By BRIAN DULIK
CLEVELAND â€” History will not repeat itself today at Progressive Field when the Indians open their 108th Major League Baseball season.
There is no snow in the weather forecast, meaning there is no chance of the fluffy white stuff canceling the 3:05 p.m. game against the Chicago White Sox.
A rainout, however, is not out of the question as showers are expected throughout the afternoon.
â€œI canâ€™t guarantee the weather will be perfect, like we all hoped it would be,â€ Tribe vice president Bob DiBiasio said, breaking into a smile. â€œBut I can guarantee that things will work out better than they did last year.â€
Thatâ€™s a promise DiBiasio will have no problem keeping â€” unless a tornado sweeps through downtown â€” because the weather was absolutely awful for Clevelandâ€™s 2007 home opener.
A day-long snowstorm turned the then-Jacobs Field into a winter wonderland last April 6, leading to the Indiansâ€™ home debut against Seattle being snowed out just one out shy of being an official game.
The rest of Clevelandâ€™s first home series was also wiped out when the snow kept falling, as was its next home set against the Angels when the field became waterlogged as the snow melted.
The latter series was moved to Milwaukeeâ€™s Miller Park, where the Indiansâ€™ official â€œhome openerâ€ was played on April 10 in front of just 19,031 Wisconsin fans. The Tribe posted a 7-6 win over Los Angeles in the game behind ace pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who also will start todayâ€™s contest.
Despite that dismal experience, team president Paul Dolan was undeterred and petitioned MLB to allow the Indians to open their 2008 season at home.
The request was granted, marking the first time in Tribe history that Cleveland will host a regular-season game in the month of March.
â€œWe like to say the home opener is the first real sign of spring in Cleveland, but it does come a little earlier than weâ€™re used to this year,â€ DiBiasio said. â€œEven if we do see a little bit of rain, we think all the positives of starting the season at home outweigh the negatives.â€
Admittedly, one of the Indiansâ€™ main reasons for opening at home was to garner publicity for its rechristened stadium. Mayfield Village-based Progressive Insurance is paying $3.6 million annually through the 2023 season to put its name (and 24,000 company logos) on the facility.
With 2008 also being the Tribeâ€™s 15th year playing on the corner of Carnegie Avenue and Ontario Street, the time was right for a season-opening celebration on the North Coast.
â€œThere have been countless memorable moments at this ballpark since it opened in 1994, and there promise to be many, many more in the years ahead,â€ DiBiasio said. â€œWeâ€™re excited to start creating new memories under a new name, while also celebrating the franchiseâ€™s rich history.â€
The longtime club executive then began laughing and said: â€œWeâ€™re also very happy that our home opener wonâ€™t be in Milwaukee this year.â€
Dulik may be reached at 330-721-4059 or firstname.lastname@example.org.