of 2008, Dad and I brought our Ballpark Tour to Cleveland and
was a strange trip. We landed in Cleveland on a Monday, got in
our car, and immediately drove to Pittsburgh. Then, after two
nights there, we checked out of our hotel on Wednesday morning
and returned to Cleveland for the last day and night before leaving
early on Thursday for home.
summary of the whole trip can be found by looking at the one day
in Cleveland… where we were having a pretty good time bouncing
around between the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Progressive Field,
and The Winking Lizard (for lunch), and never went to the hotel
until after the baseball game. So we checked in around midnight
and never really did see enough to develop a fair opinion of the
short… partially planned chaos… lots of running around… and a
surprisingly packed list of things to do supported by an incredible
amount of unexpected fun.
yet, amazingly enough, after considering some of the chaos and
travel, this trip is likely the one that will most resemble our
future trips in the quest to see a ballgame played in ever major
league baseball stadium. We have previously journeyed to Fenway,
Wrigley, Camden Yards, Shea and Yankee Stadium. This time though…
it wasn’t a day trip (like Boston or New York)… it wasn’t a trip
we had both made with another purpose to it and a ballgame tossed
in (Baltimore)… it wasn’t a “see the Sox play the Cubs at Wrigley”
journey with alot thrown in.
time we deliberately sought out the stadium tours available at
PNC Park and Progressive Field. We used lessons from Chicago (and,
to a degree, other parks/travel) to give us a few local attractions
we would be looking at for sightseeing or meals. And… amazingly
smart to do, always there in some way before, but really contributing
this time… we asked people we met where they would go if they
were us. In Cleveland we found The Winking Lizard thanks to this
approach… in Pittsburgh we walked across the Sixth Street Bridge
into the city for lunch.
this particular travel column, things are a bit different. All
of this… from the travel to the companion columns that will focus
on each ballpark… means no traditional diary for you. Instead,
here are some of the things we really enjoyed in Cleveland and
a few thoughts to go along with each one.
Tour – Progressive Field
I suppose you need to be in love with baseball to even plan such
a trip… seeing ball games played in different stadiums, including
teams you don’t normally follow that closely. So consider the
source when I say this…
an hour or two and touring a stadium can be a fantastic experience.
And at Progressive Field, it absolutely was a great time.
were introduced to Diane in the stadium’s gift shop. Our tour
leader, she was outgoing and knew the material she needed to know
about the Indians. When introducing ourselves as being from New
England, she made the appropriate connections of information to
conclude that we were familiar with Manny, and let us in on a
secret… as far as she knew, no one in Cleveland or the organization
was in any hurry to bring him back.
tour basically began by walking from the gift shop out to centerfield
and a section called Heritage Park. This area is home to all things
Cleveland Indians. It showcases the team history and honors its
greatest players. And for a baseball fan… it is certain to include
a few surprises.
I have to admit… Monument Park at Yankee Stadium really changed
my mind about some things involving the ballpark and off-the-field
attractions. Legacy Square at PNC Park in Pittsburgh added to
that feeling. It’s now something I definitely find missing at
Fenway… and the statue of Ted Williams just doesn’t cover for
mentioned, here at Progressive Field, we find Heritage Park… the
home of all things Indians… the best Cleveland best players, a
team hall of fame, references to memorable moments… and it works.
Indians have retired “455” as a reflection of the record they
held for consecutive sell outs, and honor this inside the park.
(The record has since been surpassed by the Boston Red Sox, which
continues increasing today and could cross the 600-game mark during
the 2010 season.)
still can’t believe how big the ballpark felt. It just feels massive.
Back in 2005, when Dad and I were headed to Chicago, I reached
out to someone I had met over the internet… the summary of the
story is that I found her web site as a result of National Novel
Writing Month… and she gave a few suggestions about visiting the
city on a trip set up for seeing games at Wrigley. Because of
Meg, we had made plans for visiting the Cubby Bear before we had
even left home.
experience can be counted as a lesson learned, and now on any
trip I always ask questions about local things to do, when possible
ahead of time. What I’ve found is that more often than not the
information leads to a great experience… and it always results
in a story.
on this trip to Pittsburgh and Cleveland we had discussed lunch
with our tour guide at PNC Park. Katie sent us on a short and
fantastic walk across the Roberto Clemente Bridge and into Market
we were in Progressive Field… and when we posed the “where would
you go for lunch today” question, the answer was apparently pretty
didn’t hesitate at all.
few blocks from the ballpark, following a very quick walk, we
arrived at the Winking Lizard Tavern Dad went with a turkey sandwich
and I tried the turkey reuben. We also shared some fried ravioli.
and Roll Hall of Fame
I’m not going to lie to you… I was disappointed in many ways with
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
don’t let you take pictures. No cameras allowed. At all.
picture was taken before I knew no pictures were allowed. I saw
U2 on this tour.
“hall” portion is a bit of a let down… effectively nothing more
than a wall of signatures. (That’s probably not 100% fair, since
they do have a theater that played highlights from each induction
year. But it simply wasn’t that mystical walking the hall. Plus,
I have my own personal misgivings about the place (we don’t need
a detailed recap here… let’s just say I question some of those
recognized while people like Wolfman Jack have yet to be enshrined).)
yet, when Dad suggested spending some time there, I quickly agreed.
In the end, I must admit there was plenty to enjoy and make it
a must for anyone stopping in Cleveland. I even plan to return
at some point.
it perfect? No. I really, really didn’t like not being able to
take pictures. I mean, it would be an improvement even if they
just had one section where it was allowed and blocked off everything
else so you could at least have some shots of someone’s guitar
or props from a concert tour or something.
there were plenty of items that did connect with me. There were
conversation starters for Dad and I, with common ground being
found in many places. And there were several items that had me
looking around for others in various sections.
I have to say this… the parking could not have been any better.
We were literally next to the building, and not in some garage.
On the water… street adjacent to the stairs leading in… next to
the Not-So-Good Stuff
always, along with the good there are a few things that deserve
mention if only to be a warning sign for those yet to travel on
the road. So… a thing or two that might not have been so great…
Ok, the reality here is that I should more likely be blaming Thrifty
Car Rental. Because the car they gave us was beat to hell.
and I stand convinced it was involved in some form of illegal
activity, but we don’t want to make guesses in print… a theory
that grew from a “ha, ha, I’ll bet there was a shovel and some
blood in this car” joke into a very seriously considered and ultimately
we determined plausible “you know, we might want to be careful
with our speed since the state police might be looking for this
vehicle” source of dark humor over the course of our drive from
Cleveland to Pittsburgh.
dents… a broken door handle that had to be locked/unlocked and
opened from the inside… a smell of cleaning products so strong
we had the windows open for most of the driving on day one… it
all would have been funny if the car was any good.
car was awful before the first drop of gas was ever put in its
that’s why I’ll blame the Caliber more than Thrifty. I think what
we’re looking at here is a car that wants to be compared to the
likes of the Nissan Versa or maybe the Toyota Matrix. The reality
is the car has no clue what it is. The trunk… boot… hatchback…
whatever portion of the car seemed useless to us. And even that
would have been fine, since in this size of a car, often the very
back is useless as it gets sacrificed to create leg room for the
other seats. Only, in this car, none of the seats were comfortable.
might be the worst car I have ever driven. Though I have to admit…
I could have been stoned on cleaning fumes.
This one really isn’t too fair… and that’s why I am not going
to great lengths to tell you details about exactly which Best
Western we stayed in.
left Pittsburgh early on Wednesday. We had reservations for a
late morning ballpark tour. On the drive to Cleveland, Dad suggested
going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So… over to the Hall
for about an hour or so… then the ballpark tour… lunch. We decided
that with about four hours open until the gates opened for the
game, we could head back and see portions of the Hall we had missed.
(It is only about five minutes away from the Progressive Field
the time we were done goofing around in Cleveland and settling
in for the evening’s entertainment, we were in our seats at the
game and had yet to even consider going to the hotel.
we called to tell them we’d be checking in late. But we also ended
up starting our drive over there well after 11pm. And late arrival…
long day but exhausting day… morning flight… is simply no time
to effectively judge a place you’ve never seen before.
had troubles with our room keys… especially annoying since between
the late arrival and early departure we were using one key only
one time, to get in and go to sleep. And there were other things…
such as not really loving the parking lot.
those are minor things, and as I noted, the reality is the combination
of a long day, unfamiliar setting and checking in long after dark
could easily be playing tricks on us.
will point out that the free breakfast was a welcome treat, including…
for the second straight place… a waffle iron. Fresh made waffles.