CLEVELAND -- Between his time as a stalwart on the 1990s Indians and observer of the LeBron James era Cavaliers, Jim Thome knows what it's like to see Cleveland support a winning team.

But even the Hall of Fame inductee admits there will be something different about the city's backing of the Browns should they live up to the hype they've amassed over the course of the past year.

“This is a great baseball city, they’ve loved basketball," Thome said at Progressive Field on Tuesday. "But they love football, I think we all know that."

Jim Thome
Cleveland Indians' Jim Thome bats against the Detroit Tigers in a baseball game Monday, Sept. 5, 2011, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
ASSOCIATED PRESS

A big -- if not the biggest -- part of the buzz surrounding the Browns has been the emergence of Baker Mayfield, who broke the NFL's record for touchdown passes by a rookie with 27 in 2018.

Although he resides in a suburb of Chicago, working as a member of the White Sox front office, Thome has taken note of Mayfield and his ascent as one of the NFL's most prominent players. And in doing so, he's noticed an unmistakable connection between the former Heisman Trophy winner and the city he used to play in -- something Cleveland hasn't enjoyed since Bernie Kosar's heydey in the late-1980s.

“I think just watching him, [he's] someone that cares, someone that has respect for the city, wants to win, wants to be in special moments,” Thome answered when asked what's stood out to him about Mayfield. “If he does that they will embrace him here like no other. I don’t even think he understands it. Because if he does that, this is a town, this is a city waiting for that to happen.”

Baker Mayfield New York Jets-Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield celebrates a two-point conversion reception on a pass from wide receiver Jarvis Landry in a 21-17 win over the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on September 20, 2018.
Ron Schwane

For what it's worth, the betting odds favor Mayfield and the Browns living up to their lofty expectations with online sportsbook Bovada listing Cleveland as a +125 favorite to win the AFC North.

The last time the Browns won their division title was in 1989 -- two years before Thome made his Major League debut in what was the start of a 22-season career.