A trip to see the Tribe

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

We love the intimacy of a Columbus Clippers game at Huntington Park but, every now and then, we try to experience the grandeur of a major-league ballpark. Earlier this summer, it was time for a trip up I-71 for an afternoon game at Progressive Field, home to the Clippers' parent team, the Cleveland Indians (a.k.a. "The Tribe").

From the high-volume hawkers of hot dogs and cotton candy to the sky-high tiers of seats, from the fireworks for home runs or holding opponents scoreless to the swell of 40,000+ voices singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch, a major-league ballgame is a big experience. And nowhere did I feel that more than on the field after the game.

Thanks to a tip from neighbors who regularly attend Indians games, we found out that kids, 12 and under, get to run the bases right after the game ends (adults have to accompany them onto the field). When we arrived that day, I checked with one of the stadium workers (many of them are retirees, and all of them are super-friendly). From him, I learned that my son and I would need to join the other young base runners at the ramps behind Section 117 "beginning in about the eighth inning," said the worker, "because if you wait until after the game's over to line up, you'll wait an hour. Every kid in this stadium wants to run the bases."

Even for arriving in the middle of the eighth inning, we were still about 100th in line, but the crowd's mood (despite the Tribe losing that day) was buoyant and friendly. And what a thrill when the ramp line started moving "into the bowels of the stadium," as my son described it. We streamed quickly through the concrete corridors until we found ourselves out on the field. Though my son's run was over and done within a couple of minutes, the view and the experience was fantastic. And a big "thank you" to the Indians players who stayed on the field to high-five the youngsters.

I'm continually amazed nowadays at how comfortable and convenient it has become for families to attend professional sports events. I have vivid memories of traffic nightmares around Yankees Stadium, seat ushers at Rochester Red Wings games growling at autograph-seeking kids, and corpulent tubes of tastebud death (a.k.a. boiled hot dogs) at Islanders hockey games. No more.

Now you can expect orderly traffic flows (and I recommend the $12 parking garage at 650 Huron Road East for easy access right off Exit 171-B from I-90 East). You will find play areas for toddlers (Step 2 KidsLand behind Section 111), batting and pitching cages for kids just outside the field, and gluten-free fries and bags o'cotton candy inside.

It makes for a full day, when you factor in the two-plus hour drive from Central Ohio, but a trip to see the Tribe play is a major-league treat.

Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field

2401 Ontario St., Cleveland, 216-420-HITS (4487), indians.com

Cost: A KeyBank Grand Slam Four Pack ($96) gets you four mezzanine or upper-box tickets, four Pepsi products, four hot dogs and/or pizza slices and four Indians caps, plus one parking pass. Also available on game day are $8 "express tickets" (cash only, upper-reserved seats, sold outside Gate A) or $10 bleacher seats at every game.

Kid Tips: KeyBank Kids Fun Days provide free activities for kids, 12 and under, from 90 minutes before the game begins until the fifth inning for all Saturday and Sunday home games. The activities include batting and pitching cages, coloring stations, gaming stands and music. The remaining Kids Fun Days for 2011 are July 9, 10, 24, 30, 31; Aug. 13, 14, 27, 28; Sept. 24, 25. Also available for really little ones at every game is the Step 2 KidsLand behind Section 111; it features climbing toys for toddlers and preschoolers.