Larry Doby Jr. was once tasked with the job of helping rock legend Billy Joel warm up for a show. The son of the Indians great put on a baseball glove and the two played catch, preparing Joel for a ceremonial first pitch in front of Tribe fans at Progressive Field.
A decade later, Doby Jr.’s ties to the organization — his dad broke the American League color barrier in 1947 with the Indians and is in the Baseball Hall of Fame — have helped bring a Billy Joel concert to the Indians’ home ballpark. The team announced on Thursday that Joel will play at Progressive Field at 8 p.m. ET on July 14.
“It’s always good to come back to this fine city,” said Doby Jr., who works for Joel. “Normally, every time I’m here … we’re doing something for my dad. It’s like coming home almost. This particular day, I am very proud to say that as a member of Billy Joel’s road crew for over 20 years, that we’re going to actually put a show on here at Progressive Field.
“It’s an honor to be representing Billy and the crew and say we are so looking forward to being here in July.”
The concert, which is being put on by the Indians in conjunction with Live Nation, will mark Joel’s first time playing in Cleveland since April 1, 2014, at Quicken Loans Arena. Joel also played at The Q on April 13, 2007, when he made the stop at Progressive Field to throw out the first pitch.
Tickets for Joel’s show at Progressive Field are on sale to the general public at indians.com/billyjoel. The stadium ticket office will be open only on Friday, Jan. 13. Tickets can also be purchased by phone (877-538-6282) or at Ticketmaster.com.
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Last year, Joel performed concerts at Petco Park in San Diego, PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field in Chicago, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. When he plays at Progressive Field, the Indians will be on the road in Oakland, following the All-Star break.
“To be determined,” Antonetti said. “We think he has a chance to be a good everyday player. We have to balance what opportunity and role he’ll have on the team, what our other alternatives are there and what’s best for Yandy.”
Last season, Diaz posted a .318/.408/.446 slash line in 121 games between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus, and he was a member of the World roster for the All-Star Futures Game. He bounced between third base (52 games), left field (24) and right (28) with one appearance at second base. Along the way, Diaz had nine homers, 22 doubles, four triples, 58 RBIs, 11 steals, 66 runs, 71 walks and 86 strikeouts.
In 95 games at Triple-A this past year, Diaz hit .325 with China jerseys and an .860 OPS, better than his career showing of .307 (.813 OPS) in the Minors. The right-handed hitter also turned in a .387 average (.1.080 OPS) against lefties, compared to a .292 (.772 OPS) against righties, in 2016. As a Minor Leaguer, Diaz’s trademark has been strike-zone discipline, as evidenced by having more walks (198) than strikeouts (191) in his career.
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While playing for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason, Diaz had a .371/.451/.510 slash line in 151 at-bats. His showing included wholesale MLB jerseys and two homers, nine doubles, three triples, 18 RBIs, 24 runs, 20 walks and 26 strikeouts. The Indians were encouraged by the consistency Diaz maintained after transitioning from Triple-A to winter ball.
“Really good reports,” Antonetti said. “Yandy continues to do what he’s done throughout his entire career, which is manage the strike zone really well and be a really productive offensive player. He played a lot of positions in winter ball, including center field. The reports were good about his work and how he went about things with cheap jerseys. He had a really good winter.”
Next, Diaz will try to impress Cleveland during the spring.
“We know that depth is really important to have,” Antonetti said. “There are going to be a lot of guys, including some unexpected guys that are going to contribute to our team next year. I think we saw it this past year: You need to have contributions from those guys to have a successful season.”