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Slider visits seniors

Andy Ouriel • May 8, 2014 at 4:50 PM

Slider pulled doubleheader duty Tuesday.

At night, the Cleveland Indians large, furry, purplish mascot rooted on the Tribe from Progressive Field.

But several hours beforehand, he motivated some loyal fans staying at The Meadows at Osborn Park.

Click HERE for more photos from the visit

Slider made a rare stop in Erie County on Tuesday afternoon, visiting 125 public nursing home residents and employees.

People laughed and seemed delighted as Slider entertained them by dancing, clapping, gyrating and kissing people. For some lucky women, the pecks turned into extended make-out sessions.

Nursing home staff, sporting Chief Wahoo gear, went all out for Slider’s visit, decorating the main common area into a baseball haven with Indiansthemed pennants, streamers, flags, T-shirts and other memorabilia hanging from the walls. They also served hardball delicacies, such as hamburgers, hot dogs and ice cream to residents.

Click HERE for more stories from the Meadows at Osborn Park

“All this just makes me very happy,” nursing home resident Pat Churchill said. “I just love the Indians and Slider, who I have never met before”

Slider scheduled a visit after reading a Register story describing the plight of residents previously unable to view Tribe games on their TVs.

In early 2014, increasing programming costs brought upon by providers such as Fox forced Buckeye CableSystem, the nursing home’s cable TV provider, to raise rates on several channels, including SportsTime Ohio, the team’s flagship station.

Officials, citing the nursing home’s weak financial standing, opted against paying an additional $540 per month just for SportsTime Ohio. Adding this one channel alone would have increased the nursing home’s $1,000-a-month cable bill by 54 percent.

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.

About a month ago, coinciding with the start of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, the Register highlighted the Tribe’s blackout issue on nursing home TVs.

Several residents expressed emotions of agitation and frustration in interviews about not being able to watch the games.

Immediately after the article published, many community members donated money and Buckeye CableSystem negotiated a better rate to offset any and all extra costs for airing Indians games this year. Erie County commissioner Pat Shenigo, who attended Tuesday’s celebration, helped coordinate this private fundraising campaign.

The cable savings and private donations added up to about $7,000, enough to air one full year’s worth of SportsTime Ohio programming, which includes Indians games, at the nursing home.

Indians games have appeared on nursing home TVs for the past couple of weeks, and Slider’s arrival capped off a truly happy ending for residents.

“I just want to thank Slider and the Indians for making this happen,” nursing home administrator Lori Opfer said.

Slider seemed happy to play along, knowing fans would appreciate his appearance.

“Slider’s here to promote excitement and goodwill for the upcoming season for the residents here,” Cleveland Indians public relations assistant Joan Barno said.

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