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Opinion

This Tribe no longer wanders

1/3/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

On the Mark — By Craig Marks

There was a time when January meant gassing up the Cleveland Indians’ tour buses for the team’s winter press tour. Toward the end of the month, members of the Tribe family — players, coaches and mascots — would board a bus and travel to towns small and large, talkin’ baseball and solving crimes.

OK, forget the crime-solving part. (I confused it with Scooby-Doo’s Mystery Machine. Sorry.) But the “talkin’ baseball” part is certainly true. The Indians used to travel from Toledo to Erie, Pa., drumming up excitement for the upcoming season. For the last few years, the team’s abbreviated itinerary consisted of malls, including stops at Summit Mall that drew fans from as far away as West Virginia.

This year, if a member of the Indians is at Summit Mall, he’s likely there checking out Apple products or trying on slacks. There will be no Tribe on Tour event at Summit Mall or any other area mall.

Instead, the Indians are asking fans to come to them. They are holding what they call Tribe Fest 2013, which will take place in the lower level of Progressive Field Jan. 19-20. Tickets cost $10, and with your ticket, you can bring in two children 12 and younger. The team’s website, www.indians.com, has more information.

Tribe Fest will include elements of the mall events —player autographs, Q&As, photo opportunities — as well as tours of the clubhouse, press interview room and batting cages. There also will be youth baseball clinics, which, had they been conducted in the center of the mall, would have likely caused severe damage to the Starbucks cappuccino machine.

I can understand why the Indians would choose not to go hither and yon. Do you think President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney wanted such extensive knowledge of Northeast Ohio’s expressway system? Had it been possible for them to stay home and invite Ohioans to their respective home bases to hear their campaign speeches, they surely would have.

Other teams, including the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates, have their own fan fests, and it’s possible the Tribe Fest will be the baseball equivalent of getting to see Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. (“Oompa Loompa, do-ba-dee-doo, here are the players we picked up for Choo.”) Maybe at the end of the tour, guests will depart in a magical flying elevator that will soar to great heights before somehow ending up near the basement.

But I’ll miss the winter caravan. The friendliness of Jim Thome and John McDonald. The storytelling skill of Charlie Manuel. The vows of Milton Bradley that, this time, he’ll be a model player (which, in retrospect, showed his storytelling skill). And I’ll miss the excitement of the fans, who truly appreciated that members of their favorite team would make their way down I-77 in the dead of winter to spread some baseball cheer.

But that was in the days of the Indians tour bus. Now they’re leaving the driving to us.

 

Craig Marks’ Dec. 28, 2012, interview on “NewsNite Akron,” where he discusses his book, “On the Mark: A Compilation of Columns and Cartoons 1992-2012” (onthemarkbook.com), can be seen online at newsnite.net.

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