CLEVELAND - It was 12:30 p.m.on Thursday and I began making my way over to Progressive Field. It was the home opener for the Cleveland Indians, as they were about to square off against the Toronto Blue Jays. For me, opening day here in Cleveland was a first.
As a transplant from New York, seeing all the screaming fans with their jackets, hats, and tailgating was quite the adventure. Soon, I learned I was not alone. I found two children doing the same as me, heading to the ballpark to enjoy a Cleveland Indians tradition, stadium mustard - at least I thought.
I ran into 4-year-old Johnny Beltz who hails from Alliance and was attending his first ever professional baseball game. He was with his stepfather Jeff Golden.
“It’s a [great] experience,” Golden said. “Something I wish I did with my dad.” he continued.
He told me it is a right of passage when you come to see the Tribe. You have to have a hot dog and pour on some of the world famous stadium mustard.
“We are going to get him a hot dog,” said Golden.
But then arose a slight problem.
“[Johnny doesn’t] like the mustard. He said he will only eat ketchup,” Golden said.
When I asked the youngster if he would try the original Bertman Mustard, which has been serving hot dogs at baseball games here in Cleveland since 1925, he said simply, “No.”
Golden began to plead with the four-year-old, who seemed as unshakeable as a 150-pound man trying to body a 400-pound sumo wrester. It wasn’t going to happen.
“He’s going to get one. He’s got to. There's going to be mustard underneath the hot dog so he can’t see it,” Golden told me after giving up.
Several hot dog stations surrounded the ballpark and plenty of people seemed to be taking advantage. But when one gentleman put yellow mustard on his dog, his friend with a shocked look on his face exclaimed, "How can you put yellow mustard on your hot dog here. That’s just not done."
Mike Sanders of Hudson agreed. “At home that's fine. But it's sacrilegious not to have brown mustard when you’re at the stadium.”
His buddy from Sandusky, Ron Parthemore, felt having a hot dog with the stadium mustard is a must and no other mustard will do. I asked him if he would have Heinz. He said not at Progressive Field.
“First thing we did was grab a beer and have a hot dog. It's got to have brown mustard. That's all there is to it,” Parthermore said.
For the record, Progressive Field offers all types to satisfy all the different tastes people have.
Adam Stokes who lives just outside of Akron came to the game with his 2-year-old. It was his first venture into the ballpark and he took me along as his son Jace ate his first hot dog with the stadium mustard.
“I'm so excited he loves hot dogs. He better like the stadium mustard too,” said Stokes.
For the record, Jace loved the mustard and took several bites from his father’s dog. In case you’re wondering, I also tried my first hot dog at the ballpark and thought the mustard was a little hot like Johnny did. I look forward to going back and doing it again and helping to keep the tradition alive. Why? Because that’s what we do here in Cleveland. The brown mustard is a must.
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