Total solar eclipse a spectacular leadoff for Guardians' home opener


CLEVELAND (AP) — Pregame festivities for the Guardians' home opener were ceremonial and celestial.

The first pitch for Monday's game between Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox was upstaged by the solar eclipse, which briefly turned day into night at Progressive Field and made an annual rite of spring seem almost surreal.

Two hours before making his home debut as Guardians manager, Stephen Vogt stood on the grass near the third-base line and gazed at the spectacle in the sky while wearing special solar-viewing glasses.

Hardly your usual opener.

Cleveland's players joined Vogt on the field to take photos and gawk at the alignment of earth, moon and sun — an event that more than lived up to its hype.

“Super dope,” Guardians pitcher Triston McKenzie said.

There were similar scenes all around the ballpark, currently under renovation, as thousands of fans moved to various spots to get the best possible views of the first total eclipse over Cleveland since 1806.

The next one won't be until 2044.

“It was actually kind of crazy,” Guardians center fielder Tyler Freeman said. “I didn’t think it was going to be anything like that, but it was special"

As the moon slowly crept in front and eventually blocked out the sun, the temperature dropped dramatically, the wind picked up and the ballpark was enveloped in an eerie twilight. Nothing about it felt normal.

“Awesome,” Vogt said after the Guardians beat the White Sox 4-0 for their fifth straight win. "What blew my mind was how dark it got. Not necessarily the sun, that was pretty cool to see, but just how dark and cold it got. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

At 3:13 p.m., the moment of totality, the Cleveland crowd erupted with a loud roar as if All-Star third baseman José Ramírez had connected for a homer. Pink Floyd's “Dark Side of the Moon” blared over the stadium's speaker system.

For the next four minutes, Cleveland baseball fans shared something they'll never forget — or witness again.

“That was amazing,” said 11-year-old Colton Nice, who stood with his dad, Josh, in the front row behind Cleveland's dugout.

Moments earlier, Vogt gave the youngster another thrill by stopping on his way to the clubhouse and asking him if he enjoyed the eclipse.

“It's a once-in-a-lifetime event, it happens what every 375 years?” Josh Nice said. “We're not going to see another one. So the fact that we scored some opening-day tickets, got to sit in the front row and see it together was awesome.”

Cleveland was one of the few major U.S. cities in the path of totality, a roughly 115-mile swath stretching across North America from Texas to Maine. But the Guardians were the only MLB team to have their game coincide with the eclipse.

The Guardians pushed back the starting time two hours to 5:10 p.m. so the eclipse wouldn't interrupt the game while also allowing Cleveland fans and astronomy enthusiasts who flocked into the city to soak it in.

White Sox pitcher Erick Fedde wasn't sure what to expect, but he was excited to be a part of it.

“Space is cool, right?” Fedde said while the White Sox took early batting practice. "People in our hotel are here just for the eclipse, which is kind of neat. Space groupies, I guess. I’ve never experienced one, so I’m looking forward to it.”

A few hours before eclipse, Vogt joked that he had been too busy lately to brush up on any constellation patterns.

“It's cool,” he said. “I can remember in elementary school in California, we had one that I remember the shop teacher bringing over the welding goggles and we all got to look at it. I don’t remember what year that was or anything, but I have this vague memory of doing that.”