by Ryan Isley
There were plenty of negatives from Thursday’s Opening Day for the Cleveland Indians, which they lost 7-4 to the Toronto Blue Jays in 16 innings.
There was the Indians offense that made the Browns and Cavs offenses look efficient, Chris Perez showing that he shares the same clutch gene as LeBron James and enough bad fundamental baseball that I wondered if Eric Wedge had taken over in the dugout again.
But over all of what happened on the field, it was what happened in the stands that was the most embarrassing to Cleveland.
First of all, let me give Indians fans credit for their pregame participation prior to the gates at Progressive Field being open. Josh and I arrived downtown around 11am and headed straight to Flannery’s, which was already busy. By the time we left there a little bit after 1pm, the place was so packed that you could barely move. Most of the people we talked to at Flannery’s weren’t even going to the game – they had just come downtown to soak in the atmosphere of Opening Day. To me, that was awesome – and those are the fans I would have wanted at the ballpark.
The one thing about going to Opening Day is that you know there are about 30 minutes of pregame festivities prior to the first pitch, so Josh and I headed over to the stadium around 1:15pm for the 3:05pm start.
When we arrived, there were very few fans inside yet but we figured that they were still outside at Rally Alley or in the bars finishing off their last pregame beer before heading over. By 2:30pm, there was still just a small amount of fans in the stadium when the festivities began. Those who did not make it into the stadium before 2:30pm missed a pretty good show and credit to those who were inside for the loud ovations they gave not only to the Indians players, but also the standing ovation they gave Omar Vizquel when he was introduced to the crowd he played in front of for 11 seasons.
The problem was that once the game started, the stadium was still not full. They may have announced 43,190 as the official attendance, but that was tickets sold, not butts in seat. It was Opening Day – where were the fans who had tickets? There are so few excuses for missing an Opening Day if you have tickets that it would not be sufficient enough to explain the lack of fans.
Was it a little bit cold? Of course it was – it is April in Cleveland! Man up and get to the ballpark.
Those fans that did show up were great from the opening pitch until the end of the 9th inning. They cheered when they should have cheered and then they booed so loudly for Chris Perez that even he could hear it with the hair covering his ears.
Things changed, however, once the 9th inning was over. I looked around and saw a number of fans headed for the exit after the Indians made their 27th out of the ballgame. I asked Josh at one point if they realize that there aren’t ties in baseball and that there would be extra innings. After the 10th inning, the same thing happened. After the 11th inning, it happened as well. It happened after every inning leading up to that final 16th inning.
It was an embarrassment to the city of Cleveland to see all of the fans who claim to be diehards and some of the best in the country leaving early. What did you have to do that was so important that you left Opening Day early? I understand that there are 81 home games a year, but you only get one Opening Day at home.
There was no excuse for all of the fans who left to do so when they did.
Would you have left a Cavs game when overtime started? What about if a Browns game went overtime – would you have left at the end of the 4th quarter? Of course not – and the weather would probably be worse.
The game started at 3:05pm, not 7:05pm, so it couldn’t have been that it was getting too late for people. Perez blew the save around 5:45pm and the 10th inning began around 6pm. Sure it was a long game, but once it was over, Josh and I drove back to his house in Medina, where I picked up my car and drove to Akron. I was home by 10pm – or about two hours earlier that I would have been for a 9-inning game that started at 7:05pm.
When I saw the highlights of the game on ESPN SportsCenter, you could see all of the empty seats in the bleachers as J.P. Arencibia’s three-run homer that turned out to be the game-winner cleared the wall in the 16th inning. What a great message to send to not only the team, but the rest of the country about Cleveland fans.
Besides the fans leaving, the other thing that Cleveland fans should be embarrassed about is the chant that was started throughout the game of “USA! USA! USA!”. Have you taken a look at the Indians roster lately? It isn’t exactly a roster made up of players who were born in the United States. Just because the Blue Jays are from Toronto does not mean that their players are Canadian. This isn’t the Olympics or the World Baseball Classic – chanting “USA! USA! USA!” was just completely ignorant.
I expected better from Cleveland fans on Thursday – after all, this isn’t Miami.
You can also email Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org