I should be excited. Today is the Indians home opener, a day that Clevelanders look forward to every year. Spring is (mostly) here and the promise of summer is right around the corner. Baseball season is full of fresh hope and playoff dreams, and the Tribe hasn’t managed to break our hearts … yet.
But this year’s opener is very bittersweet for me. It brings back memories of a fallen friend, one who was with me through so many moments and memories from seasons past.
As kids we watched the Indians play at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. It didn’t matter how many games they lost — and trust me, they lost a LOT — piling into the station wagon for a trip to the ballpark was exciting. We spread out across the deserted rows of general admission, making sure to leave enough empty spaces so that we could bang the empty wooden seats along to the beating of John Adams’ drum.
In the mid-90’s, we were amazed at the glorious new stadium and the crowds it drew. (I mean, where WERE all of these people for the 1991 season?!?) But we were excited to have attendance high enough to actually do the wave! We sat in the bleachers and screamed for Manny Ramirez (her) and Sandy Alomar (me). We rode the wave of playoff excitement, and consoled each other when our World Series dreams were dashed.
We kept going to the Jake even after the shiny newness wore off, and we kept calling it the Jake even after the name was changed. (The Prog??? I think not!) We were older and had jobs but we both worked strange shifts, so we went to some of those great midweek afternoon games together. The kind where sitting in a baseball stadium at noon on a Thursday feels like playing hooky, and you feel sorry for all of the office stiffs stuck in their 9-5 jobs. We sat through games where we baked in the sun, froze in the lake breeze, or got drenched in the pouring rain. And we had fun together every single time.
We went on a road trip to see the Tribe play in Chicago. We boldly wore our Indians garb into enemy territory, ate their dollar hot dogs, and tried our best to let our team know we were there to support them … even though they lost. We planned another trip to catch a game in Detroit last summer, but it fell through. And now it will never happen.
As the players and coaches were heading to Goodyear to start spring training, she lost her battle with leukemia. There is one less fan in Tribe Town this season, one less voice in the crowd.
Every time I watch a game, I will miss her. I know that I will still yell and cheer, although my voice will never be loud enough to make up for the loss of hers. I will hold on to the hope of victory until the last pitch has been thrown, just like she did.
This season’s for you, Mel.
The author is running the 2013 Rock ‘N’ Roll Cleveland half marathon while raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Please consider making a donation: http://pages.teamintraining.org/noh/rnrclevh13/MileageMama
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