I’m not sure the sting of losing in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series will ever wear off. Getting so close to a championship and not closing the deal is excruciating, but over the past few days I’ve reminded myself of the importance of the journey rather than the destination. Even before the playoffs began, this had been the most memorable Indians season for me personally, and our playoff run was simply the cherry on top.
I want to remember the 2016 season vividly for the rest of my life, so it’s time for a diary of sorts. My own personal memories and interactions with the 2016 Cleveland Indians. (Warning: if you’re not a family member, or a really close friend, or an Indians fan, this post is going to bore the hell out of you. Even if you fall into those categories, you’ll probably still be bored. I’ll let you know when I write something more exciting.)
- First decision to be made to start the season is about MLB.tv. Do I get the yearly subscription or the monthly subscription? Yearly ends up being cheaper over the course of the season, but if the Indians are out of contention by mid-season, it’s a huge waste. Verdict: I went for the yearly. I’m all in for 2016. I feel it, this is going to be the year.
- May 31: Indians finish the day in 3rd in the AL Central, 2.5 games back of the Royals, after a 7-3 loss at home to the Rangers. Next night? Yan Gomes walk-off to beat the Rangers in 11 innings. Night after that? Come from behind victory 5-4 over the Royals. Momentum building just in time for me to arrive in Cleveland for the next 3 games against the Royals.
- Friday, Salazar is dominant, Cleveland wins. Oh, plus I got these cool sunglasses.
- Saturday, game starts with a 1-hour rain delay, during which I have my first interaction with Frankie Lindor. I’d heard plenty about how great he is with fans, and he didn’t disappoint. Oh, and the Indians win again with a stellar start from Tomlin. And a free retro Indians jersey. And Tyler Naquin’s first career home run!
- Sunday we weren’t planning on going to the game since it looked like it would be rained out. We were having breakfast at Denny’s just outside of Cleveland, and as I was scanning the weather at around 12:30pm, the forecast looked clear for game time, so we decided to chance it. Let’s make it 3 for 3. Again, the Indians didn’t disappoint. Naquin, Santana, and Lindor all homer to right field in the 5th inning. The rain eventually did descend on Progressive Field for a lengthy delay, during which we started the drive back home. We listened to Tom Hamilton on WTAM for the end of another Indians victory.
- In late June, I made the trek to St. Mary’s for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductions, where I had a chance to meet Dennis Martinez, hero of Game 6 of the 1995 ALCS for the Indians.
- July 1st: Canada Day. Jays vs. Indians in Toronto. We get some seats in the nosebleeds, literally sitting above the light standards. Before the game I had an interesting chat with Trevor Bauer about what he wanted to see happen after Roberto Perez returned from injury. He made a grimace that I will never forget (didn’t get a picture of it), since he had developed a close relationship with Chris Gimenez.
Massive Canadian flag during the anthem, Edwin Encarnacion and John Gibbons ejected in the 1st inning, met up with an old med school buddy, our friends left in regulation, then the longest game in Blue Jays history, 19 innings. Pompey and Goins pitching for the Jays. Multiple chances to win for both teams. Bauer with 5 shutout innings, and a Santana homer to win it. 14th straight win. Elation.
- Spent the next couple of days wandering around the Indians hotel looking for autographs. Yes, I realize I am an adult. But I’m a kid at heart. And hey, I have this neat souvenir now.
- The next two games in Toronto were awful, two losses, we blew through our bullpen, which eventually would lead to the releases of Chamberlain, Gorzelanny, and Hunter. I sat through a 17-1 Blue Jays win, which was probably karmic punishment for sneaking down to the expensive seats. Plus it was quite sunny, I didn’t wear sunscreen, and spent the whole game trying to hide in the shade created by the man sitting to my left. It certainly was not a Party at Napoli’s.
- August 19th: Celebrating my wife Jess’s birthday a day early at our house. I was following the game against the Jays on my phone as she blew out her candles. Jose homers to tie the game in the 9th! Now we’re eating cake, but there’s no way I’m turning the TV on to watch the game. Phone loading….loading….Naquin inside-the-park home run to win the game. Um…pardon me? Indians fans would watch the highlights from this moment dozens more times this season. Incredible.
- We were in Italy for the end of August as the Indians were heading towards the division title. With the time change, I was often up until 4am following the play by play on my phone. Everyone wondered why I was always napping so much in the car as we drove between cities…
- September 26th: Indians clinch the AL Central! The next night my clinic finished a bit early so I drove down to Detroit to spend some time with what would be a hungover bunch. We lost 12-0, which meant the Indians had lost a combined 29-1 in the last two games I had attended. Eek.
- Then the playoffs. Vanquished the Red Sox in 3 games. ALCS against the Jays. Watched all of game 1 on my phone at a friend’s wedding. Lindor with a 2-run blast to win it. Next day, Jess and I headed to Cleveland for Game 2 with some friends. Tomlin with a performance for the ages to put us up 2-0.
- Game 5 in Toronto. I found some cheap tickets, and went to watch from the 500s with my brother-in-law. I was expecting the worst with Ryan Merritt on the hill. Instead, we’re leading 3-0 going into the late innings. We snuck down to the 100s for the last two innings (thanks for the heads up for the open seats to Kevin Hopper). Cody Allen in for the save and Santana with the catch in foul territory to end it. Pure elation. Dozens of Indians fans at the dugout celebrating the victory with our team. Being 10 feet away from Lindor seeing his tears of joy celebrating with family. Here I am after the victory.
- World Series Game 5. Chance to win the World Series on the road, but unsuccessful. Carved this pumpkin to let off some steam.
And sure, the World Series didn’t end as planned, but I had one hell of a time with this team. They fought hard all season, dealt with injuries to multiple key players, and gave us moments to cherish for a life time.
Here’s hoping for a great 2017.