By Ana | August 28, 2011
It just wouldn’t be summer to me without a healthy dose of America’s favorite pastime–baseball. To me, a great summer night is sitting in the stands at a Cleveland Indians game (especially on Dollar Dog Night), cheering on the Tribe, and now Indians fans have even more reason to get happy–JIM THOME IS BACK.
If you’re new to Ohio State, what you’ll realize about the baseball fan community here is that it is for the most part halved into fans of the two MLB teams in Ohio–the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds. Even Buckeyes who are baseball fans who aren’t from Ohio tend to make camp with one team or the other when it gets to be that time of year and people start watching games on TV. Of course, Columbus has a minor league team, the Clippers, and while I haven’t gone to a game yet, I hear they’re a ton of fun to go to. (They even have DIME Dog Night. Can you beat that?!?) I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that the Indians pick up guys from the Clippers to play when they’re ready to move up to the major league. So it’s kind of fun to watch the Clippers play, then maybe see the same guy or two later in the season playing for the Tribe. Reds fans are out of luck as far as this goes. (Obviously, as a Clevelander, I cannot stand the Reds in any way, shape, or form, thank you, the end.)
Anyway, the real excitement abuzz in Cleveland sports is Jim Thome’s return to the Indians. Last week it was announced the he was returning to play for the Indians from the Minnesota Twins, and that he would be playing in (last) Friday’s game against Kansas City. Luckily, I had already bought tickets to this game because my friend from Columbus was coming into town and she is also an Indians fan. Within hours of the announcement of Thome’s return, the game was completely sold out (41,000+ seats!). When he came out to bat, he received a standing ovation. I think I saw grown men crying. I mean, people haven’t seen the guy in an Indians uniform for almost 10 years. I was just a kid the last time I saw Thome play for Cleveland; back then, the stadium was still called Jacob’s Field instead of Progressive Field! So, naturally, people were pumped. And, every fan got this when they walked into the stadium:
People called the game “Thomecoming” (HOW CLEVER IS THAT?!) and everyone stood up and screamed their heads off and cheered and held up the signs when he batted. The energy was incredible.
In case you are not aware of the magnitude of this moment, I will attempt to explain. First, as most people know, Cleveland sports are (almost comically) doomed to failure. People get really, REALLY excited when a talented player comes our way (see He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-In-Miami). Second, Jim Thome played for the Indians for over 10 years in the ’90s, and was basically a legend, as well as dearly beloved by Indians fans. He’s a 5-time All Star, in the 500 home run club, and is 8th on the all-time home run list. The guy is a home run MACHINE. And he spent the first 10 years of his career in Cleveland. It was a HUGE source of pride for a city riddled with sports disappointment, needless to say.
Even his fellow teammates showed their support of his return by wearing high socks (instead of cuffing the pants around the ankle, so you don’t see the sock, which is typical nowadays), one of Thome’s trademarks. It just gives me the warm-and-fuzzies when teams band together like that. It’s like a movie. And this isn’t the only example of the Indians’ solidarity–when pitcher Justin Masterson’s wife went into premature labor in Cleveland when the team was playing in Boston, and they all pitched in to fly Masterson home on a private jet to get home as quickly as possible to be there for the birth of his child.
Anyway, the Indians beat Kansas City on Friday night, 2-1, in part thanks to closer Chris Perez’s awesome pitches. But that wasn’t even the best part–knowing a hometown hero is back was the best part of all. And I don’t think any movie could’ve done better.
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