Russ Kent: Indians fervor is building

As you read this, whether online or in the print edition of the Galion Inquirer, the 2016 World Series is either one game, or two games, old.

The Cleveland Indians are riding the crest of their American League Championship Series and the hope is high for the first World Series championship in Cleveland in decades.

Or, a whole lot of Ohio baseball fans are down in the dumps, and have the feeling a World Series title is not in the cards for 2016 and those even-harder-luck fans in the Windy City are on the verge of their first world championship in more than 100 years.

It’s amazing the emotions even a casual baseball can can feel this time of year, from the highest of highs, to the deepest depths of despair. Those emotions can change from week to week, from day to day, from inning to inning and even from pitch to pitch.

I’ve been an Indians fan all my life. More than a casual fan, but nothing like my grandparents and aunts and uncles were 30, 40 and 50 years ago. My grandfather Ralph Bowman, who grew up in the Wooster area but lived most of his adult life in Mansfield where he worked at Westinghouse, was a fan, but nothing like my Aunt Polly Sparr, who listened to every single game she could on the radio, well into her later years. I remember going to her house in Wooster, even when I was in my 20s. The radio was always tuned to the Indians and she would tell me about the most recent game and who was hot and who was not.

I still listen to the Tribe on the radio, more so than on TV. I enjoy Tom Hamilton’s calls a lot. But mostly, I listen in the car when I’m going back and forth to somewhere else.

This year’ success kind of snuck up on me. I knew this team had a great pitching staff. But I was never convinced they had the offense. That’s been the case in for years … lots of pitching and too many over-the-hill hitters. Not until the last month of the season was I convinced they had a shot at making the playoffs, and even then the World Series was not a consideration.

And then magic. The starting pitching was as expected and our bullpen was far better than average. And the Tribe got offensive, and clutch and confident.

That’s a great combination.

Francisco Lindor became the stud we expected, Mike Napoli was better than we expected and Carlos Santana regained his offensive form. Jason Kipnis is one of the best second basement in the majors and Roberto Perez has been so, so, so very good behind the plate. And now, I even know who the Indians’ third baseman is … Jose Ramirez

But this is a team, in the true sense of the world. The late-comers to the team, especially Andrew Miller, put us over the top. Coco Crisp has been more than clutch and a great leader in the clubhouse, along with Napoli. Brandon Guyer also has been a big part of this post-season success.

But the other guys in the outfield: Lonnie Chisenhall, Rajai Davis and Tyler Naquin were our secret weapon in the first two rounds of the playoff, clutch in the field and clutch behind the plate.

They are led by Terry Francona, who creates a family atmosphere in the locker room and was brilliant in the way he has managed his pitchers and the rest of this team in the post-season. He’s low key and confident, which is great for this young team.

Pitching coach Mickey Callaway is getting the recognition he deserves.

Also, as someone who remembers and was heartbroken in 1999 when the Tribe last was in the World Series, it is so great to see Sandy Alomar Jr. coaching at first base..

But as fun as this is, as much glee as I’m enjoying, for some reason I am not nearly as invested as I was in 1999.

At that time, well I was a lot younger, and was the sports editor at the Galion Inquirer.

I wonder if I’m a little jaded because the Cavaliers brought so much joy to Cleveland just a few months ago.

Partly because of work, I spend way too much time on social media, especially Facebook. I expected more Cleveland Indians chatter on Facebook. I’m not seeing it. I don’t know why. It was there as the NBA season was coming to it’s thrilling, world-changing conclusion.

Am I wrong?

And if I am right, what’s the reason?

I don’t live in Cleveland, where I’m sure the excitement is much great. And since leaving my previous job at the Mansfield News Journal, I no longer speak daily the two of the most ardent Tribe followers I know: long-time sportswriter Jon Spencer, and former News Journal publisher Tom Brennan.

I would hear Spencer chatter from across the newsroom, to his co-workers or to his contacts around Ohio about the Indians. He even looked into one time at trying to acquire the old metal Chief Wahoo from atop Municipal Stadium.

And there wasn’t a morning that went by that Brennan did not stop by my desk in the morning to chat about the Indians, except during Ohio State football season. Brennan also was one of those guys who loved listening to the Indians on the radio.

But I have no doubt in Cleveland and on the south shore of Lake Erie, the emotion is running thrillingly high.

And I have a feeling the celebration when the Tribe wins it all will be exponentially larger than the one that accompanied the Cavs’ championship.

I’ve not missed an inning, not a pitch, during this post season. And I won’t miss any in the World Series.

My excitement is building by the minute. I’ll be glued to a TV set somewhere for the next 4-7 games. And I’ll be shouting and swearing and smacking my remote control and the table that holds my World Series refreshments when something goes right … or wrong.

Rarely do I wish I were younger. But in this case, I so wish I were. I would be in Cleveland the night they win the World Series. A family friend, the daughter of my cousin, on the night the Cavs won the NBA championship, posted on Facebook at 11:30 p.m. that she was headed to Cleveland to join the party.

Good for her. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Or is it?

I hope I see that same Facebook message from her in a week or so, after the Indians bring another world championship to the shores of Lake Erie.

I really feel a need to join that celebration, too.

Russ Kent

[email protected]


Russ Kent is the group editor of the Galion Inquirer, Bellville Star and Morrow County Sentinel. Email him at [email protected] with comments or story ideas.