Sure they are here for baseball.

But for some out-of-towners at Tuesday's All-Star Game at Progressive Field, it is also a chance to sample the city's burgeoning culinary scene and craft beer offerings.

The Cleveland Indians have worked hard the past couple seasons to offer more than just the typical hotdog fare and serve up dishes and brews from some of the city's up-and-coming restaurants in the stands.

The ballpark's District Section — a line drive down the first-base line — was a popular spot for not only those sporting Tribe gear, but also just about every other team in the majors.

Nicholas Boehm, of Frederick, Maryland, was in town to root for his Yankees but also wanted to support the hometown food.

He was sipping an Elliot Ness Lager from the Great Lakes Brewing Co. on Tuesday night, noting he had already visited the Cleveland Tap House and the Winking Lizard earlier in the week.

Boehm said he wasn't sure what to expect on his first visit to Northeast Ohio but was surprised by how friendly everyone was and all the good places to eat and drink.

His traveling companion and fellow baseball fan, Alicia Spizzirro, of Dulles, Virginia, said the biggest surprise for her was how reasonable everything was from the food to the parking.

She said when the Nationals hosted the All-Star Game last year, the going rate for parking was $80.

The price to park Tuesday night close to the ballpark in Cleveland was the in the $20 to $50 range with many garages within walking distance charging even less.

"You have a lot of hometown pride here," she said. "There are a lot of people wearing Indians shirts everywhere you go.

"That's not the case in D.C."

Houston Astros fan Casey Atkins had the same view.

He too was surprised by the price of things from the admission to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton to the price of a steak at Lockkeepers in Cleveland.

Atkins settled on the Parmageddon sandwich at Melt in the ballpark that features potato and onion pierogi, Napa Vodka kraut, grilled onions and sharp cheddar on grilled bread.

"It was nice to see pierogi," he said, noting the dish is not common in Houston.

While some fans spent their pre-game time seeking out the best grub, others crowded the sidelines hoping for an autograph from the top players in the game.

Some, especially the kids, lucked out.

Pittsburgh resident but diehard Indians fan Caden Weinreich, 9, snagged a signature from Tribe great and Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jim Thome.

"It was just amazing," Caden said. "I really like him."

Theo Romanko, a 6-year-old from Atlanta, got an autograph from Commissioner of Baseball Robert Manfred, whose name is already on every ball in Major League Baseball. Did Theo know who Manfred was? "Kinda," he said, as he continued to try and track down any member of the Houston Astros or Boston Red Sox. He eventually wound up with a signature from Angels player Mike Trout.

Jake Hofstetter, 15, of Kidron, Ohio, brought a handmade but nearly professional-looking sign of a cardboard cutout of the All-Star Game logo, shaped like the body of a guitar. It took him and his parents about five hours to make it, and before the game Tuesday, he'd already gotten a few people to sign it, including Clevelander Drew Carey.

The work on the sign was worth it for his first All-Star Game, noting it might be his "only one ever."

It was also the first All-Star Game for 19-year-old Luis Rodriguez of Puerto Rico, who came to Cleveland for the first time just for the game. He said he was at the two games the Indians played in Puerto Rico last year, where he saw Francisco Lindor, who hails from the American territory, hit a monster home run in front of his family and friends.

Rodriguez said he hoped to get an autograph from Lindor or Javier Baez, who is also from Puerto Rico. But either way, Rodriguez was content.

"This is a dream come true," he said. "My first All-Star Game."

 

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at jpignolet@thebeaconjournal.com, at 330-996-3216 or on Twitter @JenPignolet. Craig Webb can be reached at cwebb@thebeaconjournal.com.