GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Hall of Famer Bob Feller threw out the ceremonial first pitch, four F-16 fighter jets screamed by in a fly-over and snakes stayed out of the press box.
Under brilliant sunshine and an infinite blue sky, the Cleveland Indians began a new era of spring baseball on Wednesday.
After training for 16 years in Florida, the Indians returned to Arizona and christened glistening Goodyear Ballpark with a 10-7 loss to the San Francisco Giants.
First baseman Travis Ishikawa homered twice, Nate Schierholtz hit a two-run shot and NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum worked one scoreless inning for the Giants, who won the Cactus League opener but couldn't dampen the Indians' enthusiasm for their 8,000-seat ballpark located a few tape-measure homers from the player development complex.
The 90-year-old Feller was dazzled.
"If the ballclub is as good as the facility, they ought to win the World Series in four games," he said.
Third baseman Mark DeRosa, acquired by the Indians in a trade with the Chicago Cubs this winter, hit a three-run homer and Stephen Head and Michael Aubrey added solo shots for Cleveland.
But the star of day was the ballpark, which sits on former cotton fields located more than 1,700 miles from Cleveland and a world away from the Indians' former spring home in Winter Haven, Fla.
"Spectacular," team president Paul Dolan said. "It's everything we could have hoped for."
Unable to find a new home in Florida, the Indians picked up and returned to Arizona, where they previously trained from 1946-92. Chain Of Lakes Park had a certain throwback charm, but in recent years the tiny ballpark, along with the Indians' clubhouse and minor league complex, had become dated and dirty.
Rats could be heard scampering above the clubhouse ceiling tiles, and two years ago a black snake slithered across the front row of the outdoor press box.
The Indians' new home features a right-field party pavilion and lawn seating in left and center fields to accommodate up to 2,000 fans. There's a whiffle ball diamond down the right-field line for kids, and fans who park nearby can get a short ride to the stadium's gates by hailing a bicycle taxi.
Once inside, they enjoyed local cuisine as well as ballpark staples like hot dogs, peanuts and pizza. Feller, as he did in Florida, set up a table on the concourse and signed autographs.
Sprawled on a blanket under a palm tree in left, Gary and Kristen Nordquist of Goodyear soaked in some rays and sipped cold beers as they enjoyed opening day festivities.
The couple has watched the ballpark grow from the dirt over the past few years and was thrilled by the finished product.
"It should bring in dollars and it gives us something to do," said Gary Nordquist, who plans to bring his young sons to a game next week. "It's fantastic."
Plans to build a hotel and retail area on the grounds have been put on hold by the sagging economy, and only 4,181 fans paid to see the opener. But Dolan is confident Indians fans will work their way out West to see the $108 million training complex.
"Cleveland fans love their baseball," he said. "It might not happen as quickly as we would like, but if it's not this year, then next year. You know, 85 degrees and clear blue skies sells itself."
The Indians were sold on the move to Arizona because of the new facilities, consistent weather and shorter travel to play games. By next year when the Cincinnati Reds arrive to share their ballpark, the Indians will have eight teams within a 20-minute drive.
"It's something that's going to help us as an organization," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. "From a training standpoint, we're able to be a little more efficient with the way we work."
Lincecum, who went 18-5 last season and led the majors with 265 strikeouts, was pleased with his first outing. He struck out Grady Sizemore leading off and gave up a two-out single to Jhonny Peralta but was able to locate all 18 pitches, throwing 17 fastballs and just one curve.
With Randy Johnson joining the Giants' staff and Barry Zito already in the rotation, San Francisco has three Cy Young winners.
Lincecum said he has already learned under Johnson, who said he didn't feel he had a great season until he won his fifth Cy Young.
"He wants to get better and he showed that," Lincecum said. "I always want to get better. I'm not just sitting on my butt, hoping everything would be all right. I'm going to do my work and get better, that's what it takes to be a great player."
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