It’s a crisp, sunny day in Northeast Ohio – a little colder than most would consider baseball weather, but in Cleveland, it is perfect weather for Opening Day. The field is impeccably manicured, the skies are bright blue and downtown is packed.
As a die-hard Clevelander and baseball fan, I am not sure which makes me happier – the return of baseball or seeing downtown shine. The combination of the two makes me beam. The streets are filled with fans, vendors and excitement. Tom Hamilton’s voice bellows through every restaurant and bar in town. Passionate Clevelanders are everywhere. The bars and restaurants are reveling in the beauty of a packed downtown. This is the type of excitement our city deserves.
While the Guardians dropped their first home game, there were so many other great things that caught my attention this year:
The Jake, Progressive Field, whatever you call it, the home of The Guardians shines. It’s hard to believe that this is the Indians/Guardians 30th year at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. The place is still pristine. You would never believe it is the 11th oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. It is clear that The Guardians have reinvested in the space, the technology, the offerings, and in Cleveland.
Not that long ago, a few sections of Progressive Field were converted to provide a more social experience. The Right Field District has a standing room section that is great for groups and socializing. You can find craft beers at The Corner Bar, and hometown favorites like Barrio, Melt and Ohio City Burrito. With the affordable District Ticket, fans get a free drink and access to The District included in the price of their ticket. It is a great environment to relax and watch the game with friends. The standing room tickets have become so popular The Guardians introduced a new pass this year. The Ballpark Pass gives fans standing room tickets to all home games for $49/month. This new offering was met with great success. It sold out quickly, and there is a waiting list for anyone interested in future months. What a great way to engage the fans!
There were also a few new features that were hard to miss this year. As soon as we walked in the 3rd base entrance we were greeted with a self-serve bar. It was a cash-less, checkout-free way to buy a drink. The walkthrough cooler scanned your credit card at the start and allowed you to grab a beer, pop, or water out of the cooler and leave! Apparently, the technology knows what you buy and automatically charges your credit card accordingly. No checkout, no lines; just grab and go! How great is that? Speaking of cashless, much of the ballpark is cashless this year. The seat vendors in yellow shirts only accepted Apple Pay, credit cards or Google Pay. You no longer need to hit the ATM to enjoy a bag of peanuts at your seat.
Just like last year, you can feel the passion of this young Guardians team. They may be the youngest in the Majors, but Tito has them ready. They play with excitement, drive and insatiable thirst to win. They keep us on the edge of our seats till the last pitch, because they never seem out of it. They battle all game and often come back from behind to give fans a thrilling experience. They had 3 extra-inning games of their first 7 games to start the 2023 season. This young team fought back and won all 3! If we get this playoff-mentality all season, it’s going to be a fun one.
From old staples like The Thirsty Parrot to new additions like Southern Tier, Cleveland establishments were prepared and ready for the crowds that Opening Day brought downtown. Everywhere we went was crowded, but everyone – staff and patrons were in good spirits. The promise of a new season brought out the best in everyone.
We even saw a new, almost too-obvious phenomenon – a single-file line for the bar. After 30 minutes of fighting our way up to the bar to order a drink, we found our way to Southern Tier’s basement cellar. Down there, the guests sitting at the bar were enjoying their drinks without being pushed from behind or people reaching over them to get the bartenders’ attention. There weren’t any over-served patrons shoving their way to the front of the pack to order a beer. Nope, instead, they had a single-file line to order drinks at the bar – brilliant! There was no confusion, and the bartenders knew who to serve first. It was fair, orderly, and everyone got their drink in a surprisingly short amount of time. They then moved on to minimize congestion around the bar. It was a simple, yet obvious, solution to the frustrating process of ordering a drink at a packed bar. I don’t know if this is a new phenomenon or exclusive to Southern Tier, but I’m a fan. I’d love to see this implemented at every bar packed with thirsty customers.
The City of Cleveland
Cleveland shined on Opening Day. It was clean, orderly and full of Cleveland pride. A busy downtown is a good downtown. Cleveland and Clevelanders shine on big events, and this was no exception. The entire town was dressed in blue, white and red. Fans donned jerseys, coats and hats from every decade. They chanted in the streets, sang “Cleveland Rocks,” “Hang on Sloopy,” and “Here we go Brownies” together as one. They talked about memorable games, John Adams, unforgettable players/teams of the past. They joked that it was cold, but not as bad as “Snowpening Day.” For one day, this passionate, title-hungry town was united as one. These fans, this town is proud. It is supportive. It is optimistic. It is ready for another unforgettable season at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
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