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Residents want their MLB

Andy Ouriel • Apr 2, 2014 at 12:45 PM

Pat Churchill waited more than five excruciating months to once again watch her favorite baseball squad.

But Churchill and 125 or so of her neighbors living in Erie County’s public nursing home struck out Monday night when their TVs blacked out the Cleveland Indians game. Monday marked Cleveland’s first regular-season game this year.

Indians win opener

Buckeye CableSystem, The Meadows at Osborn Park’s cable TV provider, recently increased rates on seven channels, including SportsTime Ohio, the Cleveland Indians’ flagship station.

SportsTime Ohio airs almost all of the Indians’ 162 games this season. Only some weekend games and a handful of other matchups are on over-the-air TV. Decades ago, most Indians games aired on free TV.

Citing the nursing home’s abysmal financial standing, officials opted against paying a premium fee to show Indians games.

The nursing home collectively lost about $4 million in year-over-year deficits dating back to 2002, according to county data. There have been recent attempts to reverse the red ink, including the elimination of expenses such as higher-priced cable packages — and the cost to show Indians games.

The home’s cable bill today hovers around $1,000 a month.

Adding just SportsTime Ohio would have cost an additional $540 a month.

“With the financial situation of the facility, it was difficult to justify to the county spending an additional ($540) a month on a $1,000 cable bill (each month) already,” nursing home administrator Lori Opfer said.    

Buckeye CableSystem’s policy on commercial accounts is to hook up — not cherry-pick — all TVs in the building with a certain cable package, officials said. It’s not clear exactly why these cable channels would cost so much more than the standard cable package, or why Buckeye CableSystem won’t allow individuals to make their own selections.

The news of no Indians games, including not being able to watch Monday’s opening contest in Oakland against the Athletics, devastated Churchill.

“It makes me sick,” Churchill said. “It’s not the same on the radio.”

Churchill, a lifelong Tribe fan who watches games while simultaneously keeping score in a personal notebook, said the Indians provide her top-notch entertainment.

“That’s the only enjoyment I get,” Churchill said. “I watch the reruns. I watch the replays. I watch everything Indians.”

The news would surely devastate Chief Wahoo, whose wide grin might disappear upon learning some of his biggest fans can’t watch his team play.

“It makes me feel bad that they’re not on,” nursing home resident Barb Mears said.

Others in positions of power also aren’t too happy about the situation.

Erie County commissioner Pat Shenigo, who has spearheaded several upgrades at the facility, vowed to quickly address airing Tribe games.

“Our intent is to be able to be able to provide these premium channels in communal areas at no charge to the residents; however, one solution could be an individual resident purchasing a device, such as an Apple TV, that would allow that resident to purchase the content that they want, such as Netflix, on an individual basis,” Shenigo said. “We understand that watching the Cleveland Indians is a quality-of-life issue, and we will make this service available soon in common areas through the Internet.”

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