The Lake Erie Monsters repeat for Best Minor League Team and we continue to agree for at least a few reasons. Because Cleveland has no NHL squad, the Monsters remain the only option on the ice (unless you get tickets to University School vs. Padua or something). Plus, the Monsters play at the Q, so it's not like you need to pack a picnic lunch on your trip to Akron or Lake County. The Monsters are the AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche and going to a game has all the in-game flare of the Cleveland Cavaliers, plus the bonus of a team that's actually competitive. In general, prices are cheaper and crowds are thinner, and it's a perfect venue for a date, a family outing, or a night out with some hockey fans.
Staff Pick: Akron Rubber Ducks
The second-year Cleveland Indian from Ohio State who has, to his credit, a devoted section of T-shirt wearing, sunglass-toting frat boys and pretty solid numbers at the plate, stole this award from Kyrie Irving, whose ongoing controversies overshadowed an All-Star game MVP, and Josh Gordon, who set about 30 NFL receiving records last year. But Swisher is a bro who loves Ohio and is really into the fans — and that's about all Clevelanders need. He'll help lead the Indians' offense back to the playoffs this year. He distributed T-shirts at the beginning of spring training that read "unfinished business." That's a mentality Cleveland fans can comfortably get behind.
Staff Pick: Dion Waiters
Nestled in Bay Village on the shores of Lake Erie, Huntington Beach is the oldest reservation in the Cleveland Metroparks and a well-groomed, year-round destination for locals and tourists alike. During the warmer months, folks looking to escape the daily grind trek the 10 miles from downtown to Huntington's shaded shores toting picnic blankets, Frisbees and coolers full of icy drinks to enjoy between dips in the water, hikes on the forested bluff and fishing from the Lake Erie breakwall. Did we mention that a Mitchell's Ice Cream has opened up shop there too? Head on over now.
Huntington Beach Park, Lake Rd., Bay Village, 440-331-8635.
Staff Pick: Mentor Headlands
For more than 100 years, Mahall's 20 Lanes has been a bowling-and-local-hangout institution. With the elbow grease of somewhat-new owners (Kelly Flamos and Joe Pavlick, ca. December 2011), the Madison Avenue joint is as fresh as ever. Plus, the place has become the source for some of the best nights out on the west side of town. Pretty much any night of the week, you've got a good chance of catching hot Second Line-style bands from New Orleans onstage or some Malian guitarist who'll shred the place with traditional African melodies or, you know, a fine exemplar of any other quirkily enticing music genre on the planet. Mahall's booking approach is top-tier, as is the food, the drinks and, oh, yeah, the bowling. It's old-school here (manually written scoresheets and all that). Order yourself a kale margarita or some equally far-out drink and slap them clown shoes on; you're always in for a good time at Mahall's.
13200 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-521-3280, mahalls20lanes.com.
Staff Pick: Twin Lanes
Since 2008, CLE Clothing Co. has been making local sports aficionados look good with their line of snazzy gear for each of our three professional sports teams. Whether it's capturing Browns' drinking culture, memorializing Jacobs Field or playing up Clevelanders as the best damn fans in the land, CLE Clothing Co. has a plethora of designs and styles to fit every sports season, no matter if we're winning or losing. Browse their vast selection of men's, women's and children's gear online and in-store.
342 Euclid Ave. 216-736-8879, cleclothingco.com.
Staff Pick: CLE Clothing Co.
Tito won this category last year, only a handful of games into his first season at the helm of the Indians, which is as much a credit to him as a commentary on the folks coaching the Browns and Cavs. Francona then lead the Tribe to 92 wins — 24 more than the previous season — and a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2007 (when Cleveland eventually lost to a Francona-led Boston Red Sox squad). The son of a former Indians player, he's now the reigning American League Manager of the Year and the only major Cleveland coach with national respect and any sort of job security. Yeah, there's no way you weren't voting for him again this year. And he rides a scooter around downtown!
Staff Pick: Terry Francona
Lordy, do readers love the Ohio State Buckeyes. Northeast Ohio might as well be a suburb of Columbus at this point. The Scarlet and Grey reign supreme year after year on the back of on-field success and plenty of alums hanging around these parts. Plus, if you didn't go to a big-time college, OSU is probably you're adopted alma mater. Urban Meyer is basically God in Buckeye Country, and though the Bucks fell in yet another bowl game, Meyer's been shaping the team to play more like the SEC and less like the Big Ten, which should pay dividends down the road. Braxton Miller returns in 2014 for his senior season and OSU has its sights set on the inaugural college football playoff, which kicks off for the first time this year.
Staff Pick: Cleveland State Basketball
Now that the snow has finally stopped — we suspect — and the ice has finally melted — we can only assume — you can start training for the Cleveland Marathon at last. You and everybody else. It's always sort of a treat, on the first sunny day of the year, to see the thirtysomethings emerge from their homes like hibernating bears, decked out in stretch pants and assorted neon gear. This year's 26.2-mile race will avoid the east side entirely and course through the west-side suburbs. The run is always a blast and proceeds go to support cancer. You can't argue with that. This year's race will take place on May 18, bright and early.
Staff Pick: St. Rocco's Greasy Pole Climb
With eight locations in Northeast Ohio, Planet Fitness has an outlet close to you, no matter where you live. And for only $10 a month, you can work off the pounds in style without subtracting too much weight from your wallet. Readers overwhelmingly agreed that whether you're a newbie fresh off a New Year's resolution to get fit or a fanatic who hits the gym five days a week, Planet Fitness is the destination to sweat it out without fear of judgment. (They claim to outlaw "gymtimidation.") Get off your duff, already, and snag yourself a membership. Come back and thank us next year.
Staff Pick: Lifetime Fitness
The Cleveland Metroparks lays claim to some of the finest links in Northeast Ohio, and Manakiki is one of its best. Formerly a private club, Manakiki is now an example of regional courses where you can play 18 holes for what you would pay for a bucket of balls and a Coke elsewhere. And while the prices are rock bottom, the course itself is top-notch — undulating and manicured greens challenge the scratch players, and the scenic, rolling layout gives the duffers something to look at while they're fishing their ball out of the sand traps. The Donald Ross design includes two canyon holes, plenty of water and a country-club quality feel. Golf may be a good walk spoiled, but it's a good walk nonetheless.
35501 Eddy Rd., Willoughby Hills, 440-942-2500, clevelandmetroparks.com/Main/Manakiki.
Staff Pick: Sleepy Hollow
Our Famed Alma Mater Graces, every shrine within our hearts! Chuck Kyle's iconic football program and Mike McLaughlin's perennial soccer powerhouse make these guys the athletic faces of the region and a thrill to watch in the fall. With her unforgotten faces, and the faith that she imparts. Teams at Iggy's are so good that anything other than a state championship is seen as a failure to live up to standards. Years in passing cannot sever, ties of new days from the old. Even the volleyball program is on a flippin' hot streak. These Cuyahoga Catholics are coached well and play hard. We're Ignatius men forever, as we hail the blue and gold.
Staff Pick: East Tech