Steve Eby | On 14, Dec 2014
With Johnny Manziel-mania having already swept through Cleveland, Berea and Browns Backer’s bars across the nation, the rookie quarterback who had never taken an NFL snap brought his fanfare and Hollywood-like swagger to Progressive Field on Wednesday night, June 4.
Manziel, along with cornerback and eighth overall pick Justin Gilbert, was scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Indians final game against the Boston Red Sox. Not since former President Bill Clinton tossed out the first pitch on Opening Day over 20 years ago has the approximately 15-second pregame ceremony gotten so much fanfare. Tribe fans were ready to stampede the box office to get a glimpse of Johnny Football’s first “pass” in Cleveland’s city limits.
“I hope he scrambles,” Tribe Manager Terry Francona joked when he was asked what kind of pitch he wanted to see Manziel throw.
In what Browns fans everywhere are hoping isn’t a bad omen that foreshadows things to come, however, the event failed to live up to the hype.
Rain roared through downtown Cleveland starting hours before the scheduled 7:05 game time and continued for well over two hours afterward. The soaked fans wearing both Indians gear as well as several ‘Manziel #2’ Browns jerseys were screaming for Johnny Football until the first pitch was eventually cancelled due to the unrelenting downpour.
The cancellation occurred after the football players got a tour of the clubhouse and some pitching pointers from Tribe starter Josh Tomlin. The two athletes did not seem to need much direction, however.
“I played (baseball) since I was six until I was 16,” Manziel said. “I played until I was a junior, when I graduated and went early to Texas A&M. I was going to play in college, but went to A&M instead for football. I played middle infield.”
“The first sport I played was baseball,” Gilbert added. “I played for two years before I got into football at age seven. I played in a lot of tournaments and traveled all over playing—I was a pitcher. I played into my freshman year of high school before I gave it up for track.”
The two Browns rookies did make an appearance on the field and Manziel flashed his touchdown money sign to the roaring, drenched spectators. During what became just an on-field photo session, both Manziel and Gilbert received loving ovations from the crowd.
Manziel, who is treated with rock-star-status everywhere he goes, agrees with his new teammate.
“It’s been great,” Manziel said. “I’m still trying to get familiar with the city. Fans are out there (in Berea) every day. It was like that at A&M, too; it’s great though.”
Dressed in a white, #2 Indians jersey, Manziel smiled when asked about the now-famous picture of a Little League version of him donning a Chief Wahoo cap and a white shirt with the script “Indians” across his chest.
“The Indians were always our team growing up,” Manziel said. “When I moved to Kerrville (Texas) in middle school, that was our team again.”
Even though he had not gotten a chance to show off his throwing arm to the city at that point, it was good to see Manziel out at the ballpark making the Indians his team once again.
Photo: Chuck Crow/Plain Dealer