This year is the 30th anniversary of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ last World Championship. However, Willie Stargell and the Family are a distant memory, as the Pirates are closing in on their record 17th consecutive losing season. While fans have had little to cheer about on the field, Pittsburgh is home to one of the best parks in baseball.
Parking – There are plenty of garages and spaces to park. My dad and I parked in the closest garage, barely a block from the gates, for $12. There were plenty of spots available, although much of downtown was shut down for the G20 Summit. Because of the summit, there were hundreds of police and military personnel outside the stadium. On Friday night, every fan was searched with a metal detector, though Saturday’s game was much more relaxed.
Fan interaction – At Friday night’s game, I sat just to the third base side of home plate, about 15 rows back. Though wearing my Clayton Kershaw jersey, I received no negative comments from Pirates fans. While the stadium was far from full, there was a decent crowd, as it was Paul Maholm bobblehead night, along with being the last home series of the season for the Pirates.
It rained most of the day on Saturday, but the rain stopped in time for the game to be played as scheduled. I was a little disappointed because I had front row seats in left field and was looking forward to batting practice, which was canceled due to the weather. There were only a few hundred fans in the left field bleachers, and probably half were Dodger fans. The Dodger fan next to me wore a Rays cap, had a “Mannywood” sign, and spent his evening harassing Lastings (Last Place) Milledge and yelling extremely awkward things to Manny Ramirez. The attendance on Saturday night was announced as 35,000, and while there weren’t that many at the park, there probably were at least 25,000. Still, at times it was nearly silent.
Jerseys – I saw a lot of Pirates jerseys around the stadium. Jason Bay. Freddy Sanchez. Jack Wilson. Adam LaRoche. The only problem is that none of these guys actually play for the Pirates. It was a who’s-who of former Pirates. The only jerseys I saw of a player who actually plays with the team were for Andrew McCutchen. However, if you’ve purchased a jersey since the trade deadline, what other options do you have? Lastings Milledge? Zach Duke? Matt Capps? How this team took three of four from the Dodgers this weekend, I’ll never know.
Ticket Prices – PNC Park has to be one of the cheapest places to watch a game. My seat 15 rows behind home plate had a face value of $27, while bleacher seats go for $9. My seats in the front row in left field went for $14. Given the small difference in ticket prices, there’s no reason not to splurge a little and get seats right along the baseline. For a few dollars more, you can find the best seats in the house on stubhub.com.
Food – Friday night is the best time to attend Pirates games for one reason: dollar dogs. That’s right, you can buy a hot dog at a major league park for a dollar. They’re nothing special, that’s for sure, as they normally sell for $2.50. But when you can get three dogs and a drink for $5.50 at a major league park, you’ve found yourself a deal. I didn’t sample many offerings from the concessions, although they featured typical ballpark foods.
Views – PNC has the best view of any field I’ve ever been to. With downtown Pittsburgh right across the river from right field, sometimes it’s much more pleasant to take in the scenery rather than watching the train-wreck on the field.
Neighborhood – Heinz Field is only a few blocks away from PNC Park. There are a few restaurants in the area, most notably Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36, a nice sports bar with a ton of TV’s. I grabbed some food there on Saturday afternoon to catch some college football. There aren’t a ton of restaurant or shopping options in the area.
You know your team sucks when:
1) Your own left fielder is taunted more than the visiting left fielder, who was suspended for 50 games for using PED’s.
2) You have a Paul Maholm bobblehead night. Maholm’s ERA is around 4.50 and had a career year last year with a 9-9 record.
3) Your Gameday Program documents your team’s trade history and reads as follows (page 28):
“Between July 26 of 2008 and July 30 of 2009, Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington engineered a series of trades in which he acquired a total of 28 players in exchange for 15 – almost a two-to-one ratio.”
That’s right. The Pirates are bragging about the quantity of players they’ve received in trades. No mention of top prospects acquired. No mention of major league talent. The article goes on to describe each trade made by Huntington and concludes with this nugget in bold black letters:
“Running Total of 28 players acquired for 15.”
I’ve been to roughly ten different Major League Parks including Dodger Stadium, Safeco Field and Great American Ballpark. While Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia and AT&T Park in San Francisco are attractive venues, I’d have to put PNC Park at No. 1. All the park is missing is a competitive team to play there.