I was incredibly tired. Like, leaning on the railing, ready to doze off right then and there. The irritating shriek of the lady behind me telling the Indians to “hurry up and do something” likely the only thing keeping me alert and focused on the action in front of me.
I was partially willing them to do the same. Not the “hurry up and do something” mentality because I know they can’t actually control if the game goes quicker or not. They can’t score more runs to end it early, that’s asinine to think the Indians control the length of the game in that regard. Such is in this environment though.
I was more so willing Danny Salazar to be efficient with his pitches, carve through the Detroit Tigers order with precision as he has done most of this year, get through a solid seven frames before turning it over to the bullpen, and get out of dodge with a narrow victory before 12:30 AM. They had a lead, we didn’t need anymore runs, that would just add time to the game.
Then Salazar sort of unraveled, as much as a pitcher giving up two runs can unravel. A little bit of energy was taken out when Nick Castellanos deposited one over the wall to tie the game up. I’m exhausted, so I have to imagine a grand majority of the grand majority that stuck around and were attending the July 4th game against the Tigers were also. Actually, a good amount were probably still buzzing from the, buzzing.
No telling how many drinks some people had on this day. No work, an American holiday typically celebrated by drinking, followed by a two-hour “pre-game” at The Corner, with beer sales going until 10 PM because of the rain delay?
Everyone’s friend in the Shaquille O’Neal Cleveland Cavaliers jersey that was shouting something incoherent definitely took full advantage. Bless his heart, hopefully he made it home okay. If you know him, please make sure he’s okay. If you’re him, please let me know you’re okay.
Then like a jolt, Mike Napoli gave me a bit of life, at least more life than Drunk Shaq Fan would have in 10 minutes when he hits the wall. A two-run shot to reclaim the lead suddenly perked me up a bit. Despite the fact that we’re now going well past two hours of when I’m normally in bed sleeping. I’ve been up since 6 AM, because that’s my habitual clock, especially in the summer time (at least on a day off, typically I’m up earlier), been at the ballpark since 5 PM, standing, for that amount of time, plus more.
Don’t get me wrong. It was amazing.
What’s more amazing? The people there with me. Often, I’m analyzing my annoyances in regards to our fan base and it takes more of a negative tone more times than not. Oh don’t worry, I have some qualms I need to pick out and discuss, but overall, I’m genuinely happy and proud of what’s happening here. The buzz is back in Cleveland. There’s an energy about the baseball team.
Maybe there’s a little bit of Cavalier fever, that’s certainly present and awesome for a lot of people riding the high of a championship for the city. But there’s a good portion of us who aren’t really riding off that high. I’m just a mere baseball fan, continuing to follow along his team as they command first place in the American League Central.
Maybe there’s some fans buying into the Indians fever. Perhaps, you could call them believers, in the Cleveland Indians (doot doot doot!). First place Tribe is a thing in July of 2016, and it is an exciting time to be a fan of this team as they do some fun stuff. They sold out their first regular season non-home opener since 2014 when they last went to the playoffs (and that was in August!) and this entire week is slated to be good crowd after good crowd with tickets already gone and now going fast.
That Mike Napoli bomb, which is either still on it’s way down, or burrowing a path deep under Progressive Field due to the sheer force it is exerting as it travels downward, ignited a bit of a light in not just me, but everyone. And man, there was still a lot of people there. A little shocked I was that so many fans still remained after an early arrival and a two and a half hour rain delay. With Salazar having the lead earlier, I bet many clocked out, thinking they’d seen enough. They had their replica batting practice pullover and were ready to get to bed because they had work in the morning, or were with kids who were tiring from the day.
And that’s fine, I certainly can’t blame them.
But here’s the thing, I’m staying, man. You do you, but I don’t leave baseball games. Aside from an incident earlier this year in which I almost lost two fingers to cold temperatures, I’m in it for the long haul. Work the next day be damned. I’ll find sleep some other time. Plus it’s baseball, I could watch it falling asleep. That’s fine with me.
I was mighty proud that so many others took that stance. For whatever reason they did, I’m glad they stuck around. It’s good for business, it’s good for morale, and it’s great for the energy. To help those players, for them to feed off that. To let them know that, hey man, it’s late, but we’re still here not giving up on you, so don’t go giving up on us.
Come back and win this thing.
And that they did. They gave us a show and a feeling. They validated their home success in 2016 and also put to rest a weird misnomer that has sort of grown over the past few years. This team can’t win a big game in front of a big crowd, and against the Tigers to boot, a team that those people often pointed to as the winner of those big games. I don’t get that one at all. But, the Indians, if that is a thing for them, put that to bed. As much as those things are things, I guess.
This team is good. They’re confident, they’re talented, they have energy, and they have staying power. And they deserve a lot of attention and some people to help cheer them on any time they come to their home stomping grounds. And guess what, there’s more games left at Progressive Field than there are not at Progressive Field for the Tribe. So perhaps it is an opportune time for us to back them as much as we can and are able to.
If that’s you, great, good, I’m glad. Please keep coming. As much as I’ve become accustomed to navigating the concourse of Progressive Field without a myriad of people in my way, the greater good is that more fans is better, even at my inconvenience. Putting up with the throngs of people walking slowly and aimlessly to get a cheeseburger, stopping in front of you because they’ve spotted something on the wall that they want to look at, and the ridiculously long line just to get a plate of nachos is terribly annoying but kind of a welcomed sight. This is all a good thing. Those concession people are probably going as fast as they can. Those concourses were built to accommodate the masses.
Uh, stop staring at spots on the wall though people. Move off to the side if you aren’t moving forward. Or move to the right if you are walking slow. It’s like the highway dude, let people who are quicker go around you.
These are all things that I’m willing to put up with for the sake of the team winning, because that means others are coming to the park to see this baseball team. This baseball team that is winning with flare and a fun spark that feels a little magical.
We’ll, stick the fan etiquette aside. If you haven’t been to many games, keep coming and learn as you go. And we all enjoy a baseball game differently. But keep coming. Keep supporting.
Keep feeling that energy that feels really good when you are on the right side of things. Please don’t get caught up in the 14 game win streak or that home dominance. They’re not winning every game, no team does that. Don’t be spoiled by things and freak out when they lose one game or go calling for a head when there’s one pothole in the road. This is a long season, and even though they’ve built up a nice little lead in the division, just as you shouldn’t freak out about one loss, you shouldn’t go buy a postseason ticket.
It’s not the shockwaves of Napoli’s homer finally hitting earth. It’s the feeling that this team is doing something special. They’re not just winning, but they are inspiring confidence in what they are doing is working. This team is on track to get to that spot this year, but we’ve got plenty of baseball left to play. So my advice? Enjoy it. Enjoy the ride and when it comes time to buy those postseason tickets, you can most certainly do so. Don’t get caught up in the slight missteps or bursts of success. Look at the bigger picture.
The pieces they have in play are the right ones. The moves they are making are propelling them forward. This is what progress feels like. This is what good progress feels like. This team is going to give you a show for the rest of the summer. This is what a good baseball team in Cleveland is capable of. Capable of bringing people on board and making them believe this is for real. If they’ve inspired you, again, welcome, glad to have you.
If you are still skeptical, maybe you should go down to the park and see for yourself. Or you can just tune out right now, because if you aren’t convinced at the beginning of July, you probably never will be.
We’re truly getting an Indian summer and it’s going to be a fun ride.