I’ve worked for the Indians for close to 6 years now and I have to admit that every time I go up the steps behind home plate to get to the field, or make the turn in the lower level to walk out the elephant doors in left field, I still have that moment of awe. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you are about to go onto a professional sports team’s field. It’s a feeling of excitement and calmness mixed in with heart pounding joy. I get to do it every day and anytime I want, yet that feeling never fades. What makes it even cooler is when I can take someone out to the field who would have never dreamed they would have the chance to be that close.
Fabian Washington from Cleveland, Ohio was able to experience the sensation on an even grander scale at his recent trip to Progressive Field. The Cleveland Indians teamed up with Strike Force Baseball Academy and the Diamond Boys Organization to hold a “Dream Day” at Progressive Field. The two groups worked together to put on a baseball clinic for children and adults with developmental disabilities who have never really had the chance to play sports.
“I learned how to hold a baseball properly, I learned how to hold it across the ‘U’ and not just hold it any sort of way. It’s just awesome to come down here. I”m having lots of fun just playing around on the field…and I love the fresh grass,” says Fabian.
Invited to the event were members of Our Lady of the Wayside and also Rising Star.* Meg Downey, who is the Director of Specialized Services at Our Lady of the Wayside and helped put on the event, probably summed up the event the best. “The best part of yesterday’s Dream Day Clinic was that Gino, who lives at The Wayside’s Lake Home, believes he pitches for the Cleveland Indians … John who attends The Wayside’s Day Program, believes that he hit a home run … and every consumer participating did what so many of us take for granted – they played ball.”
The day ended with an intrasquad game before they broke for lunch. The participants used the skills they learned to play their very own game of baseball. They played on the same field where their heroes play. The helmets were the same ones that past Indians players have used. The balls were Major League baseballs and the grass–well, like Fabian said–it was “fresh”…just like the pros play on.
I was taught how to throw a baseball by the great Jason Ream. Jason Ream, as you all know, was a pitcher and he taught me the basics of how to throw a four and a two seam fastball. He also tried to teach me how to throw a knuckleball, but the end result just has me throwing the ball about 2 feet before it hit the ground. Truth be told, I don’t think Jason even knew how to throw a knuckleball–I’m sorry, I was just informed by my editor that no one will know who this Jason Ream fellow is. For those that don’t know, Jason is one of my best friends and we grew up together out in Burton. He now works in Chicago for a bank and has never played professional baseball. He just happened to be a pitcher on a little league team. I’m sorry for any confusion, I just really wanted to tell you all who taught me how to pitch because it’s a great memory.
At the Cleveland Indians, we are big on creating memories. I bet if you ask J.T. Taylor who taught him how to pitch he would probably tell you his dad and his baseball coach (obviously). But if you asked him who else taught him, he would say Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez. J.T. won a pitching lesson with Chris Perez through the Cleveland Indians Wives Association charity auction. Player’s wives donate unique items to the auction to raise money for Cleveland Indians Charities and Providence House.*
J.T. was “psyched to see Chris…and have a lesson by him.” Perez spent about 30 minutes going over different pitches, but in the end, all J.T. really wanted to learn was how to throw the curveball. When asked what his best tip he learned was, he simply replied, “The curveball. I’ve never learned how throw a curveball.”
Of course, Perez knows that everyone wants to learn the curveball. This is the 2nd year he has given a pitching lesson and both kids immediately asked him to teach them the curve. He is quick to point out (and he proves it every time he is out there on the field) “it all revolves around the fastball. Hopefully he takes some of the stuff I taught him and goes out and helps himself become a better pitcher.”
*Providence House was founded in 1981 by Sr. Hope Greener, CSJ, as Ohio’s first licensed crisis nursery, offering free, voluntary (non-custodial) placements for emergency shelter to children newborn through six years old, actively living in crisis situations which place them at risk of abuse or neglect. For more information visit www.provhouse.org