With the season winding down, I thought: time for my love story-reposted.
I like baseball. I started liking it five years ago when I began working at the Rogers Centre. I was to look after an executive suite right behind home plate, where I would watch the game while serving the occasional drink to bank employees and their clients. Since I was there every home game, I felt like I had developed a personal connection with the Blue Jays and really got to know the intricacies of the game through them. My boyfriend, Francisco, noticed my growing fascination with the sport and asked me to accompany him to see his favorite team, the Cleveland Indians, play a home game. It would be our first time visiting a ballpark outside of Rogers Center and our first trip together as a couple.
September long weekend, we began our small journey; traveling through the “armpit of America” known as Buffalo and made our way into the state of Ohio. With Cleveland only a half hour away, we stopped at a gas station to fill up and buy some authentic American candy. Twenty minutes, and one sugar-high later, I saw it: Exit 174B, Downtown Cleveland. We cruised by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland Browns Stadium and Quicken Loans Arena, all right in the heart of the city with the one-and-only Jacobs Field.
Francisco and I dropped our bags off at the Days Inn we found just outside the downtown core. The area did not seem very safe, but we just decided it was all part of the Cleveland experience. We double-checked that we had locked the car doors before embarking on a two kilometer walk to our destination, ball gloves in hand. We played catch as we walked the Cleveland streets and sidewalks, meeting different characters along the way. A college kid walking in our direction with a brown paper bag, asked us if we were going to the game and if we would like to have some of his gin. He held up the paper bag and we respectfully declined his generous offer. Closer to ‘the Jake,’ there were street vendors lined up along the sidewalk. “Cashews! Peanuts! Cheaper on the outside!” shouted a woman at her nut stand as we crossed ninth street, ball-gloves off, holding hands.
Fran and I entered the park and were given Indians souvenir blankets because it was fan appreciation day. Everything inside ‘The Jake’ was beautiful. It was a real-life ballpark. I could smell the nostalgia in the air. I could feel it as we walked through Heritage Park: an area specifically dedicated to former Cleveland Indians that rose above the rest. There were many moments of serenity for me that day as I walked, holding my boyfriends hand, pointing at everything I noticed because I thought everything I was seeing was worth noticing. I looked out onto the visitors batters box, long before the players would take their positions. The small round tarp with a faded MLB logo had a big bat, weights, rosin and pine tar resting beside it, waiting for the first batter. The stands had green cast-iron folding seats with a gold-painted batter on each side, the aisle letter underneath his feet. Television could never have captured the magic of the place I was seeing. I realized, then, I was going to see the other twenty-eight MLB parks, and I was going to do it with Francisco.
The Indians won that night. Fireworks went off as the song ‘Cleveland Rocks’ played throughout the field. Fans were invited to stay after the game and bring their souvenir blankets onto the outfield to watch the best baseball movie ever made: The Natural. Everything about that night was special. It was the night I really fell in love with baseball and I could not have imagined a better person to be sharing it with.