Cleveland Indians wild card playoff loss through the sights and sounds of section 304

CLEVELAND - Full throttle, 43,000 fans waved their "Tribe Town" towels and cheered as the Indians' 2013 Wild Card roster was introduced before Wednesday night's playoff game.

For two innings, a euphoric buzz flowed through Progressive Field as Danny Salazar rolled through the Rays' lineup with a blazing fastball.

Then up to the plate came Delmon Young.

Can we just press pause there?

Sure, it was a scoreless game and less than a third complete but the palpable energy was so pure and perfect.

This was what Cleveland baseball could be.

A dad and kid decked out in red sat in front of me in section 304 in right field. As dad threw down his rally towel after Nick Swisher's seventh-inning strikeout, his young son still smiled.

He had enthusiastically turned around to high-five me and my buddy just when runners got into scoring position.

It was probably his first playoff baseball game. He didn't know better yet.

But you could tell dad had been down this road before, a weathered veteran of painful postseason pasts.

Another guy in row E of section 304 said this was his first playoff game as an adult. He had been to all the games as a kid in the 90s but hadn't yet gotten to experience this.

As the stadium grew quieter, the dad turned around and said, "You can hear Tom Hamilton."

Hamilton's voice echoes out from a speaker into Gateway Plaza and the crowd had now grown quiet enough to hear it.

The other guy, two seats away, answered.

"I heard Tom Hamilton a lot this season."

He had been to 32 games this season, many of which were in a half-empty stadium. While others sat down as the innings progressed, he continued standing through much of their duration. He even, at one point, asked my friend in the seat behind him if he minded him standing.

You could tell this meant something special to him.

Finally, this place was full. Those last sections of the outfield grandstand, typically closed off, became a sea of Indians fans screaming their lungs out and voraciously waving towels, at least for a couple innings.

Gut punch after gut punch, that guy in front of us still stood, just as loyal Cleveland fans have behind their teams through years and years of heartbreak.


Down 4-0 when the bottom of the ninth came around, dad turned his son's red "block C" hat inside out into a rally cap.

He didn't say a word or explain why. It was just something that had to be done.

It didn't work.

No rally was to be had on this night. Magic was nowhere to be found for the Indians in the Wild Card game, stifled by the arms of the Rays and unable to produce with runners on base.

Jason Giambi, who created the season's most dramatic moment with his walkoff blast after a Chris Perez blown save in game 157, didn't even step to the plate.

One, two, three, the Indians were set down by Rays closer Fernando Rodney to end their 10-game winning streak and season again without a championship.

That boy in the red hat still has lots of time to keep waiting. Dad may still too but has to be wondering when.

When the next chance to have this experience will come or when that ultimate feeling of his team winning it all will radiate through his body.

When this generation of Cleveland fans will get to have its moment.

As the diehard in the row ahead of me in the mezzanine savored his first adult playoff game, he was hopeful for what's ahead. Even as the chance of winning became bleaker, he looked on the bright side. If they did end up losing, he would just use the money he laid down for advance tickets of a potential Tribe postseason run for next regular season, he said.

With Terry Francona leading the troops, his next playoff game should come sooner than later but you just never know in sports.

Pittsburgh couldn't have ever expected to have to wait 21 years after Sid Bream slid under catcher Mike LaValliere's tag in 1992.

That's why we couldn't tell that guy to sit down even if he was blocking a bit of left field at times.

Cleveland proved Wednesday night that baseball can still be vibrant in this city. It's not just a thing of 90s nostalgia.

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