Ballpark of the Week: PNC Park (Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates)
The first ballpark I will post about is PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and my favorite ballpark to visit to date. Nestled on the North Shore of the Allegheny River, right around the corner from where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the mighty Ohio river, this ballpark lives up to all the hoopla that has surrounded it since it’s opening in 2001.
My opportunity to visit PNC came in the late summer of 2008. My sister Denise was attending graduate school in Pittsburgh, and suggested it as an opportunity for my other sister Therese, girlfriend Jen and her to get together and enjoy an evening. Pittsburgh (as was so often the case) was well out of the playoff hunt, and had begun a series of post-game concerts and fireworks for a week in August to boost attendance. After some consideration – Collective Soul, Phil Vassar or REO Speedwagon – the latter was chosen and we planned for a Thursday night at the ballpark.
The drive in was a bit confusing – I have never failed to be absolutely lost in the confusing layout that is Pittsburgh (few know this, but Pittsburgh’s system of roads and highways was laid out by a drunken cat with a Spirograph). I’m quite sure I drove over the same bridge several times, before finding a nice parking space across the river. The walk from parking lot to ballpark was wonderful as we could see the stadium and the river, before entering at the left field entrance by the Willie Stargell statue.
The stadium looks right, with it’s steel beams, in the city that made so much of it for so long. The fans on this night were excited and fun, and there was a nice spirit of camaraderie. The team was 11 games under .500 and playing the equally (at the time) hapless Reds, but the general atmosphere belied this and made it enjoyable. I was concerned when I looked up and realized, our seats, in section 305, were upper upper deck, but again, I was in for a treat.
Despite it’s altitude, the view from 305 was outstanding. PNC Park was built to be intimate, and it most certainly is. We got a fantastic view of the field, and a magnificent view of downtown Pittsburgh across the river. We settled in for the game, and watched several players who would make names for themselves in the future play (it was the rookie season for Jay Bruce and Johnny Cueto, and the second for Brandon Moss). The game was low scoring, and the pace move quickly as a summer Pittsburgh evening turned to night. Johnny Cueto…I think he comes up in Pittsburgh Pirate lore again later…
I walked around the stadium, and was impressed by the jovial easy-going nature of the crowd. I did not hear vulgarities or even much heckling. Again, that may have been due to the more family-friendly fireworks crowd, and the Pirates lack of success, but it was still nice.
Now I admit, I did not try the Primanti’s Bros sandwich that is so legendary around Pittsburgh…at least, not on this visit. I found concession prices for other eats and drinks about on par with what I expected from other parks: dogs around $5, soda at $6, beer at $8. More than anything, I was impressed by how I could walk around the stadium and see amazing views from every location.
Back up in 305, the game (and it’s lack of offense) was starting to bore my sisters and Jen, but the skyline and conversation were not, and when the game ended at 10:00, we wandered down to the riverfront part of the park. While the strains of “Keep On Loving You,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Take It On the Run” played from centerfield, we walked along the riverfront, watching the band over the fence and looking at the buildings in the distance. The fireworks began, and the Pittsburgh sky lit up to the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of the crowd.
PNC Park became, and is still,my favorite MLB Park. As you’ll see, I’ve been to a few, and I’ll get to them all. But it will take a pretty impressive park to knock this out of number one.
Dan’s scale (1-10): 9.2
Below are my stats. I’ll post them for every park I’ve visited. I include the big details, as well as who I visited with. Lastly, I am a huge fan of throwback jerseys, and for every stadium I visit, I buy one of a player from that organization I admired as a kid, from watching them or reading about them. So for every one, I will also list the throwbacks I’ve purchased for each.
Date: Thursday, August 14, 2008, 7:05PM
Seat: 305, V, 8
Ticket Cost: N/A
Went with: Jen Weaver, Therese McKernan, Denise McKernan
Time of Game: 2:54
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Reds 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 3 7 1
Pirates 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 8 0
Winning Pitcher: Johnny Cueto (8-11)
Losing Pitcher: Ian Snell (4-10)
Save: Francisco Cordero (23)
Jersey: Roberto Clemente (1971)