There is a lot to be said about the Cleveland Indians 2012 season – and it’s only August. September will bring a full month of more baseball, but it’s safe to say that the Indians won’t be playing in October.
By now, the blame has been thrown in every direction, from Scott Radinsky to the front office to Matt LaPorta. By now, many fans have slipped off the bandwagon and even the diehards have felt their faith waver. By now, Shapanetti (Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti) have disappointed many and shattered the heart of a 21-year-old girl who still can’t believe Steve Wright was traded for another AAAA-caliber player.
All of that being said, there are still many things to love about the Cleveland Indians.
I attended two games this past week and I knew that the only way I would enjoy myself was if I kept my expectations low. I knew that the team was out of contention for October magic, I knew that the starting pitching staff would probably make me sick, and I knew that Casey Kotchman wouldn’t tap the ball out of the infield. Knowing all of these things, I decided to challenge myself. This past week, I attended Progressive Field merely to enjoy the experience and doing so revitalized my love for the world of baseball, not the game.
Tuesday’s game was another pitiful component of the 11-game spiral into the depths of baseball hell. While I like to believe that I am a Tribe faithful and a relatively optimistic fan, even I resorted to pulling out the paper bag when Chris Perez blew the Indians’ lead. That was a rare moment in my baseball fandom as I have always taken pride in it, but it had to be done.
Despite Jason Kipnis’s ground ball through the legs, despite Kotchman’s botched ball and despite Perez’s ninth inning meltdown, I was there for the experience and I loved every minute of it.
You notice different things during a ballgame when you aren’t on the edge of your seat, tugging at your hair with every pitch as Ubaldo Jimenez mistakenly throws a change-up down and in to a lefty. You notice the crowd, the sounds and the smell of over-priced hot dogs a lot easier. When you aren’t fully immersed in the game, you realize that the overall atmosphere of a baseball game is actually a laid-back, simple experience.
I attended Friday’s game with my dad, who lives about an hour and twenty minutes away, meaning I don’t see him as often as I’d like. I scored tickets to the Indians Social Suite, so this experience was a bit more elaborate than the average day at the ballpark, but it was an experience nonetheless. With Chris Seddon on the mound, I knew better than to expect much of a ballgame. Seddon proved me wrong, but the experience outweighed the disappointment that I was wrong about anything for the first time ever.
On Friday night, I was able to sit back and enjoy a baseball game with my father, which will always be one of my most cherished moments in life. Instead of screaming at Shelley Duncan to quit pulling the ball, I was able to share a bag of popcorn with my dad and debate him on whether or not I’m taller than Dustin Pedroia.
After the game, occupants of the suite were invited to sit in the visitors’ dugout during the fireworks display. I’d been on the field several times while doing some reporting, but my dad had never set foot on a major league ball field. Of course, we got yelled at for walking on the grass, but seeing my father so thrilled reverted me back into a fan rather than a reporter. As we stood on the fence of the dugout watching the fireworks explode behind the Indians logo atop the scoreboard, I was able to appreciate the lights and colors. Instead of scanning the scoreboard for stats or laughing at Shin-Soo Choo’s strikeout numbers, I absorbed the fluorescent bulbs forming the scripted Indians logo and sang along to The Turtles with my dad.
For the first time in a long time, I spent a week appreciating the game of baseball. I let it become an experience instead of a task. No stats, no pitch counts, no stressing about who was warming up in the bullpen; instead, everything was about enjoying the moment with the people I care about.
The point in all of this is, yes, the Cleveland Indians have let us all down. The players have fallen victim to the grind of everyday baseball and the front office has failed yet again. Mr. Shapiro has turned the spotlight to his “Fan-focused initiatives and Dollar Dog Nights” rather than craft a winning baseball team, but all fans, fair-weather and die-hards alike, should keep one thing in mind: the Cleveland Indians are at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario on a nightly basis, but fans cannot take them for granted. Win or lose, we have a baseball team – not a very good one at times, but they’re still there every night. Even if the baseball is bad, there are still positive experiences that linger within the confines of Progressive Field, and there are moments that last longer than any losing streak.
Sometimes, one has to forget they’re a baseball fan in order to remember what baseball is all about.