Whether they make the playoffs or not, the Cleveland Indians are one of the best stories of the 2011 season.
After a torrid start, they remain in contention — currently three games behind Detroit for the AL Central lead — and between the attitude of manager Manny Acta and the camaraderie of his players, the Indians just seem to be doing things the right way these days.
Over the weekend an inspiring story trickled out of Cleveland’s clubhouse that shows just how close these Indians have become.
Two weeks ago during a series in Boston, Jack Hannahan — a utility infielder hitting just .217 on the season — received notice in the dugout that his first child was due early and he needed to get home to Cleveland immediately in order to witness the birth.
With Hannahan at bat in the game, his agent, Joe Speed booked the first plane out back to Cleveland in the morning, but that likely wouldn’t get Hannahan home in time. He then checked into private planes, but at a cost of $35,000 they would drain the six-year veteran seven percent of his $500,000 annual salary.
That’s when Justin Masterson and the rest of Hannahan’s teammates stepped up.
As originally reported by Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press, Masterson caught wind of the situation after the game and immediately told Hannahan to “book it.”
When Hannahan said the price was too high for the private plane, Masterson said it again: “book it.”
Masterson then passed a hat around the clubhouse and within minutes, Hannahan had the $35,000 he needed to get home.
Hannahan arrived at the hospital at 3 a.m. John Joseph Hannahan V was born 15 minutes later, weighing just two pounds, 11 ounces. The newest Hannahan remains in the neonatal unity at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital but is said to be doing just fine.
Jack Hannahan returned to Cleveland’s lineup Friday and helped the Indians sweep a shortened two-game series with Minnesota.
In an era of steroid stories, brawls, temper tantrums and scandal, sports stories like this often get lost in the shuffle. But credit the Indians for providing a refreshing reminder of the values of team and the dugout bonds that helped make baseball America’s pastime.