manziel, along with fellow Browns first round draft pick Justin Gilbert, would be throwing out the first pitch later that night at the Indians game; needless to say Harry was ecstatic. After spending an inordinate amount of time (and in Harry’s case money) in the Browns team store, and stopping by the NASA Science Museum, we headed off to the game.
The Indians were taking on the reigning World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, with current Indians manager Terry Franconca coaching against his former team, which always makes for a great story. Besides Manziel throwing out the first pitch, it was also dollar hotdog night at Progressive Field, which being college students on a road trip, was possibly the greatest news of all time. Once we first walked I was surprised by just how small Progressive Field was. It just didn’t have the walkability that Citi Field or Citizen’s Bank Park has. We walked the entire stadium in 10 minutes, with Sean eating more and more hot dogs along with way, and then the rain started. It poured down for hours, getting colder and colder as the sun started to set. It was a miserable experience, just hiding under the overcrowded overhangs of the stadium with little to do on it. It really highlighted a weak point in the stadium, with not much to do and not much to see.
After a three hour delay, the game finally started. While Johnny Football and company didn’t actually throw out the first pitch, he came out and did his famous “give me the money” pose to thunderous applause. We were really excited we got to see Corey Kluber, who has a legitimate chance of taking home the 2014 AL Cy Young award*. While he walked away with a no decision, but pitched well through 6 innings before giving up a two run homer to none other than Big Papi.
Perfectly enough, the hat I wore to this game was actually a birthday gift from Harry from last year. I have previously touched upon my love for Chief Wahoo, so he knew I would love any hat with the proud Native American smiling upon it. A lot was made around the time of our trip about a phenomenon known as “de-cheifing” (which you can read more about here), where people would literally cut Chief Wahoo out of their Indians gear. As a fervent supporter of Chief Wahoo, I was appalled, and I from the way it was portrayed in the media, it seemed much more widespread than it actually was. When we went to Progressive Field, I was fully expecting to see de-Chiefing run rampant, with jerseys and hats all showing nothing but a outline of my beloved Wahoo. Surprisingly, I saw nothing of the sort. Virtually every fan I saw with any type of Indians gear on could have Chief Wahoo found somewhere upon it, with the now preferred “C” logo taking a back seat. I didn’t see even one “De-Chiefed” item.
The game itself went into extra innings, almost a curse after a long rain delay. By this time, we were just so wiped out, we made the collective decision that we would leave at the end of 9 innings, since we had to be up early to drive to Chicago for a game the next day. Eventually, as we heard on the radio, Asdrubal Cabrera gave the perfect end to a great day, with a three run walk off home run, sealing the Indians’ win at 2:02 AM. Next stop: Chicago.
*Since the original posting of this article, Kluber has in fact won the 2014 AL Cy Young award.