Sunday I headed up I-71 for a day trip to Progressive Field to watch the Indians host the Marlins and sneak in some family time. I love, love, love going to games in Cleveland! This park is in my top five for experiences- even though a few have been negative (they don’t take kindly to Yankee fans). There’s just something about it, the moment I walk into Progressive, I feel like I’m home. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Cleveland area and have been going to games since the park was built in 1994, but I like to think it’s the experience the Indians strive to project on all visitors.
I stopped home for breakfast first, mom made French toast and I’m on a budget mind you! No takers from them on the game, but that’s fine, going to ballparks by myself is an activity I don’t mind at all. I took I-77 into Cleveland and got off at the 18th/14th street exit. There are three clearly marked freeway exits to the park (this one is the first in that series). I headed down 18th toward Cleveland State University to find a meter and ended up parking on Chester which is perpendicular to 18th. There were garages for $10 and parking next to the stadium for $20 for those who don’t want to park on the street or walk far. The meters are free on Sunday and most are off by 4 pm on weekdays. It was a 20 minute walk, but a beautiful day, so I strolled through the Theatre District and by some of the area bars like Winking Lizard, Panini’s, and Thirsty Parrot (all packed with Tribe fans) before hitting the stadium.
Progressive Field’s outside isn’t remarkable; it doesn’t charm with classic brick or celebrate any of the classic parks. In a way this makes the park more unique and suites the blue collar city. The outside façade is striped in sandstone, marble, and granite and they opted for white steel to hold up the stands, scoreboard, and lights. The street just behind the outfield is the Indians Rally Alley, which is the site of pre-game festivals for select games. Sunday it was pretty barren, just sheltering some of the walk ups in line for tickets. There are ticket windows all around the park, so if you don’t want to wait in this line (it’s the most popular), just walk to another side of the stadium. I bought my ticket by Gate D (home plate) and finished my loop around the stadium, walking by the Team Shop, main ticket window, the Terrence Club entrance (members only during games), Gates A and B, and the Rally Ally again before entering the park through Gate C (right field).
The main concourse is mainly divided up into two walkways- one that holds concession stands and an assortment of apparel shops and the other that is standing room and small food kiosks. Progressive Field has out done itself with the amount and variation of food and drink it offers. On top of your ballpark staples I found fried PBJ sandwiches, Ohio craft beer, build your own hot dogs, and my favorite- Cleats (best wings ever!). I was regretting my full stomach immediately! The Indians also strive to make stadium food affordable with buying in bulk specials, drink deals, and an all you can eat section in the 500 level for only $32.
For the first few innings I hung out in my normal standing room spot on the first base line. My sister and I usually chill here because it’s behind the away team dug out, has a great view of the batters, and Sunday was shaded with a breeze. The only disadvantage of this spot is you can’t see the scoreboard. This is a popular spot to stand since the area behind home plate to almost left field is blocked off with 200 level seating. Standing by the left field isn’t bad, just not as close to home plate as the other side. Continuing on to the bleachers is the Toyota Home Run Porch that tends to be pretty crowded, especially if a slugger is in town. Next to the porch are the bleachers, which offer a fantastic atmosphere for those looking for an authentic Cleveland experience. Nearly every game you hear John Adams beating away at his drum, keeping the crowd energized and spirits up. He’s one of the most loyal fans I’ve ever come across and Great Lakes Brewery just named a beer after him, so give the Rally Drum Red Ale a try while you’re in town. I promise it doesn’t taste like tears and shattered dreams!
Moving through the bleacher concourse, I headed to Heritage Park, which sits behind the batters eye. The park serves as the Indians Hall of Fame and showcases the team’s history proudly with plaques, murals, and a wall of the Top 100 players. I found my favorite, Carlos Baerga and laughed when I saw who was next to him (’90s were so much fun!). From Heritage Park you can sneak a peek into the Indians bullpen or head out of the park for a full unobstructed view. Across from here is the future home of a Jim Thome statue, wonder how that will be received.
Between center and right field is Rigid Bar and Market Pavilion. There are plenty of picnic tables for fans to enjoy with decent views of the game. In the corner of right field is the Budweiser Patio, which fans must purchase a special ticket to go into this area. From the outfield, the main concourse expands to a third walkway with escalators and ramps to the upper levels. Suites and the club level make up the 300 level, though there is a huge kids section (Sluggers Sandlot) here too. There are plenty of games and even a Rookie Suite for children to hang out and watch the game from.
The next level houses both the 400 and 500 level seats. For the first time I can remember, I saw sections of a stadium closed off. Granted the areas above the Terrence Club and right field have really crappy views of the game action, I’ve never seen them completely shut down. The concessions in each wing of the upper level were boarded up as well. The area behind home plate was open and I hung out there until the 7th inning. I stayed around because in the upper concourse you can hear the radio broadcast of the game and Tom Hamilton does a great job. I like being able to hear the radio play-by-play as an accompaniment to watching the game live. The view from the 500 level isn’t bad from these middle sections. Once you move further out from the baselines, the field seems a bit farther away than in other parks.
After God Bless America and the 7th inning stretch I walked back down to the area in right field to watch the remainder of the game. The standing room in the outfield has a great view of the game action and the scoreboard. The crowd in this section was really into the game too, which was a bonus. The Tribe looked like they were going to come back in the 7th, but the Marlins fended them off winning the game 3-2 and the series.
After the game, I met my mom in Little Italy to pick up dessert for our cookout and window shop a bit. Murray Hill is located beside Case Western and down the street from Coventry Village. Both are nice areas for shopping and eating. If you visit Cleveland in the second week of August, make sure you go to the Feast of Assumption. There’s music, dancing, and plenty of feasting! We also stopped by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, Cleveland Browns Stadium, and Great Lake Science Center to walk by the lake. Contrary to Joakim Noah’s statement, “There’s nothing to do in Cleveland,” there are plenty of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy in the city.
This trip is definitely going to be my cheapest- $9 ticket, $40 on gas, and $7 on dessert from Corbo’s (best lemon ice in the world!). A trip to Progressive Field to see 1st place talent on a beautiful day is worth more than $56, but I’ll take it. It was nice to play tourist in my hometown!