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They Got Games 

Gateway comes alive again for the annual rite of spring.

Short stop? Monday's Game Day Party will outlast the - Tribe. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CLEVELAND INDIANS
Jerry Stanziano puts more faith in copping a beer buzz than he does in betting his Tribe will go to the playoffs this year.

The rebuilding Indians finished fourth in the lackluster AL Central last season, scoring fewer runs than they ever had at Jacobs Field. And upgrades to this year's roster appear woefully minimal. They may not be champions by October, but everyone gets to dream in April.

Stanziano, a 27-year-old trucker from Euclid, is the first to admit he's a "born naysayer," whose pessimism is often met with rolled eyes and nasty glances. So he patiently, silently awaits the sold-out home opener against the Minnesota Twins on Monday, working out the preseason kinks in his delivery at the Harry Buffalo downtown. Sitting underneath a string of plastic Tribe banners, he glares out the window at Jacobs Field and recites a baseball bum's prayer: "Puh-leeze, you guys, make it this year," he pleads. Then he pops another potato skin into his mouth.

Win or lose, the start of the baseball season for Stanziano and countless others is a rite of spring, This year, the party starts and (barely) ends at Harry Buffalo's Game Day Party. "It'll be like St. Patrick's Day," says Kim Wheeler, a Harry Buffalo manager. "Masses of people lining out the door to get a bite to eat and a beer and go [to the game]." Or maybe two games.

This year's Tribe opener starts at 3:05 p.m. -- two hours later than usual. By six, bodies will be streaming out of Jacobs field and into Gund Arena, where the Cavaliers play their final home game of the season against the Milwaukee Bucks at 7 -- also before a sold-out crowd.

That means the Harry Buffalo crew will need a second wind. "The Tribe people want to wait out the [rush-hour] traffic, the Cavs people want to eat before the game, and those who don't have tickets to either will come in because [the games] are on TV," Wheeler says.

Count Jacqui Stahl of Cleveland among them. Before the locally owned Harry Buffalo chain took over Ferris Steakhouse last summer, she and her girlfriends would wait at the bar while their husbands and fiancés went to the game. "They say we don't know anything about the game," she says. "So we sit right here and talk about kids and shopping and clothes. Y'know, girl things."

There's nothing girly about Stanziano's party plans. He'll drink his Michelob Ultra, go to the Jake, and drink more beer afterward. "Maybe I'm wrong," he concedes, momentarily setting his pessimism adrift. "[The Tribe] has done well in spring training. Matt Lawton can kick butt. And how can you lose with a guy named Coco Crisp?"

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