Hall of Fame Celebration a smash

Hall of Fame Celebration a smash

CLEVELAND -- Fans in attendance for the Indians Hall of Fame Celebration at Heritage Park on Sunday had a lot to say to the current and former Indians with whom they were able to mingle.

But it was when they simply stood from a short distance away, leaning near the plaques that dot the Indians' mini-historic village, that the fans simply looked awed.

It's safe to say that for even those who didn't muster up enough courage to talk to their favorite Indians player, a great, unique experience was had by all in the second year of this Progressive Field garden party of sorts, organized by Cleveland Indians Charities (CIC).

"We were really blessed with the great weather," said Curtis Danburg, Indians director of communication and creative services. "This really ties in well with the Hall of Fame celebration."

As the warm afternoon turned into breezy twilight, fans crammed the two levels of Heritage Park to seek out and simply chat with every member of the Indians' active roster and coaching staff. It's the only event of the season where fans have open access to all players.

Once the hobnobbing concluded, fans and players gathered in the right-center-field seats as longtime Indians radio voice Tom Hamilton introduced the former Tribe greats who made the trip back to Cleveland.

Getting there wasn't necessarily easy, though. Newly inducted Indians Hall of Famer Mike Hargrove had a tough time pushing through the crowd to reach his seat.

"It's worth it, though," Hargrove said, "because of what they do for us."

Indians Hall of Famers Charles Nagy, Andre Thornton, Len Barker, Max Alvis, Sam McDowell and Tribe legend Bob Feller were also in attendance to sign autographs, along with current Indians players and coaches.

In addition to their admission charge, fans had the opportunity to donate more money to Indians charities by participating in a silent auction or purchasing a Cracker Jack raffle box, which guaranteed a prize for every buyer.

Some of the prizes, which amounted to more than $30,000, included autographed jerseys from current and former Indians, season-ticket packages and Continental Airlines vouchers.

The event serves as the biggest fundraiser of the year for CIC, which has already donated $275,000 this year, Danburg said. The main benefactors of the CIC's donations are the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland, the City of Cleveland and the Cleveland Baseball Federation, which helps fund Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI).

Established in 1989, Cleveland Indians Charities is the self-sustaining charitable arm of the Cleveland Indians that concentrates on creative collaborations with partnering organizations that focus on youth education and recreation. Since its inception, CIC has donated more than $5.5 million to youth-oriented agencies and organizations throughout Northeast Ohio.

Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.