The Boys of Summer
Tribe players give the inside scoop about Cleveland Indians baseball
By Heather Tunstall
Ahh, baseball season. That time of year when Cleveland fans of America's favorite pastime bid good riddance to winter and toast the start of walk-off wins and hot dog races (go, and you'll see what we're talking about).
The 2017 season has fans bouncing on their toes already. After a 2016 World Series run that took the Indians to Game 7 against the Chicago Cubs in an epic roller-coaster of a finale (where they ended up falling short by this much), the Tribe is back to work--and they've got their game faces on.
If you're in town during game-day, do yourself a favor and make your way to Progressive Field. Or just go ahead and build a trip around baseball, because it's totally worth it. The venue got a face-lift in 2016 with a two-story bar crowning right field where it meets the first base line (aptly named, "The Corner"), the addition of several uniquely Cleveland satellite restaurants that offer everything from pierogi-topped grilled cheese sandwiches to build-your-own tacos, and restructured seating that allows for better viewing no matter where you are in the ballpark. Not to mention the insane jumbotron installed last season (the biggest scoreboard in baseball).
Beyond the stadium itself, the fan experience is top-notch even for non-baseball folks and lovers of baseball will get to see some of the best of the best do their thing.
We caught up with some of the players themselves to get their take on the team, the city, and the upcoming season (and we were totally smooth about it, not at all fan-girling).
What are you most looking forward to in the 2017 season?
Francisco Lindor (#12, shortstop): Seeing the city and how it's going to get behind us. I think that's going to be special, it's going to be a great run, and I'm looking forward to just competing and playing the game and playing as hard as we can day in and day out for the city. That's the reason we do it--we do it for the city.
Michael Brantley (#23, outfielder): Being out there with my teammates again, and just being able to be around a group of guys that work so hard, that care for one another. I think we learned a lot from last year and got a lot of experience under our belt, and I think it made us hungrier to get back there.
Lonnie Chisenhall (#8, outfielder): With the people coming back from last year and the addition of Edwin [Encarnacion], which speaks for itself, we're looking forward to being a very competitive team this year. I think we hold ourselves to higher expectations than anybody else can. Our team chemistry meant a lot to us last year, and I think it's going to mean a lot to us this year, and I look forward to getting back to work.
Corey Kluber (#28, pitcher): Hopefully we win one more game in the postseason. I think that obviously we've got a great group of guys, so it's fun to come to work every day. We had a fun run last year, but hopefully we can do just a little bit better this year.
What's it mean to you to wear a Cleveland Indians jersey?
Josh Tomlin (#43, pitcher): For me, it means everything. It's something I've been trying to achieve since I was a little kid--to play in Major League Baseball, and to play in an organization like this is. This city's been awesome--I love this city, so it means a lot to me to be able to wear that uniform.
Tyler Naquin (#30, outfielder): A lot. There are a lot of good guys on this team. It starts with Tito up front--and from the camera crew, to the lunch room, to the ballpark to the ushers, everything, I think everyone is proud to be a part of that stadium and be a part of that atmosphere.
Carlos Carrasco (#59, pitcher): Every time I wear the Cleveland Indians jersey, I know I represent a city. I have so much respect for the city, so I try to do the best I can so that they can see that.
Lindor: It's a legacy. The stuff that the players have left behind, it's really cool, especially as one of the oldest franchises. To wear the Indians jersey is really special.
Brantley: It's a great honor to play at the major league level and get to put a major league uniform on. It's all of our dreams as a kid to be able to be a baseball player, so we don't take that for granted. Wearing a Cleveland uniform just makes it a little more special from what we're building here as a group.
Chisenhall: Cleveland is all I know as far as professional sports go, and it means more and more each year. Especially the kind of run we made last year, the Cavs run last year, the city is coming together--it's growing and I'm able to be a part of it, so that's just a bonus.
What do you like about Cleveland?
Lindor: Right now it's a winning city. The fans are really into sports. They're very supportive, so it's fun, it's a fun city to be in right now. I love Cleveland and I'm glad I'm a Clevelander.
Andrew Miller (#24, pitcher): The atmosphere in the playoff games was incredible, and any time you have the potential for that, it's worth it.
Carrasco: You know what? I really like the city, the fans, the people--everything. I live here maybe six or eight months, even after the season--I really like it.
Tomlin: For me, it's pretty special. The people around here, they're very generous and very supportive of what we do. When I walk around this city and talk to people around here, it just has that feeling of everybody is down to earth, everybody cherishes what they've earned. That really means a lot.
Brantley: I like all the sporting events you get to attend, and just having the Cavs and the Browns right down the road, and being around this great city of fans that care about their sports and just how fun it is to see the fan base come alive.
What would you like to say to the fans?
Yan Gomes (#7, catcher): We got to see how exciting it was during postseason and I hope we can keep that momentum going. How loud and how excited everybody was--that's a huge advantage, so come help us out not just in the end, but throughout the whole season.
Naquin: We want to thank them from the bottom of our hearts. That fan base was unbelievable toward the end of the season and it's greatly appreciated. As much love as they showed us, we wish we could show it back somehow. We just try to do it on the field.
Miller: We're all working hard for that one more win. We're doing everything we can to get one more win.
Carrasco: Oh, the fans here are incredible. Even now if I go somewhere, they recognize me and I talk to them and give them a high five. I just want to say to the fans that I hope to see them on Opening Day.
Kluber: First off, thank you. We'd all probably like to say thank you and we appreciate the support. And secondly, the louder we can get Progressive Field, obviously the more of an advantage it is for us, and the more fun it is for us to play there.
Challenge accepted, Klubot. See you at the ballpark.