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2016 was special for the Indians; 2017 feels like it’ll be even better

Reflections on the Indians’ miraculous 2016 season from a Toyota Sienna on I-90.

World Series - Chicago Cubs v Cleveland Indians - Game Seven Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

For a blog that covers the Cleveland Indians, Let’s Go Tribe has a surprisingly low number of writers who currently live in the city of Cleveland. We have a couple close by, in Ohio, but most are centered around Chicago and a few are scattered throughout the rest of North America. I’m one of those in the last group.

Though I’m not too terribly far away in western New York, it’s still a five-hour drive just to get to Cleveland and see an Indians game. It’s a pilgrimage I try to make at least once a season, but in-between I’m left with only the occasional glimpse of Progressive Field as I drive out west.

One of those glimpses came over this Christmas break, when my family packed into our van and drove to Michigan to visit my wife’s family. The trip is always long and exhausting — seven hours according to GPS, 11 hours with child-created delays — but there’s always one highlight of the driving the same route I’ve driven a dozen times already: seeing Progressive Field from Interstate 90.

There’s always a small bit of excitement when we cruise by it, how it sort of appears around the bend of I-90 then for a few glorious seconds comes into full view as I stare and narrowly avoid swerving into the adjacent lanes of traffic. At most, I usually get a thought of “neat, the Indians play there and sometimes I go there,” or during the regular season if I am on a roadtrip there’s that extra-special moment of driving by while Tom Hamilton roars over the radio.

But it felt different this time. I have always been invested in the Indians one way or another, whether it was just as someone who passively watched as a kid, to someone who rooted as an adult to someone now who has to spend almost every waking moment of every day following what the team does to find things to analyze or react to. There’s a new layer to it now, though. I felt a connection like I never had to the team this year. I was too young to really experience the highs, and eventual lows, of ‘95 or ‘97 and I did not know that many baseballs fans in 2007, let alone Indians fans, to commiserate with.

This year’s World Series run was more than I could have ever imagined — both more fun as a fan watching the team and more work as a fan covering the Indians. Twitter especially a blast, so many dumb jokes and GIFs that seemed to resonate with people, coupled with so many excellent posts from the Let’s Go Tribe staff that reached so far into void of the internet. I’m equally proud of watching this team as I am of the team assembled at Let’s Go Tribe to cover it. The increased attention and excitement around the team has made it feasible to move into really fun video things, which is only going to grow in 2017.

I didn’t even think we would get to this point, though. I can’t even explain the kind of low I felt after game seven ended. I jokingly tweeted “okay TV off” after Michael Martinez grounded out to the end series, but it could not have been a more serious tweet. The moment the ball hit Anthony Rizzo’s glove, I turned off the game and I still haven’t watched the Chicago Cubs celebrate outside of some cuts in Championship Blu-Ray commercials. After I wrote the recap, I didn’t want to even think about baseball for days. The Indians taking up Carlos Santana’s option forced me to do so, but it still didn’t feel great.

And then, after all that, the Indians went out and signed Edwin Encarnacion. The emotional scar of games six and seven will never fully heal, but the Indians did their best to make us all forget immediately. There is no longer a “dolanz is cheep” or #RightHandedPowerBat meme. The Indians are not half-assing anything right now, and they deserve any amount of respect we can give them. I’m sure I’ll disagree with some things they do this year, as all fans should, but from top to bottom they did everything they could to make 2016 an amazing year to be an Indians fans.

As I drove by Progressive Field earlier this week, there was just this swell of excitement that I’ve never felt from looking at the outside of a building before. And frankly, I hope I never feel the same way looking at any other inanimate object because I really don’t want to end up on an episode of My Strange Addiction. But there’s just this boundless hope and optimism seeing Progressive Field that I hope carries over throughout all of 2017, that rare feeling of succeeding and still feeling like you have so many more ways to improve. Long-distance drive and all, I’m going to make it to as many games as possible this year. I hope you do, too.

Overall, I’m just so excited for 2017. Excited for the Indians, excited for Indians fans, and excited to watch some goddamn baseball again. No matter what kind of emotions you had after the Indians lost the World Series, after they “blew a 3-1 lead,” I hope you let them go by now. Last year was special, and the Indians are primed to be even better going forward.

Have a safe and Happy New Year. Let’s Go Tribe.