Progressive Field: The gem of Cleveland

Monday afternoon a pair of friends and I made the journey to Cleveland, Ohio to visit Progressive Field, the home of the Cleveland Indians.

The real reason for the trip was to see Boston Red Sox great (and former Indian) David Ortiz for one last time, as both friends are passionate Boston fans. However, reason No. 2 for making the voyage to “The Land” was to catch a game at Progressive Field.

I had heard a lot of good things about the home of the Indians; so I was definitely looking forward to it, aside from the three-hour drive from Morgantown, WV.

Progressive Field did not disappoint.

The game was great; an entertaining 3-2 victory for the visiting Red Sox, fueled in part by a two-run home run by Ortiz. The stadium was great, as well.

Below are my takeaways from my trip.

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Great view from the concourse behind home plate at Cleveland’s Progressive Field.   Photo by Ryan Decker 

Good

  1. Layout of the ballpark

Architecture-wise, Progressive Field is a nice looking stadium.

It’s not bland at all. The white walls and beams with touches of brown colored stone go together very nicely, and the layout of the concourse was something that I hadn’t seen before.

Instead of just having the whole concourse be concessions on one side and then either the playing field, or the outside view from the stadium, on the other side, it was split in half. This way, on one side of the middle divide you could have food on your left and the field to your right, but on the other side of the divide have food on your right and the outside of the park on your left.

Not only did this give more food options, but it also seemed to make the ballpark seem a little smaller than it actually was, in terms of walking all the way around.

Another nice touch was that there were no seats in center field, so fans behind home plate had a nice view of the city.

 

  1. Heritage Park

Bravo! This is easily my favorite part of the ballpark.

Heritage Park, located near the bullpens in center field, is a great look into the history of the Indians franchise. It consists of tons of plaques dedicated to the greatest players to ever don the Cleveland uniform, and this takes place on two different levels.

Anyone can go in and look at anytime, and there was never a long line, unlike what I have heard the experience is like when visiting Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. And that’s not to say there wasn’t any interest. It’s more of an acknowledgment to how it was constructed – more open space, the top part has a circular shape to it, and it’s got a museum-like design.

Some of the players honored in the top section include Nap Lajoie, Bob Feller, Satchel Paige, Frank Robinson and Jim Thome. All of those players, as well as others, are honored with a plaque that mentions when they played for the Tribe, and their accomplishments.

The second section features more commemorative plaques and a brick wall filled with signatures of the 100 best Indians through the first century of the franchise’s existence from 1901-2001.

Overall the Indians really honor their history, which especially in the game of baseball is appreciated.

Photos and other dedications to great players of their past can be seen throughout the stadium, but no appreciation is more clear than in Heritage Park.

Like I said, bravo to the Indians. A job very well done.

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A view of the top level of Cleveland’s Heritage Park. Each stone, white pillar has a plaque on it of a famous player in Indians history. Slightly to the left, and down the steps is the lower section of Heritage Park.   Photo by Ryan Decker 
  1. Fan-friendly staff

Whenever you go to a baseball stadium you want to have a good time, especially if it is your first time there.

Before the game started, my friends and I were making our second lap of the stadium trying to figure out what to eat. (Food will be discussed later in the article)

As we were walking, I had a lady notice that it was my first time at the stadium. Maybe it was because I was wearing a shirt of a team that wasn’t playing that day, and I couldn’t stop from moving my head side to side to take in the view.

She pulled me aside and told me some of the things to see or do at the stadium. One thing she mentioned was the ability to sit in a special section in right field.

All of the outfield seating is elevated off the ground. Bleacher seats in left field start 19 feet off the ground at the top of what is known as, “Little Green Monster.”

But, the seats she was telling me about was right at the base of the foul pole down the right field line, with only a chain link fence separating you from right field.

Not only did it look like a great view, but she also said it was free to sit there for an inning.

I regret not sitting there for an inning, and when I return that will definitely be something I do.

One of the cooks at the burrito stand noticed my Orioles shirt and talked with me for a minute or two, as well.

Didn’t run into any rude workers. Another good job done by Cleveland.

 

  1. Fan Atmosphere

Even for a Monday afternoon makeup game with overcast skies it was a good crowd.

The fans were very much into the game, especially late in the ball game when the Red Sox threatened to pad their lead, or in the bottom of the innings when the Indians were trying to mount a rally.

Fans at the top of the left field bleachers were beating on the wall at the base of the large video board. Almost everyone in attendance was cheering or clapping in some capacity, some even banging umbrellas on the row of bleachers in front of them in hopes of distracting the Boston players.

It reminded so much more of catching a game in Baltimore – where the fans are known for being loud and rowdy – than in Pittsburgh – where in the multiple games I have went to it is a more subdued crowd.

The great thing was too, that they appreciated Big Papi. His home run was met with nothing but cheers. Not a single “boo” was heard.

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In this panoramic view from our seats in left field, you can see almost all of Progressive Field. Going from left to right in the picture, you can see the flag court and bullpen in center field, the retired numbers in the upper deck in right field, and a great view to home plate the rest of the way around.   Photo by Ryan Decker

Food for thought

  1. Left field video board

The big video board/scoreboard in left field is great if you’re sitting anywhere from right field to behind home plate to the left field foul pole. However, it’s practically unreadable if you’re sitting directly under it (like I was).

So from that standpoint, I did feel I was losing a bit.

It was sometimes difficult to know who was up at the plate, and when a bang-bang play at third base went to review, I couldn’t see the replay of it on the video board to decide if the call on the field was correct or not.

However, I do have to commend Progressive Field for having a great deal of slim, electric boards running nearly the entire way from left to right field on the fronts of sections in the second and third decks. That helped a lot.

They denoted pitch count, who was up at the plate, on deck, in the whole, balls and strikes, what pitch was thrown and how hard, as well as a basic nine-inning box score.

So even though I felt like I was missing some information that was on the big 59’x221’ scoreboard just above me, or the out of town scoreboard below me on the face of the left-field wall, there is certainly a valiant effort to make sure that no one is lost of what is happening throughout the course of the game.

 

  1. Food

I told you we’d get to the food.

Food choices were interesting. Hot dogs own the yard, as it seemed impossible to go more than 50 feet without seeing a hot dog stand.

Once you looked away from the hot dogs, there were other enticing food options, including burritos/burrito bowl, gourmet grilled cheese, tacos, barbecue sandwiches, and burgers, as well as milkshakes and ice cream.

Options were good sounding and good smelling.

Prices were also interesting.

A regular hot dog was $4 (bargain!), or for $0.50 more, you could buy a box of cracker jacks, or other snack items (rip off!).

The hot dog kids meal is an absolute steal. For $6 you get a hot dog, small drink and a giant bag of popcorn (although the big bag of popcorn may have been given to me since I’m, you know, not a kid). Regardless, young or old the hot dog kids meal is the way to go if you’re looking for a cheap meal at they ballpark.

You’ll never hear me complain about a $4 hot dog at a major league ballpark, especially considering it was a delicious hot dog, I just think it’s a little weird the main course costs less than the snack.

My only complaint food-wise was I did feel, as did the two friends that I was with, that paying $13 for a burrito bowl was a little much, but then again all three of us got one, so it must not have been that ludicrous.

 

Overall

Progressive Field is a very nice stadium. I definitely hope I’m back very soon. I respect their adoration for the history of the franchise and the passion of their fans.

Of the stadiums I’ve been to, this goes down as the third-best, behind Camden Yards and PNC Park, but ahead of Citi Field, Nationals Park and Yankee Stadium.

Cleveland may not exactly be a sports town that’s known for winning, but it’s got a true winner when it comes to baseball stadiums.

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