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Indians honored to be a part of history

Indians proud to be a part of history

NEW YORK -- The Indians were the "and one" on the invitation to the new Yankee Stadium, and they were more than happy to oblige.

Ever since that September day when the 2009 schedules were released, members of Cleveland's organization were looking forward to what transpired Thursday. The Yankees officially christened their $1.5 billion home, with the Tribe serving as the maiden guests.

"I think everybody was looking forward to it," manager Eric Wedge said. "I've never been a huge Opening Day guy. I think it's more for the fans and baseball enthusiasts. But this is different here. With the old Yankee Stadium and what it's meant to the game of baseball, to be here at the first game ever at the new ballpark, I'd be lying if I said it's not special."

The subplot that came with this game -- CC Sabathia getting the start against his former club, and fellow Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee opposing him -- made it all the more special. But from the Indians' side of things, a couple of unexpected subplots emerged in the morning, when the lineup was posted.

Utility infielder Tony Graffanino, for instance, was given a start, spelling Asdrubal Cabrera at second base. Graffanino was in there because he's one of only two members of the Tribe (third baseman Mark DeRosa being the other) with some semblance of a history against Sabathia, and it was an important start for the guy who grew up on Long Island rooting for the Yanks.

"I'm excited to be a part of this," Graffanino said. "It's pretty cool. I never went to the old stadium as a kid, but I got to play there a bunch of times, and I loved it. To be playing today is exciting."

Rookie Trevor Crowe also cracked the lineup, getting the start in left field. Crowe was a last-minute addition to the Tribe roster when veteran David Dellucci strained his calf in Spring Training, and he had this date circled.

"A big reason I wanted to break camp with this team was to be here for this," Crowe said. "To get the start is an added bonus. I think everyone in here recognizes the significance of this game."

The game was one thing, but the Indians also got to experience the behind-the-scenes perks that come with the new facility.

For one thing, the plush leather couches in the visiting clubhouse have now officially been broken in. Just a couple hours before the first pitch, Lee was napping on the couch. Now, one would think, given the ballpark's price tag, that the players would all have their own king-sized bed for such naps, but, really, that was about the only amenity overlooked -- even for the visiting club.

"This is top of the line," outfielder Ben Francisco said. "This is just like being on the home side. It's got everything you need."

Wedge agreed.

"It's about the biggest visiting clubhouse you'll ever see," Wedge said with a laugh. "And that's nice, in this day and age. There's so much you do pregame, with the meetings and the advance reports, and you're utilizing every bit of it. That's definitely helpful."

And when it came to helping the Yankees break in their new ballpark, the Tribe was proud to be here.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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