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Cleveland Rocks - My Trip to Progressive Field

Ed Botti

August 12, 2022

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This past Friday night I had the pleasure of attending a game at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. On tap was the newly re-named Cleveland Guardians vs the Houston Astros.


I chose this game because I wanted to see two of the best managers in baseball (Dusty Baker and Tito Francona) go head to head.


So, I put on my Houston “Asterisks” T Shirt, and went to the game with my wife, my sister and my brother in law.


As it turned out, Tito had to give the ball to a young man named Hunter Gaddis, who was making his major league debut.


So in the end, it was a bit of a mismatch. But, Tito and his guys would rebound and win the next 2 games against Dusty.


Similar to the Mets putting up their statue of Tom Seaver at Citi Field, when you arrive at Progressive Field, you immediately see a statue of Bob Feller. One of the best pitchers in the history of baseball.

Photo by E Botti SSTN


I wanted to see up close exactly what makes the Astro team click. What exactly is it about them that has gotten into the minds of the Yankees?


More on that to come.


Let’s take a look at this beautiful Baseball only stadium situated just a long fly ball away from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.


Initially known as Jacobs Field in reverence to the team’s ownership group, the stadium hosted its first game on April 4, 1994.

The home crowd of 41,459 watched as the Indians inaugurated their new home with a 4-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners.


Jacobs Field, which many fans quickly nicknamed “The Jake”, wasn’t the only new stadia in downtown Cleveland. The stadium was part of a larger project known as the Gateway Sports and Entertainment Complex. The Gateway project also included what’s now called Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, home to the 2016 World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA.


Aesthetically the ballpark melds in with downtown Cleveland’s feel with its unique exposed steel design, that closely plays off the many bridges in the area along with the unique vertical light towers (nicknamed “Tooth Brushes”), that resemble the many smokestacks of Cleveland’s industrial district and the high-rise office buildings in downtown Cleveland.


The two facilities are separated by an expansive open pavilion that’s the center of activity before games.


The Jake provided an overdue and much welcomed upgrade from the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, located on the banks of Lake Erie, which garnered the nickname of the “mistake by lake”. A place they called home since 1947 and shared with the Browns.


This time, the architects were wise enough not to locate the stadium in a jet stream of cold air blowing south off of Lake Erie from the Canadian border, providing a much welcomed change to the thousands of loyal Indians fans.


They built the stadium right in the heart of an area of the city loaded with many restaurants, bars, pubs, and theaters. Many more would follow, as the economic development boom continues to this day.


The stadium was sold out for every home game between June 12, 1995 and April 4, 2001. A total of 455 consecutive games; a MLB record. A number eventually retired in honor of the fans and clearly visible in the right field upper deck.


Cleveland based Progressive Insurance bought the naming rights for Jacobs Field in 2008 in a 16-year agreement worth nearly $58 million, and it has since been known as Progressive Field, although many in the area still refer to it as “The Jake”.

Photo by E Botti SSTN


Capacity


As with many other stadiums, the official capacity has grown and even shrunk since 1994. Previous to the start of the 2015 season the upper deck seating in right-center field was taken down and replaced with terrace areas for group seating.


This decreased the seating capacity from 43,405 to a very friendly confine of 35,041.


Progressive Field will have a $200 million dollar renovation beginning at the end of the 2022 season.


Dimensions


The field’s dimensions make for a very fair baseball diamond that features 325 feet to left field, 370 feet to left-center, 410 feet to center field, 375 feet to right-center and 325 feet to right field.


The outfield wall has become one of its more unique tableaus. Left field has a 19 foot high wall. This wall generates many long fly balls that bounce off the fence instead of going over it for a home run. In center and right, the wall is a more standard and consistent 8 eight feet high.


Fans have the option of entering the Jake from one of many entry gates, but many choose to enter through the Gate C entrance in centerfield.


Revamped after the 2014 season, the Gate C entrance links the ballpark with downtown Cleveland. It encompasses Heritage Park that consists of the Indians Hall of Fame and statues of Indian immortals Bob Feller and Jim Thome.

Photo by E Botti SSTN


One of coolest things I have found is the standing room only Home Run porch in left field. Those that arrive in time for batting practice can catch batting practice home run balls that constantly reach the area. For those lucky few, they can even catch an actual long ball during the game.


Left field seems to be the most raucous part of this north coast gem.


Overall, the Jake, or Progressive Field, is one of the nicest ball parks I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. The standing room options on the lower level are tremendous. Many fans select to stand with their friends, have a drink, and watch the game rather than sit in the regular seating areas. It’s a very lively atmosphere.


The Corner out in right field is truly striking. It’s an open bar that is on two levels. Fans can watch the game on TV, or look out and watch the game live and in front of them.


Unique (at least to me) is the bullpen access for fans. Fans can watch the pitchers warm up without having a ticket to that section in right-center.


Lastly, the stadium management allows all fans to freely walk around the stadium without any issue or hassle.


It’s a very fan friendly location.


My one complaint that goes out to all my fellow Yankee fans, the occasional visit from across Lake Erie and the US/Canadian border of the annoying “midges” a/k/a Canadian soldiers. These pest cost the Yankees the 2007 ALDS and quite possibly cost Joe Torre his job.


Photo: The Society for American Baseball Research


Stadium Details


Year opened: 1994

Cost of construction: $169 million

Former name: Jacobs Field

Unofficial nicknames: The Jake, The Prog

Capacity as of 2014: 35,041

Record attendance: 45,274

Left field dimension: 325 feet

Left center dimension: 370 feet

Center field dimension: 410 feet

Right field dimension: 325 feet

Right center dimension: 375 feet

Playing surface: Kentucky bluegrass

Ticket prices: $10 to $99

First Home Run: Eric Anthony (Seattle Mariners)

Retired numbers: 3 Earl Averill, 5 Lou Boudreau, 14 Larry Doby, 18 Mel Harder, 19 Bob Feller, 21 Bob Lemon, 42 Jackie Robinson, 455 recognizing the park’s 455 straight sellouts between 1995 and 2001.

Notable features: Home run porch and 19-foot outfield fence in left field, vertical stadium lights, Heritage Park historical area, Bob Feller and Jim Thome statues, Terrace Club restaurant, Kids Clubhouse play area, Budweiser Patio group area, Social Suite, extensive suite level.

Oh yeah, one more thing. This is the stadium where our very own Derek Jeter broke into the big leagues for good in 1996.


So, what exactly did my reconnaissance mission tell me about the 2022 Astros?

I already knew this but frankly speaking, they are an incredibly well rounded and balanced team.


When I say balanced, I am not only referring to a lefty righty balance throughout the lineup. Yes, that is part of it. But more importantly, they have a balance of linear and rotational hitters.

Something I have been preaching for years, and something that I wanted the Yankees to get more vested into.


Houston has figured that out. By the way, so has Buck Showalter and his Mets.

Cashman/Fishman? Not so much.


I will do a deeper dive on that issue in the days to come, as I sense us Yankee faithful will once again be looking for answers later this fall.


The Astro pitching, led by the ageless Justin Verlander ranks among the three best in all of baseball. Add that to their stellar defense and the aforementioned hitting, along with good speed on the bases and you end up with about as well-rounded of a team as any in the league.


Additionally, Astro GM James Click seems to have addressed any and all needs this squad had at the trade deadline.


The way I saw it prior to the trade deadline is that the Astros had a weakness behind the plate (Martin Maldonado), a clear need to improve production at first base (Yuli Gurriel having his worst season) and a nearly all right handed bullpen.


How did they fix that?


They went out and acquired veteran Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez, All-Star first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini from the Orioles, and an experienced, post season proven, left-handed reliever in Will Smith. Smith helped the Atlanta Braves beat these very same Astros in last year’s World Series.


Not a bad day’s work for Mr. Click.


Vazquez, will provide a spark on offense and as we know he is a decent catcher that calls a very good game. Mancini (who was desired by many clubs, especially the Mets) plays first base and the outfield, has a career .797 OPS and is huge upgrade over Yuli Gurriel at this point in his career.


Trey Mancini hit 2 home runs on the night I went to game, paying immediate dividends!


Will Smith holds lefties to a .220 batting average and .640 OPS over his career and has proven to be able to do so regularly, including the 2021 World Series when he pitched to a 0.00 ERA.


The Yankees made some good moves as well. That is until Cashman inexplicably decided to trade a reliable lefty starter for a 4th outfielder that is injured, and may not even play this season and post season.


I am still baffled by that move.


Rumors are leaking out that it was all based on a three way deal with Miami and starter Pablo Lopez being sent to the Yankees and Montgomery going to the Cardinals.


Apparently, something went wrong, and the Yankee brain trust was left having to consummate their end of the deal.


If true, it is really hard to believe that they let this happen.


That deal cast a dark cloud and veil of confusion over his ex-teammates who are just as befuddled by it as we are.


So, what I took out of this spy mission is I saw firsthand that the team with the second best record in the American League added solid players that addressed every weakness they had. Combine that with the team that had the best record in the League that ended up weakening their starting rotation, and all of sudden we have a new favorite in the American League.


Am I concerned about the Yankees second half? Not really because for me to be concerned, I would have had to have bought in on the first half success. I could never figure out how they had such a potent first half. I see this as a market correction. They are not the 1998 Yankees. They do have the talent and ability to right the ship. My only issue, the one I have had for the last 4 seasons, is do they have it in them to suddenly change their approach when the playoffs begin and can they even do so effectively.


When you watch a team like Houston play, you see a team replete with various types of offensive schemes and abilities to go along with their pitching and defense, spearheaded by a very good manager.


The 2022 Yankees have improved on that front.


They have subtracted dead weight, and added some valuable pieces.


The question is, have they improved enough. We will find out very soon.


As the game ended, an apparent Friday night tradition kicked in; a long and very well done fireworks show set to music with the outfield walls and city skyline as its back drop.

Photo by E Botti SSTN


A very nice stadium to visit, indeed.

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