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Tribe Fest 2019: For Cleveland Indians fans, players and coaches it’s a family affair

CLEVELAND, Ohio — For a few hours on Saturday, the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland was as close to baseball Nirvana as a Cleveland Indians fan could hope to find on an otherwise chilly January afternoon.

And with the home opener less than 80 days away, Tribe Fest 2019 felt like a family reunion at times for players and coaches who got to re-connect with fans of all ages.

Brad Conreat of Painesville, and his son, 9-year-old Luke, said the chance to meet Indians All-Star Francisco Lindor during an autograph session was the opportunity of a lifetime. It was something they both had looked forward to since the end of the Indians’ season.

“You spend six months watching them play every day, but this is when being a fan really means something,” Conreat said. “Frankie was so nice to meet. And Luke was just awe-struck. He’s our absolute favorite player.”

For slugger Carlos Santana, Tribe Fest weekend gave him a chance to reintroduce himself to fans and teammates after spending last season in Philadelphia.

“I’m excited to be back in my house,” Santana said as fans cheered his appearance on the Tribe Fest stage.

Thousands attending Saturday’s event also got a feel for what All-Star week activities in July will be like when the Midsummer Classic rolls into town. Upgraded batting cages, pitching and base running stations were available to fans as well as a deluxe “Field of Dreams” where kids got the chance to play Whiffle ball against Indians stars.

“This is our fourth year at Tribe Fest, and we couldn’t wait to come back to the convention center after last year,” said Paul Kent of Rocky River. “Having it here really makes it a lot of fun.”

General manager Mike Chernoff told fans that Tribe Fest gets him excited for the start of spring training, where manager Terry Francona addresses the club and begins the process of building the team’s identity.

“Team chemistry doesn’t just happen with one veteran player coming in, or by saying you care about it,” Chernoff said. “It happens day-by-day and by guys digging in together, being a group together, holding each other accountable. And there’s no better person for building that than Tito.”

Manager Terry Francona said seeing the enthusiasm of fans gets him excited to get to Goodyear as well.

“I love being there when the younger guys get there,” Francona said. “You get to spend some time with them. You get to know them a little bit. You get to see how they react to things. It’s really fun.”

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