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Why I’m a fan of the Cleveland Indians

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World Series

Welcome to the refreshed Let’s Go Tribe! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to do the same, head over to the FanPosts to begin. We’re collecting all of the stories here: https://www.sbnation.com/why-we-are-fans

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How did I become a fan of the Cleveland Indians?

It happened twice, and I can only completely remember the second time. My parents took me to Spring Training games in Winter Haven when I was a baby. One of the first memories I can recall is sitting in the living room with my parents watching the 1995 World Series. I was four.

Central Florida didn’t have a baseball team. It didn’t have a football team, a major league hockey team (sorry, Solar Bears), or a soccer team. We had the Orlando Magic, and trust me, we were all ravenous fans of Penny, Shaq, Goggles, and 3D.

However, baseball meant more to me because my parents brought me into it. They both grew up in the Akron area and watched the old, miserable teams flail around in Municipal Stadium for years. Eventually they escaped Ohio along with the rest of their generation and went on an adventure that landed them in Orlando, with a family.

They would take my sisters and I out to Chain of Lakes Park every single year for at least one afternoon of bleacher tans and autograph hawking. We watched Albert Belle swing two bats in the on-deck circle, Omar Vizquel take fielding practice with a tiny glove, Kenny Lofton jog across the infielder faster than we’d seen anyone sprint. Even if my parents hadn’t raised us to watch the Indians, I think there’s a very good chance I would have, anyway. How could you not love those teams?

When I played tee-ball, I tried to hit like Jim Thome. When I played video games, they were always dynasty seasons of the Indians on the SNES “Griffey” games. Even in school, I found ways to incorporate the team into my life. In first grade we wrote and shared stories in groups with one kid from every grade level. I wrote mine about the Indians winning the 1997 World Series and convincing Lofton to come back.

Hey, part of it came true.

The first era came to an end because of problems on the field. I went through a string of disappointments playing that turned me off of the game completely for years. I threw myself into basketball, and then when it became clear that I’d never grow taller than 5’10, theatre and writing. Not until 2007 did I pay any attention to the team again, and that didn’t happen until it became clear that the Indians would contend. Powered by Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, and Victor Martinez at the plate, and guided by C.C. Sabathia, “Fausto Carmona”, and a completely inexplicable Rafael Betancourt, they battled to within one game of the World Series. I remember watching the last out at a Halloween party and realizing I was more upset about the baseball game than I was about my date cancelling.

The second era had begun

I charted the rise of Cliff Lee, Shin-Soo Choo, and Asdrubal Cabrera; the fall of Sizemore and Hafner; the utter nothingness of Andy Marte and Matt LaPorta. I can remember when Lonnie Chisenhall was a can’t-miss third base stud, and the shock I felt when my uncle suggesting that Carlos Santana wouldn’t be a catcher forever. Did I watch every game? No, because anyone who did between 2010-2012 would no longer be with us, bless their poor souls.

After the arrival of Tito and the incredible push to the playoffs in 2013, I either watched or checked the box score for every game. Now that I write about the team in some capacity, it’s rare that I don’t hear or watch at least part of every game. The miracle of MLB.tv helps, despite obligatory rendering issues. I even manage to see them play at Progressive Field every now and again.

It’s not just the Indians at this point; I can’t imagine not following baseball to the extent that I do now. We all know about Mike Trout’s dominance, but have you seen the numbers Michael Conforto is putting up? Yes, Andrew Miller is a marvel, but Chris Devenski’s arm is doomsday device. And the shortstops. My god, the shortstops.

What I can imagine is that there are four and five-year-old boys and girls somewhere right now, watching these Indians teams. Maybe somewhere in Arizona, where they can catch a spring training game every year. Maybe their brains are twitching a baseball stories into life, just like mine did.

Now it’s your turn!

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