Feelings to Tribe changed over time
My father was correct all those years ago when he told me that my taste buds would change.
Growing up, I had an immense disdain for broccoli and tomatoes. Now, I find them tolerable and can eat them regularly.
I’m still working on bananas and egg whites.
What my father did not tell me was that my feeling towards certain sports teams would evolve also.
Today, I can assert that I am a fan of the Cleveland Indians.
Back in the day when I would stuff my vegetables into a napkin and toss it in the garbage when my parents weren’t looking, I had to put up with the yearly success of the Indians being one of the best teams in baseball.
Cleveland and Pittsburgh just cannot coexist peacefully, right?
As the only diehard Pirates fan in my Youngstown elementary school class, I was forced to put up with Chief Wahoo logos on every classroom door. The Indians were the team to beat in the mid-1990s. Unfortunately, it was my Pirates who were beaten more than just about anyone.
Our classes would have “Tribe Days” when the team was in the playoffs. Instead of our Catholic school uniform, we were allowed to wear red and blue Indians gear.
I stuck to black and gold.
And I stuck out like a sore thumb.
That’s not to say I didn’t want to distance myself away from the Indians as much as possible. My father would take me to one Indians game a year to offset the 10-15 trips we would take to Three Rivers Stadium to see the Pirates.
Going to then-Jacobs Field was like going to see a Broadway performance in New York City. “The Jake” was brand new and every game was sold out — 455 straight sellouts to be exact.
At an early season game in April with snow flurries and temperatures in the 20s, I was starstruck by the fact that Albert Belle wasn’t wearing sleeves under his white jersey.
Indians games carried a different aura than Pirate games at the time. I was used to the National League teams and could name the starting lineups of about every team in the Central Division. In Cleveland, I had to adjust to teams I had barely even heard of.
Athletics and Rangers and Devil Rays, oh my!
Even watching the games on television were, somewhat, exciting. I loved the tone of Tom Hamilton, Jack Corrigan and John Sanders (a former KDKA-TV personality). They were mostly enjoyable because you could usually tune in for a win each night.
That wasn’t the case for Pittsburgh, though I still miss Lanny Frattare.
It just seemed like the Indians did everything right and the Pirates, well, the Pirates just couldn’t seem to keep up with their border rival.
Until the past decade.
Since 2011, the Indians and Pirates have both been contenders. They’ve fought hard in the regular season and have been on the brink of greatness.
I can’t help but cheer for both teams now.
If 9-year old me realized that, he would have a cow.
In 2011, I had an internship with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, a Class A affiliate of the Indians. I helped plan and implement the marketing and promotions side of things for the full season of games. I also dealt with the players on a daily basis.
Most of the players fizzled out and are now out of professional baseball. Others, have ascended all the way to the big leagues.
First-hand, I saw Cody Allen, Joseph Colon, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor make their professional debuts. All four of them are on the current 25-man roster for the Indians.
Lindor happens to be my current favorite MLB player.
Seeing the Indians make it to the World Series last year was remarkable because it truly felt like my former co-workers were working together to accomplish something special.
As small market franchises, both the Indians and the Pirates have to work harder to develop talent. The system the Pirates have used for the better part of a decade has paid off in three consecutive postseason appearances. They are still looking for that elusive playoff series victory and a World Series berth, but it has to be coming soon.
The Indians have used a similar model in forming their core players and it has lifted them to heights not seen in Cleveland since the teams of the mid-90s.
I truly hope the Indians make it back to the World Series this year and for the Pirates to be the representative from the National League.
It took some time, but I had a complete change of heart. Maybe the Indians weren’t so bad after all.
If only I could start to feel that way about bananas and egg whites.
(Peaslee is a sports writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @thempeas)