Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Eutaw Street

I was lucky enough to catch the last game of the Cleveland - Baltimore series at Camden Yards on Monday. As a displaced Cleveland fan, any opportunity to see the team play in person is a special occasion. This was probably one of the coolest games I've been to in a while (including those at the Jake); all the Indian fans in attendance made for an unusually friendly atmosphere for an away game.

I met an awesome couple outside the stadium ticket office who offered us a deal on two box seats on the third base line. He said he got them for free from his company and ended up having some extra tickets that day, but was happy to offer them for a discount to a fellow Cleveland fan. So I ended up with some of the best seats I've ever had for a ballgame, right out of the gate, thanks to some kindness from a fellow fan. The view was excellent, one row removed from the season ticket holders above the visitor's dugout.

I got to the park early and made my way down to the visitor's dugout to watch the players come out and warm-up. I posted a couple pics of warmups and Carl Willis, Fausto Carmona, and V-Mart walking back from the bullpen together. There were several Cleveland fans staked out near the dugout, some with little kids, most with Sharpies. Everybody was very friendly and I chatted with a couple fans about the stadium, weather, and the best way to get autographs. Peralta popped his head out on the opposite end of the dugout and signed a few autographs, but didn't hang around long. J-Mike also made a brief appearance and took the time to talk to a few of the fans while he signed. Byrd and Jeff Datz talked to what appeared to be mutual friends at one end of the dugout, while Blake, Rouse, Garko, and J-Barf started to warmup on the outfield grass.

Pronk and V-Mart jogged past the eager Tribe fans early on to the cheers of "Hey Travis!" and "Go get 'em Victor!". Unfortunately, we couldn't persuade them to stop for autographs, but everyone knows the players have a job to do and don't always have time to hang out on the fence. Upon hearing the inquiries coming from the fans, Victor politely waved and trotted out to the bullpen to help Carmona warm-up. The whole pre-game warmup had the feeling of a high school ballgame, very relaxed and personal.

As the players began to wrap up their warmup routines, Trot Nixon stopped to sign autographs. Then, as if that wasn't enough, Garko and Barfield came over to join him. I was lucky enough to come away with a baseball signed by all three. I'm a huge sports geek, so getting autographs from the players is a big thrill for me. I couldn't manage to say much other than "thank you" to the players; I was really caught off guard when three of my favorite players stopped by to give some of their time to the fans. It was surreal to have those guys standing right there in front of me after just seeing them on t.v. all the time, very cool. And yes, I am a dork.

Barfield and Garko had the enthusiasm of little kids as they chatted with everyone, giving special attention to the younger fans (Barfield even let one fan lean over the fence and take a group photograph). Away games are definitely the best way to get autographs, since the players know they won't get mobbed like they would at home (they're probably happy to see a friendly face too). Speaking of friendly faces, I'm 90% sure that Trot Nixon's dad was in attendance. He had a seat near the dugout and was sporting a sleeveless Red Sox jersey and a rough, graying goatee. I had heard that his dad lived in the area and came out for some of his son's road games, so I'm convinced that was a sighting of the Grit Paterfamilias.

The Tribe resumed their pounding of the Oreo's pitching from the day before and plated 10 runners in a bona-fide rout. Below is a pic of Sizemore leading off the game against Steve Trachsel. Carmona pitched great, giving up one un-earned run over 7 innings. I even got a compliment from a Yankees fan sitting nearby on the quality of Carmona's work. Carmona had to bob and weave out of trouble a few times, but got the job done and did a good job of silencing the home town fans (much to the delight of the Cleveland fans). The highlight of the game was Pronk's grand slam to all but seal the win.

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