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At the Cleveland Indians home opener on April 10 crowds can expect to hear super fan John Adams pound away on a bass drum in left center field as he has in virtually every home game since 1973. Over by the first base side of the field—and commanding a bit less attention—game- goers may also notice another distinguishing feature at Cleveland's Progressive Field: an upper deck solar panel array. The Indians were the first American League team to install an alt-energy power source in 2007, making it a member of the growing number of ball clubs whose stadiums are going green.
"We view ourselves as a civic leader, so it's our duty not just to think and act green, but to try to influence fans and the community, as well," says Curtis Danburg, a spokesperson for the team. The franchise put up $100,000 toward the $180,000 panels, with two grants covering the rest. Danburg says the panels generate 8.4 kilowatts, or "enough to energize the 400 televisions we have in the ballpark."
Many Major League Baseball (MLB) teams echo these sentiments, having taken similar action to "green up" their sport. In a partnership announced last year, the commissioner's office joined with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental advocacy group based in New York City, to spearhead the Team Greening Program. The initiative helps teams figure out ways to do their part in protecting the environment and staving off climate change.
"This effort is really changing baseball for the better," says Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist and coordinator of the sports greening project at the NRDC. "Baseball isn't green yet, but it's in the process of greening."
The process has unfolded in much the way the game is played, with the MLB's franchises trying to best one another in scoring energy efficiency accolades. "Everything reduces to a competition in our game," says John McHale, executive vice president of communications for the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, only half kidding. "And when you see something this positive come out of that, it's great."
He says that pro baseball has not yet collectively calculated its carbon footprint, but some individual teams have attempted to keep tabs on their contribution to global warming. The Philadelphia Phillies, for example, purchased about $250,000 worth of renewable energy credits to offset their Citizens Bank Park's utility power use for all of 2008, says team spokesperson Brian Mahoney. These credits—intended to pay for carbon-neutral electricity production from wind turbines and biomass burning—will also be bought to offset stadium energy needs for 2009, Mahoney says.
In a win–win, though, many teams have already financially benefited from reducing energy use and expanding recycling. The Seattle Mariners, for example, saved almost half a million dollars by cutting natural gas and electricity usage at Safeco Field by about 36 and 18 percent, respectively, the past two seasons, says team spokesperson Rebecca Hale. The organization also recycled 342 tons of plastic, glass and cardboard last year, saving $60,000 in waste disposal costs.