When the Indians were in the 1995 World Series, I had just started graduate school. Like every fan who had grown up in watching horrible team after mediocre team, the ’95 team was a revelation. More than anything, I wanted to catch at least a tiny peek of a real live World Series game, in person, not on television. After an evening class, a fellow student and I drove around Progressive Field, the windows in the ’82 powder blue Volvo I had bought for a song from from my brother the mechanic were open. We could hear the crowd and see the big toothbrush-shaped lights of Jacobs Field. We wanted to stop and just find a spot outside the park where we could look in and share a few moments of the first World Series played in Cleveland in our lifetimes. There weren’t a whole lot of places to do so. It was nigh impossible to get over to Gate A on Eagle Avenue and look in through the home run plaza. I ended up parking illegally on Ontario, and we took turns waiting by the car so we could each run over to the ballpark and peek in.
The facelift that’s currently underway at Progressive Field will make it easier for poor graduate students (and the rest of us) to connect to the game inside and outside the park. The The Indians invited the media in for a look at how the new enhancements are progressing, and I got to tag along. Reading about the changes and looking at the artist’s renderings of the finished product is one thing, but being able to see the changes in progress was eye-opening. Jim Folk, the Indians Vice President of Operations, spoke for a while about the changes and answered some questions. They have made significant progress in the four weeks since work began. The big thing Folk emphasized again and again is that they want to connect the fans closer to the game and the ballpark closer to the city. Some people may be all about the bass, but the Indians are all about the fan experience.
Gate C is down, Feller Plaza has been leveled, the Feller and Thome statues have been moved for safe-keeping, and the old home bullpen is almost demolished. Folk noted that after the renovations, you’ll be able to walk down the street [E. 9th] and look in the ballpark. The rationale behind the changes is that the way people watch the game has changed over the last 20 years. It’s a much more social gathering event where people don’t stay in their seats the whole game. So the front office is making more of those social gathering places. I love the idea of opening up that side of the ballpark. Gate A and the home run plaza offer one view in and out of the park. This will offer another, apparently even better, connection. I feel compelled to add that I hate people at the ballpark who get up and down twenty times during the game and talk or incessantly about things that have nothing to do with the game. Maybe if there are places for those folks to hang out, the old schoolers like me can watch the game in peace.
Photos of the renovations-in-progress with notes.