Cleveland OH/Pittsburgh PA, Saturday May 20, 2000

Welcome to Jacobs Field!

Our only baseball trip of 2000 took us to western PA and northeast OH in late May. Since the trip by car was in excess of five hours from central NJ, we drove out to northeast OH on Friday, May 19th, staying just outside of Cleveland for the night.

Saturday, May 20th dawned cloudy and chilly, much cooler than one might expect in late May across northeast OH. With a few hours before the 105 PM contest between the visiting New York Yankees and the hometown Indians, we decided to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, located adjacent to the southern shore of Lake Erie. Uncharacteristically, we visited the Hall without a camera, so we don’t have a visual record of our visit.

To my delight, the crowd at the Hall was thin, perhaps due to the weather and the relative early hour (as the doors opened at 1000 AM). As a result, we were treated to nearly unobstructed views of the myriad exhibits. Though we moved fairly quickly through the artifacts, we were able to appreciate the history of rock and roll (as well as pop music). Not surprisingly, the Beatles exhibit was the largest in the Hall, and our favorite band, Led Zeppelin, was well represented.

Not wanting to miss an opportunity to explore Jacobs Field, we left the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after about 90 minutes. Even with the limited time spent there, we were impressed by the museum, and plan to return in the future for a better look. If you are a rock and roll fan, and plan to be in the vicinity of the Hall, leave yourself some time for a visit: you won’t be disappointed.

1. Jacobs Field

Venturing back out in the cool and breezy conditions, we completed the short drive from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Jacobs Field. Had the weather been better, we might have walked the distance, but the cool and damp air ruled that out. We were able to secure parking just across the street from the ballpark in a private lot at a reasonable price.

We performed our typical tour around the outside of the park, but the weather curtailed our walk. Ducking inside the stadium at the home plate entrance, we were greeted by a nearly empty park. Once inside, we had access to the entire seated area, exploring while taking pictures. Unfortunately, the low overcast made the stadium appear drab, but the images capture the conditions on the cool and cloudy early afternoon perfectly.

Jacobs Field from the upper deck behind home plate.

Since both teams were playing well, tickets for the Saturday matinee were scarce, and our seats were located in the last row of the upper deck on the first base side of the field. Just before game time, temperatures hovered in the 40s, and the persistent breeze off the lake made it feel even colder. Despite an announced crowd of 42,000+, the unseasonably cool weather held the actual attendance far below that number.

Starting for the visiting New York Yankees was veteran right hander David Cone. Thus far in 2000, Cone was struggling (with an ERA over 5.50), though he was less than a season from his perfect game in 1999. On the mound for the Indians was left hander Chuck Finley, who was in his first campaign for the Tribe. Each team featured a potent offense, but the combination of good starting pitching and cool weather raised the specter on a low scoring contest.

Indians starter Chuck Finley featured on the cover of the scorecard/magazine.

New York scratched out a single run in the first inning against Finley, then tacked on another run in the fourth inning (with Yankee right fielder Paul O’Neill driving in the run with a single), giving the visitors a 2-0 lead. Meanwhile, David Cone kept the Cleveland bats at bay through the first six innings. Each pitcher worked deliberately, slowing their approaches with runners on base. In spite of the lack of scoring, the pace of the game was glacial, punctuated by the cold and damp conditions.

During the slow play, we were able to get a better feel for Jacobs Field. Dreary weather made the six year old stadium seem drab, with little contrast between the field and the slate gray overcast that seemingly encased it. Because of the conditions, Jacobs Field did not shine, and the lack of fans made the ballpark seem larger than it appeared on TV. Clearly we were not seeing the park at its best. Though the crowd was sparse, one of the more memorable parts of our visit was the persistent drumming in the left field stands. With a typical crowd, the drumming may not have been as noticeable, but with little else happening in the largely empty stadium, it echoed almost to the point of distraction.

The view from our seats. Note that the tops of the buildings were obscured by low clouds.

Cleveland broke through against David Cone in the bottom of the seventh inning, as Richie Sexson led off the frame with a solo home run. Scoring another run in the seventh, the Indians tied the game, while simultaneously knocking the Yankees starter out of the game. Each bullpen then kept the game tied heading into the bottom of the ninth inning. Yankees Jeff Nelson surrendered four walks during the frame, forcing in the winning run with two outs to give the Indians a 3-2 victory.

Despite the low scoring affair, the nine inning contest took three hours and 38 minutes to complete, which seemed even longer in the cold and wind. We filed out Jacobs Field quickly, as we planned to attend a game at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburg that evening. Disappointed that we didn’t get to experience the ballpark in better weather, we would have to return in the future to get a better feel for the stadium and environs.

My scorecard for the game

2. Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh PA

Google Maps depiction of the route from Cleveland to Pittsburgh.

Spending more time at Jacobs Field than expected, we were left with about two and one-half hours to get to Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Though it would be tight, we were optimistic that, with light traffic, we would arrive before the first pitch at 710 PM. However, events would conspire to make arriving on time impossible. A bit more than an hour into the trip, we encountered thunderstorms that hampered our progress. As we got closer to Pittsburgh, traffic slowed to a crawl.

Finally, we reached the parking lot next to the ballpark, located on the north shore of the Allegheny River (north of downtown Pittsburgh). Arriving well after the first pitch, we parked in a dark area under an overpass of Interstate 385. While there were plenty of fans in the area, it seemed fairly remote, and I had an uneasy feeling about leaving the car there.

Because we arrived in the second inning, we had no time to wander and explore as we normally would at a new stadium. Instead, we rushed to our seats to enjoy the game. As we travelled from Cleveland to Pittsburgh, we went from early spring weather to early summer weather, as very warm and humid conditions greeting us at Three Rivers Stadium. While there were storms in the area, they managed to avoid us during the game.

Unfortunately, we did not take pictures at the stadium, as we left the camera in the car in our haste. Three Rivers Stadium was a typical multipurpose stadium, nearly identical to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. This season would be the last for the Pirates at this ballpark, and its condition seemed to reflect that fact. However, it was a pleasant place to see a Saturday night ballgame.

Pittsburgh hosted the St Louis Cardinals, who scored early and often. St Louis scored six runs in the first four innings, the scored 13 runs in the last three frames, on the way to a 19-4 drubbing of the hometown Pirates. With the game out of hand for the Pirates, they sent catcher Keith Osik to the mound to pitch the top of the ninth inning. As might have been expected, Osik fared poorly, surrendering five runs on five hits. This outing marked Osik’s second MLB pitching performance. In 1999, he also pitched an inning during a blow out, and his performance then was only slight better than this night.

Even with the high scoring, the game took less than three hours, a stark contrast to the affair in Cleveland. Fortunately, my car was still there following the game, and because of the late game finish, we stayed at nearby a nearby hotel, driving home Sunday morning.

Florida Baseball Trip 2014 – St Petersburg

Google Earth view of Tropicana Field, St Petersburg, FL.

1. Miami to St Petersburg, Florida Thursday May 8th 2014

The next and final stop of our 2014 MLB tour was St Petersburg, Florida, home of the Tampa Bay Rays. The three hour and 45 minute drive led us across the northern portion of the Everglades National Park, as well as the Big Cypress National Preserve. Never having seen an alligator in the wild (not many gators in the Northeast), we welcomed the opportunity to seek them out in their natural habitat.

Google Maps showing the drive from Miami to St Petersburg FL.

As might be expected, each stop along the way yielded no gator sitings. Granted, we did not venture far from the road, as we were not prepared to trek into the swamp. This greatly reduced our chances of seeing gators in the water. Disappointed, we abandoned our attempts and followed Interstate 75 North toward St Petersburg.

Along the way, we stopped shortly after crossing the Sunshine Skyway to get pictures of the bridge. While taking pictures along the waterline, we caught the attention of the local wildlife. A great egret, standing tall on a wooden pallet, made no attempt to hide her contempt for our presence near HER shallows. Even while taking pictures of her, she did her best to intimidate us. Not wanting to aggravate her further, we left as soon as we were finished with our picture taking.

A great egret looking us over with a jaundiced eye while perched on a wooden pallet near St Petersburg, FL. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Arriving at our hotel in St Petersburg well ahead of the 705 pm first pitch at Tropicana Field, we relaxed at the hotel before heading out to the ballpark.

2. Tropicana Field

Tropicana Field, St Petersburg, FL. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

We arrived at Tropicana Field about 90 minutes before game time, just as the gates were opening. There was ample parking in the general vicinity of the stadium, much of which is one-quarter of a mile or less from the stadium. On this night, with a fairly light crowd expected, parking was $15, but parking can vary between $15 and $30.

Upon arriving at the park, we walked around the stadium. Being a domed stadium, there was not much to see outside. Entering the park behind home plate, the brightness outside was replaced by the dimness of the translucence of the roof of Tropicana Field. Having seen what appeared to be a drab interior on TV, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that is was not as dark nor dank as I imagined. Fun fact; Tropicana Field is the only remaining MLB Park with a fixed roof.

The roof of Tropicana Field. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the roof is that is slants from home plate down toward center field. While the slant is discernible from outside, it is much more exaggerated inside the park. Suspended from the roof are catwalks. They are part of the support structure of the roof, specifically the lighting and speaker system. There are four rings of catwalks, some of which are in play. Many times over the years, the catwalks have giveth and taketh away, resulting in confusion and loathing. Because of this, the catwalks have been a lightning rod for criticism since the opening of the park.

With plenty of time before the scheduled 710 pm start, we wandered inside the stadium. Outside of the roof, the stadium was a nondescript domed ballpark. Like most domed stadiums, the place seemed cavernous, with three levels of seats spanning from foul pole to foul pole. Much of the stadium was accessible via concourses, allowing us to take pictures of virtually the entire park.

Tropicana Field from the upper deck behind home plate. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Wandering the lower level in center field, we discovered the fabled ray tank. Arriving as early as we did, there was almost nobody around the tank, meaning we were able to pet the rays at will. Knowing very little about rays, I was unsure whether they were bothered by human contact. Of course, the rays are probably accustomed to the interaction, and petting them likely did not cause any additional stress. However, in deference to the animals, I chose not to pet them, instead admiring them from a respectful distance.

Viewing the ray tank at Tropicana Field from above. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Like most major league ballparks, there were more than a dozen locations from which food was available, including standard concession stands. Despite the large selection available, we chose to indulge in more standard ballpark fare before seeking out our seats for the game.

David Price delivering a pitch at Tropicana Field. (Photo credit:Jeff Hayes)

The Rays hosted the Baltimore Orioles this evening, the last game in a three game set. The announced crowd for this game was just over 11,000, which made Tropicana Field (with its 42,735 seat capacity) seem almost empty. The Orioles sent Umbaldo Jimenez against the Rays’ David Price in what promised to be a pitcher’s duel. Our seats for the contest were behind the Orioles dugout in the lower level.

The view from our seats. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

The Rays opened the scoring with a run in the bottom of the first, with the Orioles scoring in the second and third innings to take a 3-1 lead. That was the extent of the scoring, as both starters and respective bullpens kept the promise of a potential pitcher’s duel. Despite being a low scoring affair, the game clocked in at just over three and one-half hours.

Front end of a double play at Tropicana Field. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

The extra time have us the opportunity to take in the feel of the park. While Tropicana Field was not as dungeon-like as I expected (based on what I’d seen on TV), the park lacked any significant charm or presence. It’s no wonder the franchise has been seeking another home, one that might provide fans with a warmer environment.

1. St Pete Beach, Friday May 9th 2014

St Pete Beach under sunny skies. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Following breakfast at the hotel, we had plenty of time to explore the region ahead of the 705 pm game time at Tropicana Field. Our first stop was St Pete Beach. Located on Long Key, a barrier island a few miles west of St Petersburg, St Pete Beach is consistently voted one of the top beaches in the United States.

Wall to wall sunshine and temperatures climbing into the 80s during the late morning resulted in a perfect beach day. The white sandy beach reminded me of those we saw at South Beach the day before. However, unlike the rougher surf we saw near Miami, the crystal clear waters along St Pete Beach were nearly calm.

Black skimmers walking along St Pete Beach.

Though the weather was conducive for beach going, there were surprisingly few people on the beach, and none in the water. However, there were plenty of birds on the sand and fishing in the shallow water of the Gulf. In fact, there were many more black skimmers (a bird I’d never seen before) than people on the beach that morning. Great egrets roamed the surf, occasionally pulling a fish out of the water.

Strolling along the beach, we saw much of the architecture had some connection to Art Deco, much like we noticed in Miami. Though it was only early May, the sun angle was high enough to give me a mild sunburn. As the temperature headed toward 90 degrees, we cut short our walk along the beach to find some shelter and lunch.

The Gulf of Mexico along St Pete Beach.

2. Sawgrass Park

Following lunch, we headed into St Petersburg. We happened upon Sawgrass Park, which looked like a good place to spend some time before riding back to the hotel to relax before the game.

Almost immediately after leaving the car, we became acutely aware of the lizard population. Brown anoles were everywhere; in fact, I had to actively avoid the lizards for fear of stepping on them. We started our exploration of the park near Sawgrass Lake, following a dirt path to an elevated boardwalk. Along the way, we passed a large variety of birds forging in the marshes.

A great egret using some ingenuity to catch fish in the marshes of Sawgrass Park. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

We stopped to watch a great egret stomping his way through marshes along the dirt path leading to the boardwalk. At first, it wasn’t clear why the egret was stomping. However, after stomping a few times, the egret pulled a fish out of the marsh. The bird was stomping until it found a fish and pounced on it. We watched this happen a few times before moving on.

Following the elevated boardwalk brought us to a viewing platform on the edge of the lake. A sign posted in the gazebo covering the viewing platform warned that we were in gator country. Gazing out across the lake, it seemed as though there were no alligators to be found. Being early to mid afternoon, I thought they were basking in the sunshine elsewhere, someplace less conspicuous.

Baby alligators lounging in the mud on the edge of the lake. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

My brother signaled to me that he found something in the mud on the edge of the lake; baby alligators. The hatchlings were partially submerged in the mud, numbering about a dozen (though there could have been others deeper in the mud). Despite being small and arguably cute, the hatchlings possess little but sharp teeth that could inflict some pain, if harassed.

Lurking not far offshore we finally spotted the mama gator. Like mothers of other species, this cow was keeping a sharp eye on her babies. Though she was a distance away, I had no doubt that if her young were threatened, she would take swift and definitive action to protect them. It seemed, though, that she was not particularly agitated, as if she had become accustomed to people being close to her young.

Mama alligator maintaining a watchful eye on her hatchlings. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Spending far more time in the park than anticipated, we left the park shortly after finding the gators, and headed back to the hotel to relax before the game. Wanting to see alligators while in Florida, I didn’t expect to find them in a park in St Petersburg. If you find yourself with some time near Sawgrass Park, I’d recommend a visit, if only to track down some gators.

3. Tropicana Field

Tropicana Field from the third base side. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Having been to Tropicana Field the night before, we did not arrive as early for this contest. With little to see outside the park, and exploring much of the park with the Orioles in town, we arrived about an hour before the first pitch, scheduled for 710 pm. The Rays’ opponent this evening was the Cleveland Indians, who were beginning a weekend series in St Petersburg.

For this game, our seats were on the first base side behind the Rays’ dugout in the lower levels. Once again, the announced crowd of 17,455 for the series opener seemed like an overestimate. The sparse crowd made the domed stadium feel nearly empty. Granted, the Rays were not playing well so far this season, but without fan support, the environment almost felt drab.

Our seats for the series opener against the Cleveland Indians. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Starting for the home team was right hander Jake Odorizzi, and right hander Corey Kluber took the ball for the visiting Indians. For Corey Kluber, 2014 was a breakout season which ended with him winning his first Cy Young award. Odorizzi was in his first full season with the Rays, and tonight’s matchup was promising to be a pitcher’s duel.

The game started out just that way, with both pitchers tossing three scoreless innings. The Rays scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings, and as well as Odorizzi was pitching, two two runs looked as though they might be enough to ensure a Rays’ victory.

The Tribe completing a double play supporting the outstanding start made by Corey Kluber. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Jake Odorizzi struck out 11 Indians in five innings of work, but in doing so, threw over 100 pitches. With Odorizzi out of the game, the Indians torched the bullpen for a run in the sixth and five runs in the seventh. That outburst was more than enough to support Kluber, who struck out nine in six innings of work.

By the seventh inning stretch, the sparse crowd began to file out, all but assured of yet another Rays’ loss. A team with promise at the start of the season, a loss would drop them six games under the .500 mark. The Rays’ managed to score a run in the bottom of the ninth, but it wasn’t enough to prevent an Indians’ 6-3 win.

The Tropicana Field scoreboard tells the tale of an Indians victory. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Leaving Tropicana Field, I understood why some refer to this stadium as the least attractive in MLB. While the place lacks an discernible charm, and seems almost tomblike with small crowds in the cavernous building, it was not the dungeon I imagined it to be. Having said that, I get why fans stay away; should they return, they deserve a better home for their team.

Cleveland Ohio to Altoona Pennsylvania August 6th 2019

After spending the night in Independence, OH, our next stop was Altoona, PA, home of the Curve. Since we had some time before getting on the road to Altoona, we made another trip back into Cleveland. Waiting until after the morning commute, we visited Edgewater Park, along the shore of Lake Erie.

Cleveland Ohio from Edgewater Park, on a muggy morning, August 6 2019. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

During our last visit in 2000, the cold and lack of time prevented us from seeing Lake Erie. On previous trips, we’d seen the shores of Lake Michigan (in Milwaukee) and Lake Ontario (in Toronto), and time afforded us the opportunity to see the lakefront on a warm and humid morning. As was the case with the other Great Lakes we’ve seen, the lake extended to the horizon, much like the view of the ocean from the beach. Being August, the wind off the water didn’t provide much relief from the building heat, as we explored a largely deserted lakefront.

However, the lakefront was not completely empty. Standing on the lake’s edge, we saw something bobbing on the waves. From a distance, it was difficult to identify. As brother ventured closer, he was able to see what was coming ashore.

A reptilian local came to greet us on the shore of Lake Erie. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

It would be difficult to understate my surprise at the prospect of a snake coming ashore right in front of us. The snake, between three and four feet long, got within a few feet of us, before slithering back into the lake. Some checking identified it as a northern water snake, which bore a striking resemblance to the water moccasin. Northern water snakes are non-venomous, and the water moccasin (which can be found in my home state of NJ) are definitely venomous and can be deadly. Not being able to top that, we left the park and started on our way to Altoona.

The drive to Altoona was rather uneventful, as traffic was generally light. A quick bite at a local diner along the way was the only stop, and we reached the hotel just outside of town before 500 pm. By that time, clouds were building on the horizon, a harbinger of things to come.

Building cumulus at the hotel outside of Altoona PA.

After a 15 minute drive from the hotel, we arrived at People’s Natural Gas Field, home of the Altoona Curve, the AA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Nestled among the ridges of the Allegheny Mountains, the 7200 seat stadium is famous for its roller coaster in right field. Most of the die hard baseball fans with whom I’ve spoken said this stadium was a must see, and shortly after arriving, it was clear why.

People’s Natural Gas Field in Altoona, PA, shortly before game time. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

We wandered the park from foul pole to foul pole, soaking in the ambience of this beautiful minor league park. Sitting along the 3rd base line, we had an unobstructed view of the mound. However, the burgeoning clouds at the hotel continued to build, and soon thunderstorms began to develop on the ridge lines behind centerfield. As the 630 pm game versus the Richmond Flying Squirrels (AA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants) began, the storms swept toward the park, threatening from the first pitch.

Pedro Vasquez facing the Richmond Flying Squirrels in the first inning, August 6th 2019. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Just after the top of the first inning, the skies opened up. One of the thunderstorms on the ridge tops descended upon the field, bringing with it torrential rain and gusty winds. The heaviest of the rain lasted about 30 minutes, after which time the ground crew took to the field. In a VERY impressive display of teamwork, the crew removed the tarp, then started to tend to the infield. Even though the tarp was placed on the infield quickly, there was still a fair amount of water ponded on the foul lines, especially behind third base.

People seemingly came out of nowhere to tackle the problem of the drenched field. One of the ushers (whose name escapes me) told us that the front office personnel were lending a hand, and that the team’s general manager was tossing diamond dust on the infield near third base.

Umpires inspecting the damage done to the base line by the torrential rain. A superb effort by the ground crew and the front office personnel turned this into a playable field in 45 minutes. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

The rain delayed totaled 45 minutes, and the Herculean effort of the crew returned the drenched field into a playable surface. The teams returned to the field for the top of the 2nd inning, though storms continued to lurk nearby. A one-two-three top of the second inning was followed by yet another storm. This time, the storm won the evening, and the game was postponed before 800 pm. All told, we saw 10 batters come to the plate in one and one-half innings. Disappointed, we left the park, headed back to the hotel as the rain stopped and breaks in the clouds appeared.

Because of our travel schedule, we would not be able to stay for the completion of the game the next night. Despite the rain out, we felt fortunate to visit the field. People’s Natural Gas Field richly deserved its reputation as one of the best ballparks in the Eastern League.

Cleveland, Ohio, August 5th 2019

Following our stay in Akron, we made the short trip to Independence, where we stayed the night. Our plan was to visit Progressive Field for a 705 pm game between the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians. It is our first visit to Cleveland since 2000, when the stadium was called Jacobs Field.

Cleveland’s Jacobs Field on a cold, drizzly afternoon in May 2000. This picture was taken with a film camera, back before I owned a digital camera. Unfortunately the quality of the image shows that clearly.

A short drive into Cleveland brought us to the lakefront, where we wondered along the lake’s edge, waiting for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to open at 1000 am. The morning was warm and muggy, and by 1000 am I was ready to get out of the heat. Even before the Hall opened, crowds were gathering outside, complicating the opportunity to get a clear shot of the front of the Rock Hall.

Outside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just before 1000 am, Monday, August 5th, 2019. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

We had been to the Hall once before, during our last visit to Cleveland back in 2000. Since the Hall frequently changes exhibits, we fully expected a much different experience this time around. Walking among the exhibits and memorabilia, there was a palpable sense of music history. However, it seemed as though there were fewer exhibits than in 2000, and worst of all, there was no Led Zeppelin exhibit!!! For most people, that wouldn’t be that big a deal, but being a lifelong Zeppelin fanatic, this omission was unforgivable.

Again, it is understandable that some performers are underrepresented. There is only so much space in the museum, and rotating exhibits gives visitors the best viewing experience. The Beatles and Rolling Stones exhibits were well done, as was the exhibit for The Beach Boys.

The Beatles represented in the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Still, the Hall seemed to have less charm and content of the last visit. Perhaps I’m being too critical with my review of the Hall; any true Rock and Roll fan should make the pilgrimage here when near Cleveland. In contrast, despite its humble appearance, Sun Studios in Memphis had a much better feel, in my opinion. That place has a PRESENCE that the Hall seemed to lack. In any event, it was time well spent.

After lunch back closer to Independence, we took in a movie before relaxing in advance of the game. We saw Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Being a Tarantino fan, I enjoyed the movie immensely. In true Tarantino style, he took a fairly well known story and made it his own, complete with a rewrite of history at the end.

Progressive Field

Ahead of the 705 pm game time, we arrived at Progressive Field around the time of the evening commute. Traffic heading to the ballpark was manageable, which made finding parking fairly easy. Prices just a block from the park was very reasonable ($20) especially for an urban setting. The downside of the parking adjacent to the park was that we were packed in like sardines, making me wonder how easily we might escape after the game. Considering the parking nightmares in other cities (yeah, I’m looking at you Philadelphia, though it has gotten better with the new stadium), we felt fortunate to finding parking so easily.

As is our custom, we walked around the stadium before entering. We were here nearly 20 years ago, so my memory of the surroundings is fuzzy at best. In any event, the outside of the stadium was nicer than I remember, but the last time we were here, I was more concerned about staying warm than enjoying the view.

Outside Progressive Field about an hour before game time, Monday, August 5th, 2019. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

Walking around the inside of the park, we found a nugget I didn’t expect to find. Just after entering through the centerfield gate, we saw a space suit. Upon closer inspection, we found that it was a mock-up of the one worn by Ohio native son Neil Armstrong. A lifelong obsession with NASA and space travel, the suit was a pleasant surprise ensconced within another lifelong obsession (baseball, of course!!!). In fact, it might have been my favorite part of the visit to the park.

A recreation of the suit worn by Neil Armstrong in 1969. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

We had great seats for the game, in the lower level on the third base side of home plate. The weather was markedly better for the start of the game than the last time we were here. Instead of a raw day, with temperatures in the lower 40s and a wind off the lake (which Oil Can Boyd famously referred to as the ocean), it was clear and about 80 degrees for the first pitch. The warmer weather allowed us to enjoy the experience much more than 19 years ago.

The view from our seats. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

The concessions in Progressive Field offered the standard fare for MLB parks, with plenty of concession stands, and reasonable prices. Typically, I would sample the hot dogs, as I do at almost all of our baseball stops. However, I passed this time, with memories of the greasy hot dogs at Canal Park still painfully fresh in my mind. Upon finding our seats, we found great sight lines and a generally unobstructed view of the field. Sitting fairly close to the field for an MLB park, I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were still far from the action. Attending many more minor league games over the past few years, we had become spoiled by the access they provide. This is not a knock on Progressive Field; almost all MLB parks feel this way. However, it did not detract from the charm of Progressive this night.

Francisco Linder and Yasiel Puig pausing before taking the field. Gotta love that Mohawk Puig was sporting. (Photo credit: Jeff Hayes)

The game was excellent, a tight affair as starters Mike Minor (Rangers) and Aaron Cevale (Indians) were in firmly command. The score was 1-0 Rangers going into the bottom of the 9th inning, when closer Jose Leclerc entered the game. A lead off triple by Jose Ramirez put Leclerc on the ropes. Seemingly unfazed, he retired the next three batter to notch the save.

Overall, it was a great game in a very nice ballpark. We took out time getting back to the car, since we were packed into the lot. To our pleasant surprise, the lot has cleared sufficiently to allow us a clean getaway from the park and out of Cleveland. Since we anticipated a late evening, we stayed in Independence one more night, after which we would continue our road trip, bound for Altoona, PA the next day