This week the Mop Up Duty boys went on a quick and dirty road trip to the Rock n’ Roll city of Cleveland, Ohio to see some Jays vs. Indians as well as hit up the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
I was very much looking forward to adding Progressive Field to our Ballpark Review series of posts because I had heard so many positive things about it. Matthias, being a lifelong Indians fan, has always raved about how great a park it was, beginning with its opening in 1994 as Jacobs Field.
True, this park is designed well and very aesthetically pleasing – from the inside. From the outside, appearances can be deceiving as the ballpark looks stark and modern with a bare structural steel stand.
Once inside it becomes evident that this park was designed with the baseball fan in mind. Although we had field level tickets, I walked all around the park, including the upper decks. What I realized quickly is that the second deck is positioned extremely close to the field, probably moreso than any other park in baseball. By bringing fans closer to the on-field experience, the feeling of intimacy in the ballpark is markedly increased.
Another way the Indians organization gets the fan experience right is through the ushers. In many cases, ushers are your first point of contact and Progressive Field might have the best I have ever seen. They offer you to take you to your seat and I observed them joking around with fans and talking baseball with people in the crowd. Quite a contrast to those in the SkyDome. We walked down to random seats on the field level and not a single person batted an eye. In fact we were encouraged to have a good time. Speaking of seats, there are great sightlines throughout the entire ballpark except in the bleachers in left-field where it is difficult to see balls hit to deep left and in foul territory. All the seats are positioned toward the field of play. Although this seems like a small thing it is soooooo nice and you appreciate it ever so much when away from the Rogers Centre.
Beyond the centre-field fence lies a terraced picnic area known as “Heritage Park” that houses plaques of many Cleveland Indian greats including Bob Feller, Satchel Page, Tris Speaker and Cy Young. It is similar to the one at Yankee Stadium.
To the northeast of Heritage Park, outside one of the gates stands a statue of Bob Feller.
The field itself has a few quirks. Although the dimensions from left field to right field are almost symmetrical, the outfield fence has sharp corners and odd angles to go with various fence heights. The 19 foot high wall in left robbed one of the Indians players of a home run and the odd angle made judging the carom extremely challenging for Blue Jays left-fielder Fred Lewis.
The concourses are pretty bare-bones and many concessions are closed due to lack of attendance. As for the concessions, there’s not a whole lot going on here aside from your typical hotdogs and hamburgers. However, there is a Corona Cantina that had a chance to be a high spot. They had my favourite Mexican beer - Modelo Especial – so I was like a kid in a candy store.
Where they failed was in the promise of Pacifico but the failure to deliver. In my younger days I spent a lot of time in Mexico and Pacifico was the beer of the day. Each sip brings me back to happy-times. I asked for a Pacifico but they said that they were “bringing it up” and to “come back later.” Of course I came back later and their response the 2nd time was “…..yeah… we’re not going to bring it up.” Such a tease.
Beyond the CF fence is a bar called Rigid Jobsite (what?!) that has frozen drinks and a wide selection of beers. You can even get a Cleveland Indians souvenir cup to add to your collection of treasures for only $10!!
Keeping with the theme of maximizing the fan experience, Progressive Field has 2 party zones. One is known as the Bud Light Party Deck which is located in the right field corner. The other is a variation on the SkyDome’s Windows Restaurant, for the high rolling fan who wants an glass enclosed party atmosphere. This is sorely needed at the SkyDome.
The park has many different places to pick up Cleveland Indians merchandise. But that’s all they have is Cleveland Indians merchandise. You won’t find a single item for sale that bears another franchise’s logo. Good on them for doing so. Bad on them for selling one of the most offensive depictions of a native-American on a t-shirt I have ever seen. This shit would not fly in Canada.
In fact it reminds me of this photo, which is not really meant to be that funny:
They are also capitalizing on every single bad pun and play on words that can be generated from their Korean outfielder, Shin-Soo Choo.
Here’s a little taste of what it was like to be at a game at the prog:
Play at the plate
Kerry Wood breaking ball
Kerry Wood closes out the game
It is interesting to note that while there were barely 15,000 fans at the park, they were almost as loud as Jays fans at the home opener this season. Come on Toronto fans, step up your game!
Although Progressive Field is a great place to see a game, I felt a little bit of a letdown due to my extraordinarily high expectations. This is not the best ballpark of all time and it didn’t make all of my dreams come true. To me, it is the same as Comerica Park but without the bells and whistles of amusement park rides and the like. Progressive Field is a better ballpark to watch a game than the Rogers Centre, of that there is no doubt. But is the experience of watching a game at the Prog leaps and bounds above watching one at the Rogers Centre with the roof open? No, not really.
For a different perspective on Progressive Field, check out a post from reader Tight_PP.