Our Trips To Other Ballparks, Part 3 – Progressive Field a/k/a “The Jake”
In Start Spreading the News’ continuing feature of out of town ball parks, I give you Progressive Field, Cleveland Ohio, the Rock N Roll Capital.
Initially known as Jacobs Field in reverence to the team’s ownership group, the stadium hosted its first game on April 4, 1994 with extravagant pre-game celebrations that included a “lefty” President Bill Clinton throwing out the first pitch to Sandy Alomar, Jr.
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 Lake Erie from the Canadian border, 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.
The Jake quickly became thought of by baseball fans as one of the best facilities to see a game, and in a 2008 Sports Illustrated fan poll was voted the top stadium in the Major Leagues. Having been to this beautiful park many times, it is hard to argue with the poll.
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”.
From its elevated bleachers in left field to Heritage Park beyond the center field fence, Progressive Field has several areas that define it. Other key sights include the park’s toothbrush-shaped light poles, glass enclosed multi floor restaurant and bar down the left field line, and the scoreboard above the left field bleachers. The scoreboard was the largest in the world, measuring 36 feet by 149 feet when it was added to the Jake in 2004.
A very cool feature are the Dugout Suites located right next to each dugout. Sitting here, gives the fans the exact same perspective as the managers and players.
The Jake has provided the city with much excitement and many great memories including hosting the 1997 and 2019 All-Star Games and the World Series in 1995, 1997 and 2016.
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.
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.
Three levels of stands range from the left field foul pole to home plate and back around to right center field. The Market Pavilion, featuring neighborhood themed establishments is located just beyond the stands.
One of coolest things I have found is the standing room only Home Run porch in left field. These are usually the most affordable tickets in the house. 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.
From experience, left field seems to be the most raucous part of this north coast gem. It seems that no matter what team is in town, the left field area is the best gathering spot.
Of course, if you don’t have a fear of heights, climb to the top near the enormous scoreboard and get serenaded by John Adams. He’s the man with a giant bass drum next to him. When a rally is needed by the home team, you can be sure to follow his beat. This super fan has banged on a bass drum in the bleacher seats during nearly every Indian’s home game since 1973. He essentially sets the sound track for the game.
The bullpens are located behind right field in a tiered layout.
In 2016, the Indians completed the second phase of their renovation project. These improvements included the construction of a new enclosed club behind home plate on the main level of the ballpark that includes a glass front for viewing games.
To deliver even better views of the field of play, the main concourse was opened from home plate to left field.
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 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
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.