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Defending the Cleveland Guardians grounds crew

The now-infamous Progressive Field Ground Team. August 23, 2023.
The now-infamous Progressive Field Ground Team. August 23, 2023.
Michael Elizondo / True Blue LA

Before going on our regularly scheduled essay with a spirited defense of the Progressive Field grounds crew, which I know is Eric’s absolute favorite subject —

I have to castigate the AppleTV broadcast for being shockingly racist during last Friday night’s telecast in Boston.

When subtle is not that subtle

Admittedly when I am in the field, I am generally not paying to the internet apart from shenanigans with the True Blue LA writing and social media staff, which sounds more interesting than it is.

If I had been home, I probably would have watched the game on streaming even though the game was on Apple TV+. Dan Plesac and Wayne Randazzo had the call for Apple TV that night. Originally, I had read that Dontrelle Willis was supposed to be on the call, but I saw the change before the game. I was moderately bummed for those watching, as those poor few souls that had yet to cancel the service after Ted Lasso ended or Severance Season 1 had finished.

When I saw our David Young post the following on Twitter, while I was at Fenway Park, I sat up and took notice:

I did not realize that the AppleTV broadcast had somehow fallen into a time warp into the 1970s or into a Quentin Tarantino movie. That description of what was said could not be right, I thought.

While still at the game, wondering what the heck was going on, I saw the clip that David was talking about concerning Mr. Randazzo said and wow, it’s as bad as you think as he says that Betts “shucks and jives for the fans here at Fenway.”

First of all, in the most generous light to Mr. Randazzo, giving him every benefit of the doubt, I have yet to see an example of demonstrating that one did not do any research as to the matchup or the team without outright admitting one did not do any research as to the matchup for the team. The Freddie dance is relatively new, but it’s not uncommon. Even cursory, elementary research on the team would explain why the Dodgers do this little dance after extra-base hits now. It is a fun little story that some might like to hear about.

I am not in broadcasting, so what would I know?

Now, generally, I like to believe that I am nuanced enough with my opinions not reflexively to be outraged at everything. Not here — racism is bad. “Shuck and Jive” is a racist trope — full stop, especially when directed at someone who is African American.

At best, Mr. Randazzo is guilty of saying something profoundly stupid on live television. If you or I had screwed up to this level at our actual jobs, we would likely have to apologize for it after getting justifiably yelled at for our conduct.

And if you do not believe me in my conclusion, I can prove my position categorically. MLB posted a video of Betts’ double from the telecast, and unsurprisingly to anyone with an ounce of sanity or humanity, someone (mercifully) edited out what Mr. Randazzo said.

Mr. Randazzo should apologize. The League should make clear to the teams that this language is not going to be tolerated, and AppleTV, MLB, and Mr. Randazzo should do and be better. Nothing will happen though as Mr. Randazzo took to the airwaves for AppleTV this Friday night with Dontrelle Willis.

The Rains of Progressive

The morning before the rains came. Progressive Field. August 23, 2023.
The morning before the rains came. Progressive Field. August 23, 2023.
Michael Elizondo / True Blue LA

I had been looking forward to going to Cleveland since the schedule was announced around this time last year. I had never been, and I knew that going to a baseball game in the Midwest during the summer is always a roll of the dice.

If one is lucky, you get perfect weather and get to see something memorable. If one is unlucky, one learns that the human body can sweat in a variety of places that are wholly unexpected and not altogether pleasant.

My mother joined me on this adventure and she repeatedly reminded me that it was likely to rain in Cleveland and probably Boston. I told her not to worry, what’s the worst that could happen?

Oops. Progressive Field. August 23, 2023.
Michael Elizondo / True Blue LA

Yes, so the weather is on me, but so is Betts ascending to a higher plane of consciousness for my own personal enjoyment. Betts and his heroics will be covered in-depth for the Boston portion of this field report next time.

After seeing the Dodgers get thumped by Noah Syndergaard and the Guardians to open the series, I was understandably annoyed the following morning. I quickly realized that my sour mood was primarily being influenced by the dropping barometric pressure and incoming rain.

In fact, in the three years I have traveled to see Dodger games, I have seen rain delays or rainouts in Chicago, Pittsburgh (three times, with a called game), Minneapolis (rain AND snow over two games), San Diego, New York (twice, with a delayed start), Baltimore (we all screw up at work now and then), and now Cleveland.

I will not stop anyone who starts calling me “The Rainmaker” or “The Bad Weatherman.” A certain song by The Spinners did come to mind while I was at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after the Cleveland Tour.

My mother and I did the tour of Progressive Field later that morning. I have assembled a gallery of photos for your enjoyment. Surprisingly, Progressive Field is an architecturally interesting ballpark, with its exposed steel, and really is a quality experience for those who venture out to the far superior ballpark of Ohio.

Now originally my mother and I were supposed to sit by the Dodgers’ bullpen for Game 2 of the series. But shortly after the tour, after we had arrived at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, storms entered the area and rain was fairly constant throughout the day. During the Progressive Field tour, I recalled that our guide had mentioned that with our game ticket, we could make a reservation for the Terrace Club, an indoor buffet area near the left-field corner.

Inside the Terrace Club. Progressive Field. August 23, 2023.
Inside the Terrace Club. Progressive Field. August 23, 2023.
Michael Elizondo / True Blue LA

Choosing discretion over valor, we made our way to the mostly empty club to eat slightly upscale ballpark food at $30/head (not counting alcohol). It was fine, the problem was as you can see from the photo. The view of the game is not great. On the Progressive Field tour, the tour guide mentioned there were plans to make the dining area open-air. I would strongly recommend keeping the glass roof.

In the third inning, a rain delay was called sans the rain and to hear the utterly unjustified whining of the assembled sportswriters you would think the Museum at Cooperstown was just burgled, with its contents for sale on Twitter. For what it was worth, the lightning did come before the rain. Moreover, when the rain came, it came in gales.

For those who whined that the game was suspended for a good twenty minutes before the rain started, there was lightning, which is no joke. Heck in May 2021, the only doubleheader of the year was prompted by lightning, which actually did not come until after the game ended. Baseball!

Anyway, leaving the ballpark after the game was suspended was an adventure considering how hard it was raining and how likely it was going to flood as one can see the difference in how my day started versus how my day ended.

How my Wednesday started. Progressive Field. August 23, 2023.
How my Wednesday started. Progressive Field. August 23, 2023.
Michael Elizondo / True Blue LA

This Andy Rooney moment is completely omitting the players and managers, who can be as grumpy (or not) about their working conditions. But for the writers/broadcasters/fans, unless you are there and unless you are made of candyfloss, I would rather not hear it.

I have little sympathy for beat writers who have actual corporate travel budgets being inconvenienced. I am a one-man show, who rolls with the punches to provide written accounts of my experiences from the road.

Michael in a trash bag at Progressive Field.
How my day ended. Progressive Field. August 23, 2023.
Michael Elizondo / True Blue LA

I have enough experience now to not be phased if a game gets delayed because a grounds crew forgot to the tarp out the night before (which is still hysterical) or is overly zealous about putting out the tarp — even in the ninth inning.

At the time, I did not understand the decision to pull the tarp at the time, my mother actually provided the context for why the grounds crew was probably right to do so.

As she was not with me for the makeup game/finale doubleheader, she was off nearby exploring the area near the ballpark before she went to a Barry Manilow concert played at Rocket Morgage FieldHouse, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, which is right next to Progressive Field.

She had to avoid getting drenched by the sudden downpour, which was easy as she was having brunch a block and a half away from the stadium during the downpour.

Weather, like the Dodgers’ fortune, is a fickle thing. Getting woken up at midnight, the day we left, to a literal tornado warning (not watch) and hearing the groaning weather pass above the hotel, thinking “Well, I made an estate plan and I am with my mother; I suppose there are worse ways to enter infinity” was something I will not soon forget.

Cleveland is a lovely town and a great place to catch a ballgame. But speaking of things I cannot and will not forget, there is one final thread of this trip that connects both my adventures in Cleveland and Boston: Markus Lynn Betts.