In late July, the fine folks who run the official Indians Twitter account were asking trivia questions and handing out prizes to the most handsome people to answer those questions correctly. (Or maybe it was the wittiest people, or most charming people... I can’t remember the exact parameters for how they chose the winners.) I was able to correctly identify Bob Feller and Luis Tiant as the Indians pitchers, who, along with Danny Salazar this year, had ever had 10+ wins and 100+ strikeouts over the course of their first 15 starts in a season.
Given that I live just outside Chicago, a solid five and a half hours from Progressive Field, tickets to a game might have been worthless to me, but I figured my chances of winning were slim, and I enjoy finding arcane bits of baseball trivia (You didn't realize that about me, I know.), I figured what the heck. I took a couple minutes to track down the correct answer, fired it off, and figured that was that. That wasn't that though, as the next day I received an email saying I'd won, and the prize wasn't just tickets to a game, it was tickets to a game and the opportunity to participate in something called the Stealing Second Base Experience. At the end of the sixth inning, when the grounds crew goes out to touch up the infield, I'd go with them, and I'd be able to remove second base from the field and take it with me. Why throw out a pitch or watch batting practice from the field when you can reenact the greatest hits of Lou Piniella?
My wife is from the Cleveland area, making it somewhat easier to convince her to spend a lot of time in the car in order to watch her husband potentially struggle to remove a piece of rubber from the dirt. I was also fortunate that the game was on a Saturday night and that my school year hadn't started up yet. It seems pretty clear that the stars were aligning for me to do this thing, so do it I would.
The seats we were given were pretty great, 15th row behind home plate:
The Indians fell behind earlier, as they have in most of Josh Tomlin's recent starts, but fans were still riding high off the buzz from Tyler Naquin's inside-the-park home run the night before, so no one was feeling too down. In the bottom of the fourth, the Tribe rallied to tie the game back off, with a home run by Lonnie Chisenhall doing the heaviest lifting. Around the same time a light rain began to fall, but between the game being tied up and the knowledge that I'd soon be running by Francisco Lindor's workspace, I wasn't going to let a little precipitation get me down. My wife and I went to the spot we were told to meet the person who'd take me wherever it was I needed to be.
We took an elevator down to the tunnels beneath the seats, which is where the outer doors to both clubhouses are, along with the stadium's batting cages. We could hear someone taking swing's in there, and I really wanted to open the door and find out who it was (hopefully some random team employee trying to get ready for his rec league softball game the next afternoon.), but I resisted the temptation. We got to see some mementos from Tribe history, including a giant flag that used to fly at Municipal Stadium:
The gate I was to enter from is between the Cleveland Clinic and Pepsi ads near the left field foul pole, and we watch the bottom of the sixth on a TV on the wall inside that gate. When the second out was recorded and the grounds crew still hadn't appeared, the woman we were with went to find someone. When she came back a minute later, it was clear she had bad news: Because of the light rain earlier in the night, the grounds crew wasn't going to be going out, and they weren't about to let my fool ass run out there unaccompanied.
So, I didn't get to run on the field and slide into second base. Instead, I was given the base that would have replaced the one I was to take, and had to reenact Rickey Henderson's record-breaking celebration and speech in the tunnel instead of on the field. I think they felt bad that I'd come all that way and wasn't going to get the chance to trip and fall in front of 33,000 people, and before the game ended I was also in possession of a t-shirt, a water bottle, a fedora, and a ball autographed by Corey Kluber, which is a pretty good haul, especially since this turn of events didn't put me at risk of being arrested after trying to tell Kipnis that I'm named Jason too!
Despite some disappointment on missing out on a ridiculous experience that would've made for a good story (and despite the Indians eventually losing 6-5), I had a great time at the game, and have nothing but good things to say about the team employees I interacted with via email before the game and in person during the game. Every time I look at the base I have no real place to put, and the autographed ball that looks nice next to the Bob Feller and Francisco Lindor ones I already had, I'll know that all the time I've spent over the years tracking down random baseball stats finally paid off.