Cleveland dons road unis to support change

July 24th, 2020

CLEVELAND -- For Friday night’s season opener, the franchise decided to show just how open it is to changing its nickname.

The Tribe collectively decided, with the approval of club owner Paul Dolan, to wear their alternate road jerseys despite playing at Progressive Field, so their jerseys read “Cleveland” across the chest instead of “Indians,” like their home threads.

“We hope that’s a start of change,” shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “We know change is due, and it is time. But I believe positive change can happen. Shining the light on those minorities and people who are in need, it’s extremely important. Today, by wearing the 'Cleveland' jersey, that’s what we’re doing out there, bringing the spotlight on those people, minorities that need the spotlight on them so their voices can be heard.”

It is expected that the road jerseys will be worn just for the opener, not throughout the season. But even if it’s just for the one game, Lindor believes this is a great start to an ongoing effort to bring awareness to minorities across the country.

“We can only change things by making people acknowledge and educate themselves that change is due,” he said, “and to recognize that there are certain areas in life that are not right and not where they need to be. By us doing that today -- and Paul Dolan allowing us today to wear the Cleveland jersey for Opening Day -- it’s a huge statement.

“We’re not fighting the fight for us. We’re fighting the fight for our future. I’m extremely big on kids and fighting for them, for the ones who come after me. It’s extremely important.”

The players have the complete support from ownership and the entire front office, including president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff, both of whom attended the meeting between Dolan and the players regarding the potential name change earlier this week.

“I think it's pretty powerful when you have a group of people that come together,” Antonetti said, “talk about really difficult issues and meaningful issues around racial equality and social justice. And then in their own way, want to make a statement and share their views on that. And so I'm grateful that our players were thoughtful, and how they approached it. I'm thankful that Paul provided them the opportunity to do that. And you know, they'll have that moment today to share their opinions.”

Butterflies still there
Although Opening Day came four months later than anyone expected, manager Terry Francona said he was still able to feel some butterflies before Friday night’s game against the Royals.

“Any time you’ve got a chance to go out and play a real baseball game,” Francona said, “I try to explain to the guys, man, it’s an honor to put a Major League Baseball uniform on. I’ve said this a number of times, but I enjoy it with this group especially. Let’s see how good we can be. We’re going to run into things along the way that potentially could get in the way. But let’s see if whatever comes up, if we can be good enough. That’s fun to do.”

Indians, Royals unite
Prior to their Opening Day game, the Indians and Royals came together in a moment of unity, lining up down the first- and third-base lines together to pick up a 200-yard black cloth. During the presentation, a Black Lives Matter video that was produced by The Players Alliance was shown on the big screen. Seven players from the Tribe, including Lindor, Delino DeShields and Mike Clevinger, took a knee during the video. At the end, all players stood for the national anthem, and the Tribe continued their 2020 tradition of placing their left hand on their teammate’s shoulder beside them. The letters “BLM” and the phrase “United for Change” were stenciled into the back of the pitcher’s mound.

Expanded playoffs well-received by Tribe
As announced by MLB on Thursday, the 2020 season will feature a new playoff format. Sixteen teams (eight from each league) will reach the postseason, with a new three-game Wild Card series before the Division Series gets underway. Although it’ll look different, the Indians are excited for what it will entail.

“I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun,” Mike Clevinger said. “Dude, everybody’s in it. You got three games. Lay everything you got out there. It’s definitely unprecedented. It’s definitely gonna take the traditional fans into thinking, 'This is not the same.' This is gonna be just as tough, maybe even harder to get all the way there when you only got a three-game set. You can’t just rely on arms the whole time. This is gonna be, you know, coin flips for who ends up in the series.”