July 29, 2014

Elyria
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Browns QB Johnny Manziel gets warm welcome at elementary school, but rain washes out his first pitch at Indians game

BEREA — The cheers were so loud they forced one fan to cover his ears and walk outside. The barks were unusual for the setting but seemed appropriate on this day inside the muggy gymnasium.

Quarterback Johnny Manziel joined the other Browns rookies Wednesday afternoon for an assembly at Grindstone Elementary School, just minutes from the team facility. Manziel received the loudest applause of the 2014 class and the kids were in no hurry to stop the ovation. He ran through the crowd exchanging low- and high-fives, and some of the kids greeted him with his famous money gesture.

“I know it feels like it wasn’t that long ago for me I was in your guys’ seats,” said Manziel, 21.

The nightcap of Manziel’s doubleheader was a rainout. The 2½-hour rain delay forced the Indians to scrap the ceremonial first pitches scheduled for Manziel and fellow first-round pick Justin Gilbert, disappointing manager Terry Francona and the soggy crowd.

“I hope he scrambles,” Francona said before the game.

Instead of the first pitches, the Browns rookies went to home plate and were introduced to the crowd. Manziel, in a No. 2 Indians jersey, drew a big cheer when he made his money sign.

“It’s great to go to an Indians game for the first time,” he said in the afternoon.

The rookies spent the day together in the community, starting with the field trip to the school to promote a new initiative of the organization. First and Ten was established by the Browns to inspire fans to volunteer in their communities throughout the world.

The Browns are asking players, employees and fans to volunteer 10 hours in whatever way they choose to make a difference through everyday gestures of goodwill. The goal is 500,000 hours within the next year.

“We don’t tell people what to do. Just volunteer, just give back,” president Alec Scheiner said.

Manziel’s appearance added even more spice to a meaningful game with the Red Sox as the Tribe looks to keep climbing in the standings. But the cheers and barks inside the ballpark couldn’t compare to those inside and outside the gym, as the rookies were treated like rock stars for their entire visit.

“It’s getting me ready for the Dawg Pound,” said Gilbert, taken 14 picks ahead of Manziel at No. 8. “It was pretty rowdy.”

Kids wearing Jim Brown, Lou Groza and Trent Richardson jerseys stood out in the crowd that included a few parents out to get a glimpse and a photo of Manziel.

“Everybody ready’s for summer, right?” Manziel asked. “Whatever you guys can do to try to help in the community, and at the same time have fun and enjoy your summer.”

After the loud introductions, the players interviewed a few of the kids. Manziel asked their plans for the summer, and one girl replied she would attend several sleepovers.

“Everybody loves sleepovers,” Manziel said, flashing a thumbs-up.

As the team’s first pick, Gilbert followed Manziel into the auditorium and to the microphone. The cheer he received was almost as loud but didn’t last nearly as long.

“How am I supposed to back that up?” Gilbert said. “One more time for Johnny Football, ya’all.”

“It’s a tough job,” Gilbert said of following Manziel. “I’m getting used to it, though. I’m having fun, though.”

NOTES
Guard Joel Bitonio, the No. 35 pick, didn’t attend the rally at the school. He walked off the field with a trainer Tuesday during practice.

** Receiver Josh Gordon entered a not guilty plea Tuesday after getting a speeding ticket May 25 in Strongsville for going 74 mph in a 60 mph zone. One of the passengers admitted to having marijuana, according to reports.

** TMZ.com reported the hoax lawsuit filed in Florida against Manziel was dismissed by a judge.

** Scheiner said the team hasn’t made a decision about possibly holding training camp away from the team facility in 2015.

** Scheiner said the team hasn’t finalized the mechanics for the online signup it will use for fans to attend training camp this summer at the team facility.

“It’s really not about regulating attendance, it’s about making sure that people can get into training camp that come from different cities and from different states,” he said.

** Scheiner said it’s possible the team could hold a practice off-site this year, possibly in another city. The annual Family Night at FirstEnergy Stadium is in question because of ongoing renovations.

** Scheiner said the team hasn’t looked at adding cheerleaders, but is constantly surveying fans for their opinions.

Chris Assenheimer contributed to this report.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.