Total eclipse at the park: Guardians, White Sox take in solar phenomenon

April 9th, 2024

CLEVELAND -- It was an event that had not happened here in 218 years.

No, not a warm-weather home opener for the Guardians (that happens at least a handful of times every 218 years), but a total solar eclipse. And on Monday, for the first time in the history of three great orbs -- the sun, the moon and the baseball -- a Major League game coincided with the path of totality for this stunning celestial event.

Granted, as was the case with the Rangers-Astros contest in Arlington, Texas, which was also in the path of totality, the MLB game in question began after the eclipse had passed. But given the close proximity of the 3:15 p.m. ET maximum eclipse in Northeast Ohio and the 5:10 p.m. start time for Guardians vs. White Sox, Progressive Field offered an awesome, unusual alignment of space and base.

“It just feels surreal,” Guards left fielder Steven Kwan said. “It feels like it's all planned. It's just a really cool experience.”

Both teams had to adjust their pregame plans on account of the eclipse, taking batting practice on the field extra early (noon for the Sox, 1 p.m. for the Guardians). That gave players from both clubs ample time to congregate on the field to look toward the stands behind home plate and up into the sky as the moon eclipsed the sun, right on schedule (turns out, astronomers are much better at their predictions than baseball analysts).

“The two-hour hold [during the pregame routine] is definitely strange, almost like a rain delay,” White Sox starter Erick Fedde said. “But there’s a lot of monotony in our lives, just with playing every day and working out. It’s fun to have things like this to talk about.”

Chicago manager Pedro Grifol was an example of how you didn’t have to be an umbraphile (that’s a person who chases eclipses, in case you weren’t among those of us who just learned the word this week) to become interested in the eclipse.

Before the game, Grifol was oddly adamant about not witnessing history.

“I'll see videos of it, see what it looks like,” Grifol had said, “but there's baseball. I probably shouldn't say that, [but] family and baseball. People don't believe it, but I live it. That's all that matters.”

Ah, but, given that the next total eclipse visible in the contiguous United States won’t be until 2044 (and even then, only in Montana and the Dakotas), Grifol’s opinion understandably orbited 180 degrees. After his White Sox were eclipsed, 4-0, by the Guards to fall to 1-9, Grifol told reporters he had watched the eclipse, after all.

Stephen Vogt, managing his first home opener for the Guards, was among those in the building who enjoyed the eclipse with his family.

“I can remember in elementary school in California we had one,” he said. “I remember the shop teacher bringing over the welding goggles and we all got to look at it.”

At Progressive Field, fans weren’t handed welding goggles but shades certified to allow for safe viewing of the eclipse. NASA provided a telescope feed of the eclipse on the giant video board above the left-field bleachers, following its path from Texas through Maine.

And the eclipse turned out to be the perfect way to break in Progressive Field’s new Pennant District in the upper deck in right field, where the infamous “shipping containers” have been replaced by a new standing-room section and bar that had perfect views of the sun and the moon.

As the moon eclipsed the sun, a loud roar erupted from those assembled in the ballpark (where gates had opened at 2 p.m.) and in neighboring Gateway Plaza. With the eclipse not viewable from a large portion of the ballpark, ticketed fans were able to temporarily exit the facility to achieve a peak peek.

“It’s something so unique,” Kwan said of the eclipse, “something that all of us together haven’t experienced.”

After nearly four minutes of totality, the moon went on its merry way and the sun came out again on an unseasonably beautiful Cleveland day. It was the cosmos reminding us that it was time to play ball, but the impression made on those who witnessed the eclipse was bound to be a lasting one.

“Space,” Fedde said, “is cool.”

And of course, so is baseball, as Grifol would be the first to tell you.