Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Tribe's postgame clinch party a family, fan affair

Champagne flows, smiles abound as Cleveland celebrates AL Central division title
MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- While the party raged inside the Indians' home clubhouse on Sunday afternoon, players found moments to escape to the field. There, their families had their own celebration going, with kids running through the infield grass. Behind Cleveland's home dugout, rows of fans remained, refusing to find the stadium's exits.

This American League Central clinch was savored by the entire city.

Full Game Coverage

CLEVELAND -- While the party raged inside the Indians' home clubhouse on Sunday afternoon, players found moments to escape to the field. There, their families had their own celebration going, with kids running through the infield grass. Behind Cleveland's home dugout, rows of fans remained, refusing to find the stadium's exits.

This American League Central clinch was savored by the entire city.

Full Game Coverage

"It's nice to do it here," Indians ace Corey Kluber said. "Last year, we didn't have a chance to share it with the fans at all, so it's nice. They have been so supportive of us all year. It's nice to share it with them and let them kind of celebrate with us."

Get official Indians AL Central champions gear

Video: KC@CLE: Lindor discusses clinching the AL Central

Sunday's 3-2 win over the Royals was a nine-inning formality leading up to the Tribe's champagne-soaked blowout. Kluber helped hasten the team's trip to the clubhouse coolers with seven brilliant innings, and then he made his way around the locker room looking for teammates to douse with bubbly. Each victim of a sneak Kluber attack was greeted with laughter, and then a celebratory hug.

This is the second consecutive division crown for an Indians team that hopes to have more lined up in the years to come. The party did not feel as overwhelming as the ones held throughout the team's run to the World Series a year ago, but this is an experienced team with lofty expectations. This was step one. The goal is to get back to the Fall Classic and bring home the city's first championship since 1948.

"This is one of the stepping stones we wanted to get to," said Jason Kipnis, who spoke as champagne dripped from his ski goggles. "But we all know this isn't the end goal."

Video: KC@CLE: Allen discusses clinching the AL Central

Thanks to the Tribe's recent 22-game winning streak, which established a new AL record for consecutive victories, Cleveland was able to party on the final day of this homestand before flying to the West Coast. Manager Terry Francona thanked the fans in a pregame speech as the division flag was raised, and then he exited early after the win to allow the spotlight to be fixed firmly on his players.

While Kipnis talked to reporters in the eye of the postgame storm, reliever Bryan Shaw came over and began pouring more on his teammate's head. This was not champagne or beer, though. It was ice-cold water. Kipnis recoiled and let out a little yelp as Shaw headed off laughing.

"That's cold!" Kipnis shouted. "Get out of here!"

Video: KC@CLE: Bruce on winning the division, contributing

Relief ace Andrew Miller -- the MVP of the AL Championship Series last season and a critical part of Cleveland's chances again this October -- was stopped at the bottom of the dugout steps before meeting his family on the field. Larry Dolan, the Indians' 86-year-old owner, extended a hand, introduced himself and offered his congratulations.

"Thank you for bringing me here," Miller replied with a warm smile.

While Kluber met with media, reliever Nick Goody walked by and yelled: "There he is! The king of the north!"

Video: KC@CLE: Kluber discusses winning the AL Central

Pitcher Danny Salazar had fun running around the room and dumping the contents of champagne bottles down the backs of unsuspecting teammates. Trevor Bauer -- like last season -- wore a GoPro camera on his head to capture the party. On the other side of the room, Jose Ramirez lifted his phone to take a selfie with Jay Bruce.

The celebration began with the players in a circle, popping the corks and jumping together while letting out primal shouts. When they spread across the room, Bruce dumped a bottle on Ramirez's head and then pointed to his own head, asking the team's MVP candidate to return the favor.

Behind the plastic sheeting protecting the lockers, a "Happy Birthday" banner hung from Ramirez's stall.

Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations, could not avoid being sprayed.

Video: KC@CLE: Ramirez on having faith, focusing on winning

"I tried to stay dry for awhile, but apparently that wasn't going to happen," Antonetti said, laughing. "It's fun to celebrate. Celebrations like this never get old, regardless of how wet and cold you are."

At least at Progressive Field, the players had a little more room. Last year, the parties took place in Detroit, Boston and Toronto, which all have cramped visiting clubhouses.

"It doesn't take 25 guys to get to this point. It takes a whole organization," Josh Tomlin said. "It's a whole team effort and a whole city. We're fortunate to have a good group of fans and the support of Cleveland, and that means a lot to us."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cleveland Indians