CLEVELAND — The Indians open a seven-game homestand tonight at Progressive Field and Friday evening’s first pitch marks the first time the ballpark will be at full capacity since September 2019.
Gov. Mike DeWine ended Ohio’s coronavirus health orders on June 2 when the Indians were scheduled to take on the White Sox, but the game was postponed due to inclement weather.
Fans and employees are excited for the next step in the return to normalcy, with vendors roaming the stands for the first time since before the pandemic started.
Anyone who has visited Progressive Field knows that means the return of the Les Flake, known affectionately by fans as "The Beer Guy."
Flake has been a vendor for Indians games since the 1974 season. He’s one of 15 members who have been working games since the team moved to Progressive Field in 1994.
“I love this job. I’ve been doing it for so long, I haven’t worked a day in my life,” Flake said.
Known for his signature beer call, Flake says he got the idea while standing at his mailbox one day sorting through bills.
“I looked, and I said, ‘tax man, water man, gas man,'” Flake said.
It was born at that moment: “Not the tax guy! Not the mail guy! The gas guy! Beer guy is here!”
For more than a year now, he’s been saving his voice to call out to fans again. Flake can regularly be found working games along the third-base seats in the lower level.
“I have a lot of regulars, they love me, I love them,” Flake said. “I’ve been doing this long enough. You meet their kids, and now their grandkids who are old enough to drink now.”
So, naturally, there have been plenty of first beers, legally, of course, delivered by "The Beer Guy" at Progressive Field.
“They go, ‘it’s my first beer! The beer guy got me my first beer! Can you sign the can!?,'” Flake said. “Yeah, why not!?”
It’s an honor for Flake and a position he doesn’t take for granted given the way the world has been for the last 14 months.
“It’s nice, when I’m walking down the street on Prospect, and I hear ‘Can you be in my wedding photos?'” Flake said.
Watching an empty Progressive Field in 2020 didn’t sit well with Flake last season. His anticipation for this day has been growing since fans have been allowed in the gates at reduced capacity all season.
Friday night’s matchup with the Mariners will be the first time vendors share the stands with fans.
“It’s like cutting off your arm man, it’s like a limb missing. It’s like a family member dying, not working at all,” Flake said.
But "The Beer Guy" kept himself busy during the pandemic, delivering beer for the local brewery The Jolly Scholar in University Circle.
“I really appreciate it more this year,” Flake said. “I appreciate every day no matter what, but this year I appreciate everything a lot more.”
The Indians are expecting at least 20,000 fans for the weekend’s homestead against Seattle. In 47 years of vending at ballgames, a packed house will be a welcomed sight.
“I’m hyped. It’s wonderful,” Flake said. “Thirty-five thousand people here? It’s crazy, it’s nuts.“
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