So it's off to Cleveland for the Mets this week. It's rare that the Mets show up in Cleveland (I believe 2004 was their last appearance there). However, it's worth noting that I have my own connections to Cleveland. See, a sector of my family migrated there years ago, and every so often I have voyaged out there. Last Summer, in fact, I made my first trip to Jacobs Field (which is now Progressive Field, since Progressive Insurance pretty much has a stranglehold on the region, and if you like Flo, their ubiquitous spokeswoman, that's the place for you since her face is everywhere. Almost as much as LeBron James' face, for the time being. But that's besides the point. It's Jacobs Field and in my mind will always be Jacobs Field). I don't know how many loyal readers have ever been to Jacobs Field, but it happens to be on a short list of stadia I have been to that aren't Shea Stadium or Citi Field, so I thought I'd share my experience there.
My lone pilgrimage to Jacobs Field came on an oppressively hot (because there are only two real temperatures in Cleveland: Oppressively hot or ridiculously cold) Sunday afternoon last July. The game, between the Tribe and the A's, was eminently forgettable. However, Jacobs Field is a nice, pleasant place to watch a game. It's a very intimate setting. I know that Citi Field was somehow designed with intimacy in mind, but Citi Field feels like the Taj Mahal compared to Jacobs Field. It looks small, and it is small. I sat in field level seats along the first base line, giving me a nice clear view of Cliff Lee (in his last month with the team) and also a good shot of Ryan Garko's (also in his last month with the team) ass. But a quick look to my right and it appeared as though the right field seats were on top of you.
I wore a Mets hat to the game. I figured this was one of those rare chances to be the "Confused Fan," sort of like the guy who wears a Cardinals hat to a Mets/Braves game. As it turned out, I wasn't even the only person there in a Mets hat. While I was circumnavigating the Field Level (much the same way you can at Citi Field), I saw another gentleman in a Mets cap. We briefly nodded in some sad commiseration and went on our way.
People in Cleveland are, in general, a very friendly sort, which is strange considering how depressing the town feels. Jacobs Field, were it in New York, would probably be situated in Long Island City. Even on a Sunday afternoon, with a game to be played, Downtown Cleveland was more or less a ghost town. But the people in the stadium were there, and pleasant. I went up to an information desk to grab a schedule or something, and the guy at the desk gave me a funny look, as if to say, "Aren't you in the wrong stadium?" I said hello and mentioned that I was from New York and this was my first time here. He immediately brightened up and said something to the effect of, "Oh! Welcome! Welcome to our humble little stadium!"
The food at Jacobs Field is relatively unspectacular. I don't know if there is any great cuisine that could be associated with Cleveland, so I guess that makes sense. There is the general selection of fare, hot dogs, sausage, burgers, etc, etc. There's a pub-like section in the Right Field corner. The food costs about what you would expect ballpark food to cost, so anyone who thinks they're getting ripped off at Citi Field, well, you're not alone. The $7 sausage was nice, but what killed me was at the hot dog stand. See, you can get your $4.50 hot dog, or your $5.00 chili dog or whatever. But instead of Citi Field, where you can turn around and bathe in a tub of sauerkraut for free, in Cleveland, THEY CHARGE FOR THE SAUERKRAUT! If you want Sauerkraut, it's an extra 75 cents! I deemed this as sacrilege and walked away, indignant.
There is also a nice, large team store situated behind Home Plate, and an Indians Ring of Fame in a heavily-shrubbed area behind the Center Field fence. Security isn't especially prevalent in Jacobs Field, so you can pretty much have your run of the place up until game time. As I said, Clevelanders are a generally friendly, well-fed bunch so if you're lost, someone will more than likely be glad to point you in the right direction, even if you're rooting for another team (however I cannot vouch for their opinion of Yankee or Red Sox fans).
All in all, Jacobs Field is a nice, quaint, pleasant place to watch a game. I'd have to imagine it's markedly more interesting if the Indians are contending for something, or it's not 95˚ out and you get burned to a crisp (which happened to me. A note: If you're sitting in the Field Level or the Outfield, bring sunblock!). Should anyone ever find themselves in Cleveland when the Indians are in town, it's worth stopping by. Probably because there's a limit to the interesting things you can do in Cleveland (my trips out there have usually consisted of going furniture or appliance shopping with my cousins, or just passing time between meals).