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Tribe’s first game back emotional

CLEVELAND – Mike Sweeney came back to work singing a song that’s in his and America’s heart.

As the Kansas City first baseman entered the Royals’ clubhouse in Jacobs Field on Tuesday, he sang “God Bless America” loud enough for everyone in the room to hear him.

“It’s just what’s in my heart right now,” Sweeney said during pregame batting practice.

Sweeney wasn’t alone.

Baseball returned to the Jake on Tuesday night, giving the Indians, Royals and fans a brief respite from their grief following last week’s terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

“My singing is just a byproduct of it being in my mind,” Sweeney said. “This is a time for prayer, for us to pray that God does bless our president, our leaders and our people everywhere.”

When the massive iron gates beyond the left-field wall at Jacobs Field swung open at 5:30 p.m., there were only a few dozen fans waiting in line to get inside.

As they passed through the turnstiles, they were handed a cardboard American flag before having their bags checked under new security measures implemented by baseball in the aftermath of the tragedies.

One of the first to come in off Eagle Ave. was Valerie Shuman, who didn’t even bother re-zipping her purse after it was checked by an usher.

Instead, she reached in, pulled out a few dollar bills and dropped the money into a red bucket being held by one of members of the Cleveland Fire Department collecting for the families of their firefighting brothers in New York.

“God Bless You,” she said to the fireman while making her donation.

Pausing to look at the field for the first time, Shuman became emotional when asked if she was glad baseball was back.

“You’re going to make me cry,” she said. “Baseball is America and America is baseball. I’m just glad we’re able to play. It’s good to be here. I wanted to be here. It’s just so hard to see the flag at half-staff.”

Shuman said she convinced her sister-in-law, Joyce Shuman, to make the trip from Canal Fulton, Ohio, to see baseball’s return.

“I talked her into it,” said Shuman, who like her sister-in-law was dressed in Indians colors – red, white and blue. “I felt like we had to be with people who love America and love baseball. We had to be here tonight. Go USA and Go Tribe.”

As Cleveland’s bravest got instructions about where to stand in the ballpark, a home run ball ricocheted off the home run porch in left and nearly went into fireman Mark Miller’s bucket.

Miller of Company No. 13 picked it up and put it in his baggy yellow pants.

“The first kid who gives me a donation is getting it,” Miller said.

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