Awards & Events

Cleveland Indians Forecast Exciting Summer

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Getting fans to come to baseball games can be tough. Getting fans from across the country to attend a Tuesday night game in the middle of the season? That’s the task the Cleveland Indians are working to tackle as they host the Major League Baseball All-Star Game July 9.

But for Indians vice president of public relations Bob DiBiasio, the Tribe has the right tools to pull it off.

“The city of Cleveland will have played host to six All-Star Games when we do so in July. No other city in America that has one team can boast playing host to six,” he said Thursday as the keynote speaker at a joint meeting of the Youngstown Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions clubs. “We’ve been around a long, long time and that history and tradition is going to gravitate people to Progressive Field for the jewel event that is the All-Star Game.”

Over the past few years, the team’s owners have invested more than $35 million in stadium upgrades, from the addition of small iimprovements like phone-charging stations to major projects like The Corner bar and restaurant options.

“We have 14 local restaurants in the food and beverage presentation at Progressive Field. … There’s something about the game of baseball where the food is vitally important to your total fan experience,” he said. “It’s that added value. If you drive an hour-plus, you want that total fan experience. You want a good product on the field and you want a heck of a lot of entertainment for your dollar.”

Still, he continued, what fans want most is to see a winning team, regardless of how many restaurants they can pick from or what giveaways are on the promotional schedule. (For the curious, the next two giveaways are May 4 and 5 against the Seattle Mariners.) And for that, the team’s early-season injuries have dampened some of that excitement. 

In a series against Detroit a few weeks ago, starting pitcher Mike Clevinger injured his back and is on the 60-day injured list. Pitcher Carlos Carrasco is day-to-day with a bruised leg. Center fielder Bradley Zimmer hurt his shoulder during spring training and is still going through rehab in Arizona.

Even with those injuries, DiBiasio says, the team is where it usually is in the standings at this time of year.

“With a team that’s had roster turnover like ours this year, you try to build an identity and it’s difficult when you don’t have the full complement of players you’re counting on. Last year, we ended April 15-12,” he said. “Today, going into the start of a road trip in Houston, we’re 13-10. We’re pretty much on par to last year and the year before.”

DiBiasio noted that since Terry Francona took over as manager six seasons ago, no team has won more games in the second half of the season than the Indians. 

“I don’t know why we turn it on in the second half, but that’s the nature of what Terry’s done in his six years as the skipper of the Cleveland Indians,” DiBiasio said.

With the Indians largely expected to win the American League Central division for the fourth consecutive year – 28 of 31 ESPN analysts picked the Tribe to win in the site’s season preview – the playoffs are a pretty sure bet again. 

“Fans should be looking for a championship-caliber baseball team,” he said. “Only the Los Angeles Dodgers have more wins than Cleveland Indians during the regular season the last six seasons. We haven’t been able to cross that finish line yet, but we’re poised and in a position to do so.”

The key will be getting fans to the stadium, he continued, something that’s likely to happen as the weather improves. Northeastern Ohio in mid-April isn’t always the most enjoyable place to catch a game, he admitted.

“We know they’re watching on television. We know they’re listening [on the radio],” DiBiasio said, noting the Indians have the highest rate of fan engagement via TV and radio in Major League Baseball. “Then when the weather gets warm, we know they’ll show up to the ballpark. We’ll have a lot of sellouts as we go into summer weekends.”

Pictured: Cleveland Indians vice president of public affairs Bob DiBiasio was the keynote speaker at a joint meeting of Youngstown service clubs Thursday.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.