There was only one way that longtime Indians fans Stephanie Jeffirs and Meredith Schuette could possibly "top" being on a Progressive Field concourse with the chance to win some bucks in Cleveland's first hosting of the hit MLB.com game show "Bucks on the Pond," powered by Ford: Ketchup, Mustard and Onion had to be there with them.
Watch Episode 14 and find out whether the stars of the Sugardale Hot Dog Derby, a fixture after the fifth inning there, could help two best friends cover the cost of their day at the ballpark, and then some. Tuesday's release marks the first time official racing mascots have joined the show, which has reached two-thirds of Major League Baseball cities now that Cleveland becomes the 20th stop since it premiered last August.
"Considering the Hot Dog Derby is a favorite inning segment of mine at Progressive Field, it was awesome to be encouraged by the three race champs, reciprocating my support for them at every game," Jeffirs said in an email to MLB.com. "Every time we go to a game, we leave with excellent stories to tell, things that just don't happen to everyone."
"It was so exciting being approached," Schuette added. "Steph and I have known each other for about 10 years and both grew up in Perry, Ohio, and went to middle and high school together. This game was our first of the year and we were nervous because it was supposed to rain all day, but we were lucky and got a couple innings in without the rain. But it was cut short because of several rain delays. Still, we had such a great time and being on 'Bucks' made our day at the ballpark very memorable."
Participating in an episode of "Bucks," dancing with the Hot Dog Derby mascots, watching a contender, fielding a question from Frank Thomas, facing two-strike pressure, breaking out the fanny pack, shouting your ACT score, drawing curious looks from fellow fans, waiting to see Jason Kipnis and Vinnie Pestano in action, sitting in the first row of the outfield seats at a glorious ballpark, "Tribe or Die" ... who wouldn't feel that way?
"Bucks" is hosted by Jeremy Brisiel, and you might be a part of it this season when you least expect it. Fans at the ballpark interact with MLB.com's studio through the magic of technology in conjunction with game action inside. In creating a new experience for fans, MLB.com is giving people a chance to earn bucks while they spend bucks at the ballpark.
Contestants are asked a trivia question -- general knowledge and baseball -- on each pitch during a half-inning of baseball. Get the question correct and win money. Get the question wrong and it's a strike. Three strikes and you're out.
The questions' difficulty and value increase with the number of outs in the on-field action: $5 easy questions to start, $10 medium-difficulty questions after one out, $20 hard questions after two outs. If the contestant lasts longer than the team's at-bat, they win the bucks in their bank -- like the Rockies fans who just won 220 bucks in the previous episode.
Here's the new wrinkle: Cross the $100 mark during the show and it's time for "Say The Word" powered by Ford SYNC. You can wager any part of your bank on the next question, which is asked by Thomas, the 2014 Hall of Fame candidate. Answer correctly and you win, answer incorrectly and you lose that amount ... and it's another strike.
Jeffirs is a psychology major at Clemson, back home for the summer before her sophomore year. Schuette has worked for almost two years now as a registered nurse at the Altercare skilled nursing and rehab facility in Mayfield, Ohio. They follow the Indians at home and on the road, trying to attend two or three games a month, and are about to travel to Baltimore this weekend to watch the Tribe play there the following Monday and Tuesday.
"I am so proud to be a fan of such an amazing and hard-working team," Jeffirs said. "The game we went to when we played 'Bucks on the Pond' faced several rain delays that began at around 9:30 p.m. [ET], but our boys didn't complain, scored some runs and showed tremendous dedication to the sport and the fans."
"We are both all about Tribe pride," Schuette said. "It's definitely not always easy being a Cleveland sports fan, but there was so much action in the offseason with trades, the signing of [manager] Terry [Francona] and our home opener selling out in six minutes. It's great to see this city excited about baseball again following a couple of rough years. There's so much energy and excitement about what this team can accomplish and you can tell the players are equally as excited. As my boy Vinnie would say, 'If you're scared, get a dog.'"
If the two Indians fans were scared of the questions in Episode 14, it was hard to tell. Topics covered in this episode include North American countries, Indians saves leaders, the globe, Greece, TV networks, rock bands, Indians stolen base leaders, currency, umpires, "The Brady Bunch," art, reality shows, comic strips and Indians of the 1970s.
"We were definitely excited when Ketchup, Mustard and Onion showed up -- especially since I referred to the Onion hot dog as 'Mayonnaise' first," Schuette said. "Not sure who puts mayo on a hot dog."
Ah, yes. Would the misnomer come back to haunt the contestants, a kind of condiment karma? Would they all celebrate together and go for dogs, spending the pair's winnings? Was there any doubt that fixin' fixtures would be right there as MLB.com fired away with questions?
According to the Hot Dog Derby official page: "The Hot Dogs have become a fan favorite since they were introduced to Indians fans in 2007. They can be seen throughout the game causing trouble and meeting fans in various parts of the ballpark."
This was the 43rd overall episode. In addition to the Indians, teams visited by the "Bucks" crew include the Angels, Astros, Athletics, Cardinals, Cubs, D-backs, Dodgers, Giants, Marlins, Orioles, Red Sox, Reds, Rockies, Royals, Padres, Pirates, Tigers, White Sox and Yankees. Bookmark MLB.com/bucks and be on the lookout for the "Bucks" crew at your ballpark.