CLEVELAND -- Once the pomp and pageantry of the home opener died down, the Indians played the rest of their six-game homestand at Progressive Field in front of a few of their closest friends.
The Tribe sold out the April 12 opener, drawing 42,061 fans. Over the next five games against the Rangers and White Sox, a total of 54,139 tickets were distributed. More than 1,100 of those tickets went to Cavaliers fans who paid $5 to enter Progressive Field upon the conclusion of Saturday's NBA playoff game next door at Quicken Loans Arena.
Attendance figures at April and May home games, before the weather gets more predictable, are traditionally lower, and small crowds were all the more expected after a 97-loss season and with a youthful roster on the field. Still, the proliferation of empty seats, particularly for the weekend games against the White Sox, does not go unnoticed by the players, who feel a responsibility to win this city over again.
"I remember how it was in '07, and everybody remembers the 1990s, when this place was filled," designated hitter Travis Hafner said. "If we win, we'll get great crowds and a great atmosphere. If we do our part and win games, the attendance will pick up."
Justin Masterson got the starting nod Wednesday, when the Indians and Rangers drew the smallest announced crowd in 17 seasons of Progressive Field's existence -- 10,071. It's a bit of a culture shock for Masterson, a former member of the Red Sox who no doubt grew accustomed to playing in front of a packed house at Fenway Park.
"In my mind, I keep looking for great things to happen to get people to see they're missing out," Masterson said. "There are good things to come here."