You may not believe this, but there was a nationally televised program wherein a Cleveland professional sports franchise was the subject, and it was littered with positive news and notes from front to back. I know, even I was shocked to have heard. In a day where NFL Network’s “Cleveland ’95” is soon to be followed up by an ESPN 30 for 30 on the decades of lakefront misery, MLB Productions provided Cleveland fans with a bit of a deviation from what they’ve become used to with their 30-minute episode of “Mission October: Cleveland Indians” as the Tribe, and the city, prepare for a hopeful run at the 2013 postseason.
In the opening scene, FOX Sports 1’s crew finds themselves in the modest Cleveland-area home owned by Tribe starting pitcher Justin Masterson. After a long-distance FaceTime session with his daughter and wife, Masterson finds himself making a breakfast as the crew looks on. While the 6-foot-6-inch ace is discussing the trials and tribulations of being injured while his team is vying for a playoff spot, the at-home audience can’t help but marvel at the copious amounts of food which he is making for himself: About two dozen tater tots go into the oven; several eggs are being scrambled inside of a giant, plastic made-for-individually-wrapped-bubble-gum bucket as a quarter bag’s worth of shredded cheese is being dumped inside; hockey puck-sized sausage patties are being made on a stove-top griddle. All of this food is served for a party of one on paper plates as the bald-yet-bearded ace waxes on about his team’s future.
“Mission October,” qualifying as “embedded,” takes a look inside of the Cleveland Indians’ clubhouse as they jockey for position within the American League Wild Card standings during their most recent four-game sweep of the Houston Astros. The Matt Carson game, the washed-out win…it’s all there, complete with Tribe center fielder Michael Bourn being wired during the former where he would make the first out of the night on a full-extension diving play in center field. While the in-game audio may not have been the most entertaining for the casual fans, the way the team nominated him to be wired—they “held a vote” prior to him arriving to the park—undoubtedly was.
Naturally, there was a segment which centered around the camera-ready mug and charisma of outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher. Swish, as he is so eloquently dubbed, took the MLB Productions crew on a walk through the Progressive Field clubhouse, showing fans the path the players take to the field and all of the inspirational quotes that lace the walls. There was a solid segment on the Goon Squad, the name given to Yan Gomes, Jason Giambi, Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn—the four reserve players who have been huge throughout the season for the Tribe, each having a walk-off or game-winning home run at some point throughout the season. And given the team’s potential fortune, playing the Boston Red Sox in the event they win the Wild Card, Terry Francona was given plenty of camera time behind the scenes.
If there was any shortcoming of “Mission October,” it’s that it was only 30 minutes. Having something for every level of fan—an emotional FaceTime, a croooked-hat wearing outfielder, a behind-the-scenes meeting with the pitching coach and the entire pitching staff1—the presentation was concise, compelling and undoubtedly entertaining.
When the production came to a close, the Indians found their name 1.5 games up for the second Wild Card spot. With one week to go, this band of brothers is on quite a winning streak, but it’s one they’ll have to continue if they plan on accomplishing said mission. It’s a fun time to be a Cleveland fan. After all, these sorts of documentaries don’t come around too often.
For those who may have missed it, the Indians edition of “Mission October” will air again on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. (EST) on FOX Sports 1
- Even I learned something watching this documentary. Kelly Shoppach is essentially an assistant coach in these meetings. He was providing scouting reports and tips at a macro level as well as individual players. Pretty impressive. [↩]