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Indians ring in home opener with ceremony

MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- As the American League championship flag was raised beyond the center-field wall on Tuesday afternoon, the sellout crowd at Progressive Field roared and offered a standing ovation for the Indians' memorable 2016 season.

A red pennant was unveiled in the upper deck above right field, and every player, coach and staff member from the Tribe's incredible run to the World Series, was recognized in a much-anticipated ceremony before the home opener against the White Sox. After each person was announced, they were given a wooden box containing the Indians' AL championship ring.

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CLEVELAND -- As the American League championship flag was raised beyond the center-field wall on Tuesday afternoon, the sellout crowd at Progressive Field roared and offered a standing ovation for the Indians' memorable 2016 season.

A red pennant was unveiled in the upper deck above right field, and every player, coach and staff member from the Tribe's incredible run to the World Series, was recognized in a much-anticipated ceremony before the home opener against the White Sox. After each person was announced, they were given a wooden box containing the Indians' AL championship ring.

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Video: CWS@CLE: Indians raise their 2016 AL pennant flag

Francisco Lindor received some of the loudest cheers, but the electric scene was not satisfactory. The Indians came two runs shy of winning it all in the Fall Classic against the Cubs. That means there is still plenty of work left to do. Winning the World Series remains the team's focus.

"I'm going to see it," Lindor said of the ring, "and I'm going to say, 'I want a bigger one.'"

In their return to Progressive Field for the first time since that eventful Game 7 loss against the Cubs, the Indians were welcomed back by the Cleveland faithful. For Tribe fans and the team alike, the ring ceremony was the last time that they could celebrate last season, when the Indians captured the sixth pennant in franchise history (the first since 1997).

Celebrate, they did, and Lindor flashed his famous smile when receiving his hardware.

"It's a little sense of hope for the fans," Lindor said of the ceremony. "They're going to see the banner and they're going to see the rings, and they're going to see that it is possible."

Tweet from @Indians: Rings. https://t.co/LH3Pr2LtlC#RallyTogether pic.twitter.com/330XuawWV0

After the rings were distributed --- each containing 94 diamonds to represent the team's 94 regular-season wins last year -- and the starting lineups were announced, Cleveland sports legends Jim Thome (Indians' all-time home run king), Jim Brown (Browns) and Austin Carr (Cavaliers) threw out the ceremonial first pitches.

Video: CWS@CLE: Cleveland legends throw out first pitches

Now that the Indians can officially put last year behind them and look forward to this season, manager Terry Francona said that the team will look to create the kind of magic generated by last year's squad.

"Every year, even with so many of the same names, it's a new personality, it's a new team," Francona said. "Things happen and the identity, all those things have to start from scratch again. I think because we've been together for five years now, a lot of us, I think it's an advantage, but you still start from scratch."

With most of last season's roster returning, along with the offseason signing of Edwin Encarnacion and the return of former AL MVP Award candidate Michael Brantley, the Indians have embraced the high expectations that have been set for them this season.

"It's the past for a reason," Lindor said. "Nobody remembers second place. We're working hard, trying to finish in first place now. We came that close last year."

William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.

Cleveland Indians