Pittsburgh Pirates: 10 Things You May Not Know About PNC Park

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2012

Pittsburgh Pirates: 10 Things You May Not Know About PNC Park

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    PNC Park opened on March 31, 2001. The first game was played on April 9, 2001, against the Cincinnati Reds.

    The park was built for over $200 million and is located on Pittsburgh's North Shore. The stadium is the Pittsburgh Pirates' fifth home including classic Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium.

    The Pirates are privileged to play on one of baseball's finest ballparks. The natural grass surface and unique structural features provide an excellent game experience for Pirate faithful.

    Fans need to know about their beloved stadium. Die-hard fans may already know everything there is to know.

    Here are 10 things you may not know about PNC Park.

PNC Park's First Batter

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    Barry Larkin was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday. He was the only player inducted in the 2012 class.

    Larkin also happened to be the first batter to step up to the plate in PNC Park.

    Former Pirates' starting pitcher Todd Ritchie's first pitch to Larkin was a ball, but Ritchie would wind up striking out the Cincinnati legend.

    Ritchie's strikeout of Larkin is one of the few good things he accomplished in Pittsburgh, but nonetheless he helped PNC Park open with a bang.

Local Connection

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    Sean Casey had the first hit in PNC Park. In the stadium's first game, Casey hit a two-run home run in the top of the first inning.

    Casey attended Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh. He grew up a Pirates' fan, and must have enjoyed the rush of breaking in their new park.

    In 2006, the Pirates brought Casey in to play for one season.

    Ironically, former Pirate utilityman, and Pittsburgh native, John Wehner hit the final home run and made the final out in Three Rivers Stadium history.

    Now that is a local connection.

Clemente Wall

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    A large portion of the Pirates' fanbase wanted PNC Park named after legendary outfielder Roberto Clemente.

    They did not get their wish, but Clemente did not go without recognition.

    The right-field wall in PNC Park is known as the Clemente Wall. The wall stands 21 feet high in honor of Clemente's No. 21 jersey.

    Clemente also has a statue on the North Shore end of the Roberto Clemente Bridge.

Dayle Ward's River Shot

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    Daryle Ward hit a homerun directly into the Allegheny River on July 6, 2002.

    Ward was the first to do this, and still the only player to hit the water on the fly to this day.

    The river is 443 feet away at its closest point. Needless to say, Ward hit his homerun pretty hard.

    Ward's home run came from a Kip Wells meatball pitch. The Pirates hope to match Ward's feat, at some point.

    Pedro Alvarez has the power to do just that.

Albert Pujols' Dominance

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    Albert Pujols might be the best right-handed hitter to play the game by the end of his career.

    Given the Pirates' woeful track record since 1992, you could guess Pujols has been pretty successful against his former NL Central foe.

    However, you may not realize how much Pujols has terrorized PNC Park crowds.

    Pujols has more at-bats in PNC Park than any stadium outside of St. Louis. He has used those at-bats to his .376, 29 home runs and 32 doubles. He also has a 1.170 on-base-plus-slugging rate.

    Dominance should not come as a shock when it comes to Pujols, especially against the mediocre pitching he has faced in PNC Park.

Baseball's Second Smallest Park Upon Its' Opening

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    PNC Park is beautiful. It also provides an intimate setting to take in a baseball game because of its small seating capacity.

    When the park opened, its 38,496-fan capacity was the second smallest in baseball, behind Fenway Park in Boston.

    The park's capacity is not exactly the same today, but is still just above the 38,000 mark.

    All of the park's seats give fans a great view of Pittsburgh's skyline. The small capacity also allows fans to take in a great view of the game no matter where they happen to be sitting.

Exposure Outside of the Baseball World

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    PNC Park's exposure does not stop in the world of baseball. The park has also been portrayed in the television and movie industry.

    The park is featured in the pilot episode of CBS's former series, Smith.

    It has also been used in the films Abduction, She's Out of My League and Chasing 3000.

    Chasing 3000 actually makes sense. The film is about two sons driving across the country with their father to see Roberto Clemente smack his 3,000th career hit.

Location of Home Team's Dugout

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    The home team's dugout traditionally sits on the first-base side of the field. That is the case in most ballparks, but not PNC Park.

    The Pittsburgh Pirates call the third-base dugout their home. This allows the players a great view of Pittsburgh's skyline.

    PNC Park was built in the tradition of the classic Major League Baseball stadiums. Quirks like this are what sets it apart from other ballparks.

    The players would probably prefer a view of the skyline compared to what is happening on the field most of the time.

First Scoreboard of Its' Type

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates have the only out-of-town scoreboard of its kind.

    Most out-of-town scoreboards show the score, and the inning, of the game taking place. PNC Park's scoreboard shows the score, inning, outs and runners on base.

    This kind of detail is appreciated by die-hard baseball fans.

    Instead of following one game, the detailed scoreboard allows fans to track everything going on around the league.

Fastest Constructed Modern Ballpark

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    PNC Park took 24 months to build. That is three months faster than any other park in baseball at the time of construction.

    The Pirates franchise and front office put their foot down and made sure the construction was done in a timely manner. Time is money, and Pirates were eager to see what the new park had in store.

    It may seem like a small claim to fame, but only one stadium gets to hold this honor.