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Hargrove recalls opening of Progressive Field

CLEVELAND -- The Indians opened this season's home slate two decades to the day from the inaugural game at Progressive Field. Known as Jacobs Field back then, the stadium is the crown jewel of Cleveland's sports scene.

Former Indians manager Mike Hargrove said it does not feel like 20 years have past.

"Only when I stand up out of my chair does it feels like 20 years," Hargrove said with a laugh on Friday. "No, it doesn't. Really, time really has gone fast. I think the ballpark has aged really well. It feels like it [opened] just yesterday."

Hargrove, who managed the Indians from 1991-99, was on hand for Friday's festivities to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to former Cleveland catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. Hargrove said it is hard to describe what it felt like to open in Jacobs Field on April 4, 1994.

"You knew that was your place, that it was your home," Hargrove said. "We had played in Camden and places like that and really appreciated those beautiful ballparks. With this being your own, it was special. Opening Day, with the President [Bill Clinton] here and getting to meet him and talk to him, it was a real honor. It was really exciting.

"You can't do it justice with words. Opening Day has a special feel about it anyway, and you wish that every day could be Opening Day. But, it can't. You add those things to it, moving out of the old park and into this one, and the President, and knowing you had a decent ballclub. It was fun."

There were plenty of reminders Friday about the Tribe's first game at the ballpark, but one thing in particular had Hargrove recalling the '90s.

Prior to the home opener, the Indians announced that they had signed All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis to a six-year extension worth $52.5 million. Cleveland also recently signed left fielder Michael Brantley and catcher Yan Gomes to long-term deals. The contracts are reminscent of the pre-arbitration extensions former general manager John Hart helped pioneer in his days with the Indians.

"They did something that was copied by all the clubs," said Hargrove, referring to Hart and his front office. "And there were a lot of naysayers to begin with. Then, all of a sudden, two or three years later, you see other clubs doing the same thing, and they've continued that practice since then. I think it says a lot about what John and Mark [Shapiro] and Danny [O'Dowd] were able to accomplish here."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. Teddy Cahill is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill.
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