By Bruce Stambaugh
Another Major League Baseball season has begun. As a devoted Cleveland Indians fan, I’m hoping this will finally be the year they win it all. I say that every year. But this year is different.
Coming off of last year’s incredible run to the seventh game of the World Series, the Indians have a better than average chance of repeating as American League champions. That’s true if everything goes as planned. Like most things in life, they usually don’t. But Indians fans do what they have always done. We hope.
This year, however, my hope is less rosy, less enthusiastic. That has nothing to do with the Tribe’s chances.
It’s just that having attended my first ever World Series last year I saw the reality of professional baseball, the business end, the dark side if you will. I wasn’t impressed. My naiveté hit a brick wall.
As a member of a group of season ticket holders, we had prime opportunity to purchase our seats for the playoffs. Only, the seats we were given weren’t the ones we had during the regular season.
Our group discovered that Major League Baseball had confiscated our seats, and we had to purchase alternative seats two sections farther from home plate and twice as far from the field of play. MLB and the Indians treated other long-time season ticket holders similarly.
I didn’t have to inquire too far into the system to realize why. Money. Our tickets were being resold to the highest bidder, meaning they sold for thousands of dollars each.
The tickets for the substitute seats we were assigned went for half as much, if we wanted to sell them, which I didn’t. When I inquired of the Indians about the situation, I received no response.
I didn’t let that spoil my enjoyment of the World Series. I was happy for the Chicago Cubs, the World Series champions. I was elated for my oft-beleaguered Indians for just making it to the World Series.
Still, a bad taste lingered in my mouth until the Indians signed the only professional baseball player I know personally, Erik Kratz. He’s an acquaintance of our daughter’s family. His son and our grandson played on the same baseball team and were in preschool together. Though I have seen him in those settings, Erik wouldn’t know me from Adam.
Erik is 37 years old. That’s ancient in baseball time. He is past his prime playing days. And yet, he keeps trying to make a major league team. This year it was with my Indians.
A sports writer chronicled Erik’s long and windy path to the major leagues. Even after all these twists and turns, the ups and downs, the trades, and releases, the opportunities, and disappointments, Erik gave a very positive perspective about why he keeps playing baseball.
True to his faith, Erik shared a story of hope, determination, and dedication to both his career as a baseball player and his family. His story awakened me from my first world pouting.
If Erik could endure all the circuitous travels across the country, and the emotional ups and downs between major and minor league teams, I could certainly buck it up and give baseball one more try. Hope should always triumph over disillusionment.
I decided that I would not let the bureaucratic dark side spoil my lifetime love for the game. After all, this could be the year the Cleveland Indians win it all.
Hope is a true healer of all ills, especially for diehard Cleveland Indians fans.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2017