High school shadow student reflects on time with Indians

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There’s a glorious, secluded place hidden in Progressive Field. Behind the guise of a hearty game of baseball, a whole other world exists for a select few to explore.  One where the doors are guarded and credentials are required. One where Cleveland sports legends regularly commingle with novice interns. One where it’s probable that you’ll casually run into Tom Hamilton in the hallway. Yes: the often-discussed, yet rarely-witnessed, land of the press.

After a month of shadowing in the Indians front office, I was given the opportunity to join the Communications department for one of its routine tasks: attending a ballgame in the coolest, most official way possible, by sitting in the exclusive press box. I was additionally fortunate enough to be invited to one of the most promising games of the year – the May 21 series finale against the Detroit Tigers.

Walking up to the press box is basically equivalent to being a rock star making your way to a concert. I was led up staircases I’ve never noticed and through winding hallways that I couldn’t possibly navigate alone – with security guards periodically stationed to ensure the press box’s integrity –  until I reached the motherland. A long hallway labeled “Press Booths” awaited, with signs advertising the more glamorous parts of the sport: broadcast booths, SportsTime Ohio’s station, camera rooms, and luxurious suites. It was tempting to try to make my way into each of the rooms, but I managed to venture on into the main press booth, which is probably any Clevelander’s dream office. The room is set up in a long curve, with leveled rows of tables, each angled to face Progressive Field’s greatest offering: home plate. It has all the amenities of a traditional workplace – WiFi, power outlets, the obligatory water cooler – but with the added bonus of an open wall to allow for the feel of being outdoors and the sights and sounds of the other Tribe fans at the game. Plus, of course, instead of the usual cubicle, you can gaze out at the action of an invigorating game of baseball.

And then there’s the food. Wow. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through my time with the Indians, it’s that they certainly know how to show the media a good time. The press dining room – located inconspicuously behind the giant “Progressive Field” sign at the stadium’s entrance – is completely loaded up with everything from a salad bar to a grill, filled with burgers and hotdogs, to a self-serve Pepsi soda fountain to (the mother of all ballpark foods!) a soft serve ice cream machine.  All delicious and all available whenever I wanted to get up and seek it out during the game. Upon my grand unveiling of this beautiful, beautiful room, I was suddenly overcome with an unexplainable sense of shock that there were people out there who didn’t want to be in the journalism profession.

At 12:05, it was game time at last. Shortly before the opening pitch, though, I was nonchalantly informed that it was “unprofessional” to have reactions to the game – essentially, I had to keep a Corey Kluber face on. Surely this was a joke.  I would be sitting in a room with some of the biggest Indians fans alive, people who had dedicated their lives to following this great sport, watching the tense conclusion to the Tigers series from directly above home plate – and no one was expected to show any emotion?  But to my shock, my theory proved unfounded.  Throughout the entire tumultuous game, the press box maintained a low chatter; even during the most exhilarating plays, where not a single member of the crowd had remained in their seats, the people surrounding me simply kept typing at their laptops noncommittally.  I attempted to fight all of my instinctual responses to the game and remain as stolid as everyone else, though I admit, there were a few moments of weakness when an impassioned “Yes!” slipped out.  Nobody’s perfect.

Five hours later, in one of the longest Indians games in recent memory, the level of emotion in the press box had remained limited to nonexistent.  These people were truly professionals; despite the Tribe’s heroic catches and game-extending runs, their expressions remained passive at most.  Finally, at the dramatic end of the game – bottom of the 13th, bases loaded, two outs, score tied at 10 – before Ryan Raburn could even take a swing, a balk was called, putting the game to an abrupt halt with the rare “balk off.”  The stunned crowd paused for a moment, then burst into uproarious cheers as the sounds of “Cleveland Rocks” and fireworks filled the evening sky.  I leapt out of my seat, jaw dropped, and looked around at my fellow press box attendees.  Same silence, same stoic expressions.  But, for just a moment, I swear I saw a hint of a smile peek onto their faces.  That, for me at least, was definitive proof of the true magic that exists every day at Progressive Field.

–Nicole Cooper, Orange HS

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