Total park eclipse: Guardians’ first home game coincides with rare solar eclipse

CLEVELAND — Bewildered birds will start chirping. Drivers stuck in endless traffic jams will stop honking. The temperature will drop. The sluggers hitting batting practice pitches at Progressive Field will pause for a cosmic intermission.

At 3:13 p.m. ET on April 8, the spring sky over downtown Cleveland will host a total solar eclipse, as the moon’s shadow sweeps across the center of the country and eclipse chasers scramble to locate the perfect spot to witness it. the show.

The orbits of the sun, Earth and moon will align so that the moon blocks the entire disk of the sun, casting darkness along a path that will stretch from Mexico to Dallas, Little Rock, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Buffalo and Caribou . Maine. The phenomenon occurs every 18 to 24 months, but usually in vast oceans or uninhabited regions such as Antarctica.

This one is headed into the spotlight and is also on a collision course with the Cleveland Guardians’ home opener.

For two years, Cleveland officials have planned an event in which the ensemble will perform millions of miles from front-row seats on the shore of Lake Erie. The exhibit is expected to draw visitors to Cleveland from Canada, France, Ireland and Zimbabwe, as well as states near and far. The city will not land in the path of totality again until the year 2444.

To give the Guardians an extension for ongoing stadium renovations, the league booked them on an 11-day, three-city trip, passing through Oakland, Seattle and Minneapolis, to begin the regular season. They are one of three teams, along with the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, that follow that sequence, but they are the only one with celestial complications.

The Guardians now face a decision: Will they host their first home game that day, that night, or shortly after the three-minute, 49-second total phase, when day passes for night?

“Everyone talks about where they were when the Cavs won the championship,” said Chris Hartenstine, education coordinator at NASA’s Glenn Research Center. “Everyone can say, ‘I was in the arena,’ ‘I was at the viewing party,’ ‘I was watching with friends.’ this is one of those moments. It’s in science, not necessarily sports. The nice thing about Guardians is that you can get a little bit of both. ‘I was there on opening day when the eclipse happened.’”

The preparation for April 8, 2024, for many, began on August 1. 21, 2017, the date of the last total solar eclipse visible from the U.S. That’s when Cleveland restaurant owner Sam McNulty first entered a reminder into his phone’s calendar. Now, he is fast-tracking the completion of a Market Garden Brewery rooftop bar to accommodate out-of-towners who have reserved tables for April 8.

For some, it started a little earlier.

“I’ve been thinking about 2024 since I was a kid,” said Mike Kentrianakis, who has witnessed 14 total solar eclipses since 1979 in Indonesia, Chile, Gabon, Australia, China, Russia, Greece, Aruba, Canada and, while over the Sea of Scotland, north of the Antarctic Peninsula.

He watched the 2017 eclipse from Carbondale, Illinois, and at the end of March, he will hop into a rental car in Queens, New York, and begin his 15-hour drive to the same site, the rare city that falls in the path of totality both in 2017 and in 2024.

“I’ll do anything for an eclipse,” Kentrianakis said.

Hartenstine anchored NASA’s public presentation from the path of totality seven years ago in a tent in the grassy area in front of the state capitol building in Jefferson City, Missouri. He wasn’t sure what to expect. Hartenstine went from sweating profusely in Jefferson City’s 90-degree summer heat to needing a sweatshirt. As darkness fell in broad daylight, crickets, cicadas, and birds sang in confusion. The shadows deepened to what Hartenstine described as “video game” levels as the moon impeded the sun’s effect, before everything returned to normal at a disappointing speed.

“Four minutes is a song on the radio,” Hartenstine said. “You can totally miss the experience. You have to know in advance what you are looking for and then you can truly accept it.”

While some embrace it, others have to plan for it. The eclipse coincides with the NCAA Women’s Final Four at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and the Cleveland International Film Festival at Playhouse Square. And, of course, the home premiere of the Guardians, which will, at least to some extent, have to surrender to the quirks of science for a once-in-a-lifetime total eclipse in the park.

Over the past few months, the Guardians have consulted with everyone from local authorities to NASA scientists as they tried to determine the best approach to Opening Day. The Guardians have scheduled seven of their last eight home openers (in which fans were allowed) for 4:10 p.m. ET, but that time will fall in the partial eclipse window, and they will try to hit a slider of 90 mph while wearing sunglasses with sunscreen. It is a difficult task. By choosing a late afternoon start time, fans could watch the eclipse from stadium seats that overlook the midday sun. Even if they opt for a night game, there will still be traffic-related challenges to resolve.

Few baseball teams have had to consider these questions before, but there is at least one example, and they leaned heavily into the eclipse festivities.

In 2017, the Bowling Green Hot Rods, the Rays’ Low A affiliate, faced a similar moment. Bowling Green, Kentucky, was in the path of totality, and when an astronomy professor at nearby Western Kentucky University put it on his radar a year in advance, the Hot Rods began their planning.

They settled on a brunch-time first pitch, officially 10:34 a.m., since league rules prohibited them from starting much earlier. The teams, dressed in black “moon” and white “sun” jerseys, breezed through the first eight innings, but just as the Hot Rods announcer expressed relief at the pace of the game, the West Michigan Whitecaps posted a ninth of five races. and the sunlight began with the sun.

In 2017, the Bowling Green Hot Rods turned an eclipse into a fully themed event, complete with special uniforms and a viewing party. (Steve Roberts/Bowling Green Hot Rods)

If the game had lasted longer than the two hours and 38 minutes it lasted, the teams would have stopped the action. Instead, moments after the final out, players and fans sprawled on the outfield grass as professors explained the science going on overhead.

The Hot Rods drew a crowd of 6,006, one of the largest in the stadium’s history, and certainly the largest for a first pitch on a Monday morning.

The Guardians have sold out their first home game since 1994, and it’s fair to expect Progressive Field to sell out its roughly 35,000 seats again, eclipse or not. In a normal year, that might qualify as a major downtown event; This year has a lot of competition.

This is the first total solar eclipse over Cleveland since 1809, nearly a century before the city’s baseball team became a founding member of the American League. Destination Cleveland, an organization charged with bringing tourism to the city, estimates that 200,000 visitors will walk through downtown that day. Most of the city’s hotels are already sold out.

“People are going to come to Cleveland like we’ve never seen before,” said Scott Vollmer, vice president of education and exhibits at the Great Lakes Science Center.

NASA will broadcast the day’s events from outside the Great Lakes Science Center, where a crowd of 50,000 is expected to gather for the grand finale of a three-day festival in the North Shore port.

“It’s literally a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Vollmer said, “and all you have to do is look up to see it.”

Downtown Cleveland isn’t the only place expecting to be overrun with eclipse tourists. The suburb of Avon Lake, Ohio, about a half hour west of downtown Cleveland, sits directly on the center line of totality, hence the city’s new motto: “The Best Seat in Totality.”

Erin Fach, Avon Lake’s parks and recreation director, has studied Hopkinsville, a small town in southwestern Kentucky that welcomed visitors from 48 states for the 2017 eclipse. Fach and her team even dined at Ferrell’s, a Hopkinsville burger joint with a stove and a dozen stools that, five years after the historic event, still included an eclipse burger on its menu: a double cheeseburger with bacon and sunny side up. egg.

Fach expects the population of the city of 30,000 to double or triple by April 8. He has prepared city planners by describing the day as their annual Fourth of July fireworks show, coinciding with the largest high school football game they have ever hosted, while another historic event unfolds. in the main community park.

Now, eclipse organizers and tourists alike are simply hoping the weather holds out and everyone can see the spectacle. Cloud cover is a concern in Cleveland, but Hartenstine conveyed cautious optimism that Lake Erie’s temperature will create a barrier of cold air that will push a cloudy, stagnant sky away from the coast. Colleagues at the Johnson Space Center in Houston have asked Hartenstine why eclipse chasers would venture to Cleveland on April 8 instead of Dallas or another city with a more favorable spring forecast. Hartenstine noted that Cleveland has had clear skies on that date for the past two years.

“The pinnacle (is) totality,” Hartenstine said. “The last ray of sun disappears behind the moon and then you have to take off your eclipse glasses or you won’t see anything. When you take off those glasses, you can see the corona of the sun radiating in the sky.

“That was my moment in 2017. I still didn’t understand it. But once you take off the glasses and see the spectacle, it all depends on how long you have in that path of totality, whether it’s 20 seconds or 3 minutes, 50 seconds, like Cleveland has done. You have to assimilate it.

“It’s four minutes of visual phenomenon, amazement, and then it’s gone.”

The Guardians are expected to decide their start time in the coming weeks. Whether they include the eclipse in the home opener or try to work around it, it will be a baseball experience with few precedents.

Kentrianakis plans to wait until 18 to 24 hours before the climax of the event to determine whether he will stay in Carbondale or head directly to Cleveland. The city with the clearest prediction will win. It is the last total solar eclipse that will be visible in the contiguous United States until August 2044.

“It’s an indescribable experience,” he said. “It’s like nothing you can imagine.

“Everyone will say, ‘That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.'”

(Top image: Eamonn Dalton / The Athletic; Photos: Bill Ingalls courtesy of NASA; Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)