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Archive for June 2010

Trip to Pittsburgh: Yet Another First

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On June 19th, I saw my first Indians away game.

It has been years since I have gone on a real vacation. I have had opportunities, but the timing never seemed to be right. Either the opportunity did not interest me, I did not have the time to spare, or I could not financially afford it. In October of 2008 I took a mini-vacation. A weekend trip to Philadelphia to visit a college buddy. It was first out of state venture since my eighth grade class trip to Washington, D.C. Last weekend I took another mini-vacation. Another weekend visit to another college buddy. This time the trip was shorter distance, on the opposite side of the same state. It was my first visit to a city I have despised ever since I became a fan of the Cleveland Browns: Pittsburgh.

The two and a half hour drive, though riding alone, luckily did not drag and seem as long as I thought it would be. Once I crossed the border I immediately hit the familiar mountainous area of Pennsylvania I remember from my road trip to Philadelphia. After an hour it appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. The city skyline of Pittsburgh. The bridges over the three rivers. A very cool sight to say the least.

My first meal in the city was at Primanti Brothers, what I was told was one of the more popular restaurants in the downtown area. The selling point from this place was that each sandwich was served with French fries and coleslaw on it. Every sandwich from a cheese steak to a bacon and egg was topped off with French fries and coleslaw. I had heard about something like that before, but never experienced it. Being my first time trying such a concoction, I decided to go the safe route and try the cheese steak, the most popular sandwich on the menu. Though I am not a food critic, the sandwich made a good first impression and I would recommend the restaurant to anyone else visiting Pittsburgh for the first time.

The next stop on my tour was the Duquesne Incline. For anyone not familiar, it is like the Space Needles in Toronto, Seattle, or any amusement park. The only difference is instead of traveling vertical, the car moves on a diagonal incline like a roller coaster heading up a hill. Also, not only it is in fact a transport up a hill, the top of which is a high class residential area. The area at the top of the hill has several platforms overlooking the city, providing an awesome view. From that point, the Pittsburgh skyline reminded of Cleveland. The only thing missing was the pay-binoculars that are found at such historic places such as Niagara Falls and atop the Empire State Building.

The remainder of the night my buddy/tour guide Steve, his brother, and I went on a car ride throughout the rest of the city, including through the campuses of Pitt, Duquesne, and Carnegie-Mellon, and a few of the city bars. However, we decided to save the more important stops for the next afternoon.

After a bigger than expected lunch at Rock Bottom, Steve and I parked at what he called his favorite downtown garage and proceeded on a more extended walking tour of downtown Pittsburgh, on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far. The highlight of the tour was stepping up to the gates of Heinz Field. Being from Cleveland, many of my family and friends from Ohio begged me to do something illegal to the building. However, out of respect to Steve, and of course, fear of incarceration, I refrained from defacing the infamous home of the Steelers. Before my trip, I inquired about where exactly the three rivers met. I was informed there was in fact a pin-pointed location called “the Point” and was marked by a fountain. Unfortunately, the entire area was under construction and we were not able to make our way to the precise location.

The reason I chose this past weekend to take my first trip to Pittsburgh was to experience another first: my first Cleveland Indians away game against the Pirates. Before making our way to PNC Park, Steve and I stopped off for dinner at the Jerome Bettis Grill, a popular sports restaurant owned by the former Steelers Pro Bowl running back. I quickly learned that the restaurant often gets crowded on game days, as we waited for almost an hour to get a table. However, the wait was worth it. I ended up having one of the best burgers I had ever tasted. The wait ended up being a positive as it killed some time and left us with just enough time to arrive at PNC Park before a rainstorm that was forecasted all day. On the walk to the stadium I was surprised that some Pirates fans actually tailgated before games. However, Indians fans these days do not have that luxury as the main lot where Browns fans tailgate was nowhere near walking distance to Progressive Field. The stadium itself was an interesting sight. Many of its concession stands are not built into the stadium like they are at Progressive Field. The built-ins were in fact smaller versions of some restaurants in town, including Primanti Brothers. Also, like the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium and current Cleveland Browns Stadium, PNC Park overlooked a body of water in the Allegheny River.

Once the rain died down after about an hour wait, we made our way to our seats in the upper deck. I decided these were the best seats for its value as opposed my usual bleacher seats in Cleveland because the PNC outfield was about 40 feet deeper than at Progressive. Additionally, our upper deck seats were right above home plate with a great view of the mound. The game received a greater attendance than I expected. Like the Indians, the Pirates are not a good baseball team and receive sparse crowds for the their games. I then learned this game was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Pirates’ 1960 World Series victory. Before the game, the remaining living players and coaches from that team, plus the family of Roberto Clemente, were presented on the field. Everyone in attendance received a collector’s mug recounting the championship.

The game itself, like many Tribe games this season, had its ups and downs. The Indians struck first right away, but the Pirates immediately responded. David Huff, the Indians’ starting pitcher for the night, walked the first two batters he faced and allowed Pittsburgh to get right back into the game. His struggles continued as he was abused by Andrew McCutchen and Lastings Milledge, who was a homer short of the cycle, all night, and allowed the first career hit by Pirates rookie third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Huff lasted only five innings, throwing 105 pitches and allowing five runs on six hits, with only two strikeouts and a ridiculous six walks. Russell Branyan got the Indians back into the game with a three-run homer, but the Pirates bullpen shut them down and preserved a 6-4 win, snapping a twelve-game losing streak and starting the Indians on what turned out to be a seven-game losing streak.

Because the game was delayed by an hour and did not end until almost midnight, Steve and I had decided to call it a night since I had planned to head home the next morning. After this weekend trip, however, I do plan to return to Pittsburgh one day when there is no baseball game to be seen. Ever since I bought my first car two and a half years ago, I planned to head out to Pittsburgh to visit my college friend one day. Being from Cleveland though, I was reluctant to do so given that I had detested the city for so long. I learned that as long as I am not wearing anything related to the Browns, those who live in Pittsburgh are decent enough. This mini-vacation left me with a certain respect for the city of Pittsburgh.

Credit for the photo to http://www.viewpoint.com

Tribe Social Deck: Another First

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The Tribe Social Deck is the Cleveland Indians' new marketing feature this season.

When Twitter was first created, I couldn’t understand the use for it. It seemed to me it was just a different way of updating a Facebook status. Since I already had a Facebook account, I saw no reason to create one on Twitter. For the next three years, I laughed at and teased anyone who used Twitter. After stating my newly discovered interest in a public relations career last summer, I was introduced to the Cleveland Social Media Club. I quickly learned that most of the group’s members, many of them in PR, were on Twitter. As the next six months went by, I discussed the benefits of having a Twitter account with my new acquaintances and this past February I finally caved. I spent an afternoon trying to learning the ropes of Twitter, but it was another three months before I understood the majority of its features. I’m still trying to figure out the benefits, though last night I earned one of them: a pass to the Tribe Social Deck.

On opening day of the Cleveland Indians season, two of my acquaintances turned friends in the Social Media Club “tweeted” about being the first people to have passes to the new “Cleveland Indians Social Media Deck.” Being a lifelong baseball fan, my interest was definitely piqued. I learned that it was a new section at Progressive Field on the homerun porch to the right of the bleachers. It was targeted toward people like myself who use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. As the season continued, I began following any Indians-related Twitter names. In addition, a few more of my friends got to witness a game from the new Tribe Social Deck. With no idea how to get tickets to sit in this new section, I asked one of my friends about it and he gave me the e-mail address of Rob Campbell, the Indians’ public relations rep who oversees the section. Little did I know, I had been following him on Twitter all season long. After e-mailing Rob, he responded saying there would be an application on the Indians’ website soon, but he also asked me if there was a specific game I had in mind. I was stunned by that question. Was it really that easy to get into the Social Deck? I ended up meeting Rob at the last Social Media Club meeting and discussing it more with him. He explained the Tribe Social Deck is the first of its kind in all of professional sports. Tickets could not be bought for this section, rather obtained by filling out an application and proving to him that fans are worthy of sitting in a section dedicated to social media users. He told me to e-mail him when the homestand of the game I wanted to attend began. I suppose it was so easy for me because I had been following him on Twitter since the baseball season started and I pledged my loyalty to the Tribe relentlessly. Two weeks ago Rob confirmed two passes for me for last night’s game against the New York Mets, yet I had trouble finding a guest. Was it that nobody wanted to go to a game in the middle of the work week? Did everyone already have prior commitments? Or has everyone I know bailed on the Tribe because they aren’t playing well? Probably a combination of all three. Luckily I was able to find a guest in a family member at the last minute.

When we arrived at the Social Deck, I was pretty surprised right away. I expected the section to be like a VIP area with a locked gate or a security guard. Yet it seemed to be just like any other section, open to anyone but expecting an usher to check tickets for validation. From a view standpoint, I couldn’t see leftfield very well, but it was a closer view to the mound than where I usually sit in the bleachers. Also, what I would be missing on anything hit to left was fixed by the TV that was placed in the corner of the deck. There were also Wi-Fi access and power outlets for those who chose to bring computers to the game, but I chose not to, feeling it would be too distracting. The other people who had received passes to the Social Deck for that game arrived and the chatter began. On a side note, I really have seemed to come out of my shell since I started and then finished college. As a teenager I was extremely shy and unwilling to make any first moves talking to people. Over the years I learned to be more vocal and have developed into somewhat of a social butterfly, as my mom called me last week. So obviously had no trouble speaking with those with me on the Social Deck. I believe the relaxed atmosphere and common interest also helped move conversation along as well. When Rob arrived in the second inning, I and the other guests received another perk from the section, a packet of Tribe statistics the media receives and uses during the broadcasts. My eyes lit up at the sight as I used to create my own media packets for fun as a kid. I would do this by hand and reading magazines as this was before computers and the internet became popular. That media packet is an example of something I would love to do for a career. It is something I used to do and still would do for free I enjoy it so much. Naturally, two of the other guests started “tweeting” as the game continued, but having to pay for internet access on my phone and not having a computer, I could not. Luckily, this was not a prerequisite to sitting on the Tribe Social Deck.

Now, to a few game notes. The Indians took a decent early lead, but Justin Masterson was not as good as he had been his last three starts, giving up seven runs in seven innings. Travis Hafner hit his fourth homerun in the last six games. He really appears to be locked in right now. Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez, virtually knittable, gave up a two-run homer to Shelley Duncan in the ninth inning, but was able to hold on and close out the Tribe and give the Mets a 7-6 victory. Johan Santana, who had never beaten the Indians in his career before last night, rebounded from being roughed up early to pitch a decent game. Rookie Tribe shortstop Jason Donald was beat up all night long. He was the victim of many tough groundballs, a consequence from a sinker ball pitcher like Masterson. I have a great deal of respect for Donald after he hustled down the line to create the controversial call at the end of the “blown perfect game.” I really felt for the kid last night as he just could not catch a break and have a ball hit right to him. Each grounder was hit hard to either side of him and he finished the night with two errors and a few more wild throws. Mets third baseman David Wright is faster than I thought he was. Of his three hits last night, two of them were infield singles on hard hit groundballs.

Despite the Tribe’s second straight loss, my first time experiencing the Tribe Social Deck was a lot of fun and something I look forward to experiencing again. To any Tribe fans who use Social Media religiously, I strongly recommend applying for passes to this elite section of Progressive Field.

Credit for photo goes to http://www.waitingfornextyear.com

A Series of Firsts

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Stephen Strasburg lived up to the hype in his first road start.

This is the debut entry of my first ever blog. The title is tentative at the moment. To give you an idea of who I am, my name is Anthony Pokorny. I have lived in northeast Ohio my entire life. Like many men, I am a sports fanatic. Baseball is my passion. I grew up in a baseball-loving family and I have never let my love of the game slip. Naturally my favorite team is the Cleveland Indians and no matter how bad the team gets, I will never abandon them.

How appropriate is it that in my first post on the first blog of my life, I will be talking about a couple of other firsts. Yesterday I attended my first Cleveland Indians game of the season. They took on the Washington Nationals, looking to sweep the team after winning the first two games of the series, and extend their winning streak to five games. The starting pitcher for the Nationals was their rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg. Since he was only making his second career Major League start, this was also my first time seeing him pitch live.

Knowing the Indians would play Washington at home this season, I kept a sharp eye on any news regarding Strasburg from the very beginning. Upon hearing when he may make his big league debut, I did my calculations in order to figure out if the Indians would face him. Once the news was released, I made my quick decision, found two more people to go with me, and scored three tickets in the middle of the bleachers at Progressive Field.

Everyone baseball fan in America knows the hype surrounding this kid and for the most part he lived up to it as the Nationals salvaged the series against the Tribe on getaway day with a 9-4 victory. Strasburg finished the day allowing only one run on two hits with eight strikeouts and five walks in 5-1/3 innings. A very good day for the 21-year old. However, it could have just as easily turned average.

The first four innings Strasburg was as dominant as he was in his debut. He was popping the glove at a consistent 99 mph and hitting 100 a few times. As expected, the Indians barely touched him. Travis Hafner sat dead-red on the 100 mph heat and launched it into the front row of the mezzanine in his first at-bat. But aside from that, nothing. The homer did not even phase Strasburg.

What did seem to get under his skin was an apparent issue he took with the pitcher’s mound. Twice he stopped the game to have the Tribe grounds crew fix the front of the mound. My brother, who witnessed the game with me, suggested his Indians counterpart, left-handed David Huff was digging the hole with his landing foot, causing Strasburg to slide around during his pivot. While I don’t disagree with Strasburg taking issue, I do have a problem with twice stopping play to have the grounds crew fix it. This is probably a case of rookie growing pains. I rarely, if ever, see a veteran pitcher stop a game to have the mound fixed if they see one little problem with it, let alone twice in one game. What do they do? They deal with it. They try to make adjustments by themselves. As good as he is, if he starts to complain about every little problem he sees with the mound, he is not going to make any friends around the league.

The issues with the mound, coupled with the umpire beginning to squeeze Strasburg a bit, led to five walks and what many consider to be an early exit from the game. He was pulled in the sixth inning after walking the bases loaded. The Indians could have considered that a moral victory, but they could have done better. With Strasburg out of the game, they had an opportunity to capitalize and charge more runs to his line for the day. However, the Nationals’ other first-round draft pick from last year and another fireballer, Drew Storen, came in and shut them down.

After the Indians were nearly victims of a perfect game two weeks ago against a mediocre pitcher, I half-expected Strasburg to come into Cleveland Sunday and actually make a perfect game stick. However, being a die-hard Tribe fan, although it would be amazing to see live, I did not want to see it happen. So when Hafner wasted no time in bombing Strasburg in the second inning, I was elated. Despite not being able to make great contact against Strasburg, I was impressed the Indians learned from the Pirates’ mistakes and exercised enough patience at the plate to run up his pitch count and draw five walks. It was decent execution of a good game plan, but they could not capitalize and the Indians pitching staff did not hold up their end of the game.

Stephen Strasburg was quite impressive and did live up to the hype. But as many people have already pointed out, he pitched his first two games against sub-par teams in the Pirates and Indians. His real test will come when he faces stronger hitting teams such as the Reds and Dodgers, or premier National League hitters like Albert Pujols, David Wright, and Ryan Howard. He made a good first impression and he is definitely something I would like to witness from the behind the plate the next time he pitches at Progressive Field.

Credit for image goes to http://jeffrsabo.wordpress.com/

Written by apokorny

June 14, 2010 at 11:49 pm