11/25/11 2:10 PM EST
Tribe's Snopening Day gets warm reception
By Zack Meisel / MLB.com
Atypical conditions for Cleveland in late November, the unseasonably warm temperatures provided fans more incentive to spend "Snopening Day" outside.
"It was my daughter's idea and she wanted something fun for the whole family to do after Thanksgiving," said Pat Dean of Painesville, Ohio. "It's beautiful here."
Immediately after the gates opened at 10 a.m. ET, Toni Witt was selected to be the first participant on the Batterhorn, a collection of 10 icy ramps on which fans race down while seated on inner tubes.
"It was fabulous. I think anyone that goes down will have a blast," Witt said.
Witt christened the newly positioned Batterhorn with her son, Spencer, and his friend, Brian. The three joined Indians mascot Slider atop the structure, perched above the left-field wall. The four then braced the slippery slopes down more than 200 feet to the bottom of the tubing hill.
Spencer Witt had only one goal in mind.
"I just wanted to beat Slider," the 9-year-old said about his furry pink accomplice.
Fans also circumnavigated The Frozen Mile, a narrow passageway wrapping around the Batterhorn on which attendees can ice skate. The spring-like weather melted away some of the ice, creating puddles of water on the rink and keeping the operators of the Zamboni plenty busy.
"The ice was melted and a little slushy, but it was still really fun," said Abigail Shirley, 15, of Westlake, Ohio.
Though no safe haven to escape the cold was necessary on Friday, a number of warming areas exist throughout the park, where children can make crafts and play games.
Starting at 7:30 a.m., a hockey tournament played out on the Frozen Diamond. Snow Days will culminate on Jan. 15 with the Frozen Diamond Faceoff, a matchup between rivals Ohio State and Michigan. When the puck drops for the Buckeyes and Wolverines, it will mark the first outdoor college hockey game for Ohio.
By then, Mother Nature should provide Cleveland with its usual abundance of snow and frigid temperatures. On Friday, however, though the weather better resembled the blossoming of spring, the sunshine and heat wave made the winter wonderland at Progressive Field more comfortable.
Dean brought three family members from Savannah, Ga., to the ballpark. They had seen little of the white stuff living in the South, and avoiding an encounter with actual snowflakes was perfectly fine for them.
"They don't see snow very often, and that's why we wanted to come," Dean said. "But this is great. It's warm and comfortable, and you can still do all the things in the snow."
Snow Days is open to the public each weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) through Jan. 16. From Dec. 16-Jan. 2, the event will be open seven days a week.
"We want to see what kind of traction it has from Year One to Year Two," Indians president Mark Shapiro said. "If it's something that becomes tradition, which we hope, we're not going to get rid of it."
Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.