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Cleveland Indians Home No "Mistake by the Lake"

This story was written by's Gordon Donovan, long-suffering Mets season-ticket holder and author of the blog Meet the Mess

The Cleveland Indians home park Progressive Field is one of the best ballparks in all of baseball. Opened in 1994 and reminiscent of Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the former Jacobs Field is a retro and fan-friendly park.

The Jake replaced Cleveland Municipal Stadium, which had the dubious nickname "The Mistake by the Lake." The facility, located just south of Lake Erie, was known for the biting cold winds that would blow into the stadium in winter and, for that matter, during much of the spring and fall. Because of its proximity to the lake during hot summer nights, its lights attracted swarms of midges and mayflies.

Progressive Field is located a little over a mile from Lake Erie, near where Cleveland Municipal Stadium stood. The Cleveland Browns stadium now stands were Municipal Stadium was located along Lake Erie.

If you attend batting practice, the gates open at 4:30 but you're limited to access to only the seats in right - centerfield. Plenty of balls are launched by hitters into the seats out there. Bring a glove, unless you like bruised fingers.

If you don't want to soak up some rays and watch batting practice, checkout Heritage Park, which is located in the outfield area by Gate C. It's a must see - the walk-through area honors the Indians and Cleveland's long time baseball history 1869.

At 6pm the gates open to the rest of the ballpark. I asked several staff members for food recommendations. Milwaukee has brats, Dodger Stadium has Dodger dogs, and Philly has cheese steaks - so I wanted to sample what the former Jake was famous for. But there seemed to be no consensus at Progressive Field - a hot dog perhaps, one usher responded. One staff member chased me down and suggested a concession stand called Cleats.

At Cleats, I had a cheeseburger and waffle fries. Most ballparks burgers are okay but the Cleats burger was great. I didn't try anything else. The temperature was in the mid 80's and humid, so food was not in my plans.

As I walked around taking photos, many of the ushers and staff members were friendly and helpful. They offered suggestions on where to go and what to see.

Fans are close to the field and the seats are directed towards the infield; there's plenty of leg room and space to move around. You can see all the action on the field from concession stands except behind home plate on the field level. At least they don't have a black jacket like the new Yankee Stadium does.

Fans around me were disappointed by the lack of support by other Indian fans; they were all more concerned about the Browns and whether LeBron James would return to the Cavs. It was great to see families with young children at a game without abusive language ignited by beer. The view of buildings in downtown Cleveland enhanced the atmosphere.

Raffles and trivia contests involving fans in between innings keep fans entertained. One young fan eagerly awaited the hot dog race at the end of the fifth inning featuring the ketchup, mustard and onion hot dogs.

During scoring threats and rallies by the Tribe, long-time Indians fan John Adams was in the bleachers in left field beating his drum as he has some done since 1973. He is the only fan for whom the team has dedicated a bobble head day.

The team is filled with young talent, many acquired through trades for players the Indians could not afford to keep. In the end, the Indians were overmatched by the veteran Mets. One fan said that many of their starters were playing out of original positions so the team could get guys in the lineup. The Tribe had just brought up several players like catcher Carlos Santana and 1st baseman Andy Marte. At one point, Carlos Santana faced Mets ace Johan Santana, which brought a chuckle to many fans in a town famous for being the birthplace of Rock-n-Roll.

I have been to 18 ballparks and have taken tours of Oriole Park, Great American Ballpark, Fenway Park, Miller Park, Yankee Stadium, Citi Field and Dodger Stadium, to name a few. The tour of Progressive Field was the best I had ever experienced.

The tour cost $7.50 so the price was right; it was not hurried and overcrowded and we were invited to take as many photos as we wanted. Best of all was Bob, who is the most knowledgeable tour guide I have heard. I usually find a few errors in some team facts while on these tours, but Bob was on the money. Speaking of money, I usually tip tour guides afterwards for their time, some expect it. This man refused the gratuity.

The tour took us to the batting cages next to the clubhouses, then to the Indians dugout. Then we headed out onto the field and to the visitor's bullpen were we ran into several players taking early batting practice. The tour then moved on to the press box, party suites and private club lounge.

When in Cleveland, check out the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame in the morning. Take the afternoon tour of Progressive Field, and you may run into players coming into the ballpark or on the field. Be sure to check out the local establishments nearby and take in batting practice and a game at one of best venues in baseball.

I walked everywhere in Cleveland; there's no need for a car unless you plan on checking out the former location of Indians first home League Park or the pro football Hall of Fame in Canton. Rapid transit will take you downtown from the airport within 25 minutes for $2.25. Many hotels offer free shuttle service around the downtown area.

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