CLEVELAND - A lengthy rain delay at a major league baseball game can be for the birds.
At least it was at Progressive Field in Cleveland last Thursday afternoon -but in an entertaining way.
Just call it, "Dance of the Sea Gulls," with a little background music provided by guitarist Will Ackerman.
With the Indians leading the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning, play was halted when a monsoon-like shower drenched Cleveland. As fans scurried from their seats for shelter, the grounds crew hurriedly covered the diamond with a tarp.
It was 1:15 p.m.
Indifferent to the downpour, a flock of sea gulls began swooping, diving, and gliding above the playing field in the stadium. It almost looked choreographed.
It was like an extended halftime break.
On one pass, along the third baseline near the Indians dugout, a policeman in rain gear had to lean back to avoid being hit by three of the birds. That's how low they were, and they got even lower, with several landing on the tarp.
There, they remained and walked around the shortstop area, looking for food, I would imagine.
Mind you, Lake Erie is not too far away, a couple of miles up East 9th Street.
Other gulls congregated in the left-center field stands, next to the home run porch, then flew over to the right field seats, probably feasting themselves on peanut shells and spilt popcorn.
Meanwhile, the rain steadily came down, and then...at about 3 p.m., the grounds crew returned to the field to remove the tarp, and the gulls were airborne again. It was announced over the PA that the game would be resumed at 3:25 p.m.
It didn't happen, though, as another shower developed and the crew had to cover the diamond a second time.
At 3:46 p.m., the sun came out, and so did the grounds crew. Many of the fans returned to their seats, and the Indians and Rays players began warming up.
After a 2 hour and 40 minute rain delay, play was finally resumed at 3:55 p.m. and the gulls were nowhere to be seen. About 20 minutes later, it began sprinkling again, but this time there was no stoppage of play.
The Indians ultimately beat the Rays 2-1 to complete a four-game sweep. And, in the eighth inning, the sea gulls returned and began hovering over the field. Fortunately, no batted or thrown ball hit any of them.
Several years ago, southpaw flame-thrower Randy Johnson, now with the San Francisco Giants, fatally beaned an unlucky bird in flight.
Anyways, a rain delay at a baseball game doesn't have to be boring. The sea gulls at Progressive Field made sure of that.
Ron Johnston is The Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441, or at firstname.lastname@example.org