One of the greatest factors about living in Pittsburgh is being able to go to PNC Park. Without a doubt it is one of the top 5 nicest parks in America.
The great thing about being a baseball fan, and not a die hard Pirates fan, is that on any given day (aside from Opening Day) I can walk up to the box office and get a great seat 15 minutes before game time. I sit down and enjoy baseball for a fraction of the cost atother stadiums and I don't have to feel horrible about the Pirates losing, since I'm not a Pirates fan.
Having the Pirates in the NL Central is handy. For 8 bucks I can go see the Cubs or the Brewers watching Soriano, Fielder and Lee. I was able to see Roger Clemens pitch with the Astros for a 6 dollar standing room only ticket and I usually go see the Mets or any other National League team that is of interest.
In addition to this, I can grab a seat 15 rows behind the Yankees dugout during interleague play for the same price I would pay back home to be 15 rows below the top of Yankee Stadium.
On top of the substantial savings in cash I have also put together quite a collection of free giveaways. Apparently, Pittsburghers need extra incentive to come to the ballpark (who can blame them). To date I have three bobbleheads, a lunch box, photo frame, two caps, miniature bat, ice cube tray, three sets of baseball cards, fleece blanket, t-shirt, souvenir cup and a plush parrot. All provided, free of charge, by the Pittsburgh Pirates and all contain a significantly large logo of the sponsor.
My point is this, getting people out to PNC park isn't easy. Average attendance has dropped every year since the park opened in 2001 and it's not looking good this year either. This is what 16 straight losing seasons will do to a city.
As of last count the average attendance for 2008 was 19,232 and dropping as more and more Pittsburghers stay home to watch local coverage of Steelers' training camp.
That number is of course how many tickets are sold, not how many people actually show up to the ballpark. This trend, however, changed Tuesday night.
The Buccos had there new attraction, Jeff Karstens, on the mound to face the Cincinatti Reds. Karstens had pitched beautifully in his first two Pirate appearances, carrying a perfect game into the 8th inning against the Diamondbacks.
Karstens had beaten the division leading Cubsin his first game with Pittsburgh on August 1st. The former Yankee tossed 6 innings only allowing 5 hits and no runs while striking out two. Five days later he baffled the Diamondbacks for 9 innings again giving up no runs while only allowing two hits and striking out 4.
Two starts, two division leaders, 15 innings; no runs.
It has become a tradition in Pittsburgh that there is absolutely nothing to get excited for after the trade deadline. Usually, the Pirates will trade their stars for players who will not be ready for the majors for another few years (sans Matt Morris; a gem of a deal there fellas).
This year, however, is different with Karstens on the mound. There was no giveaway Tuesday night. No Andy Van Slyke bobbleheads sponsored by Chevrolet or Bucco Bandanas with AT&T logos were needed. Pittsburghers went to see if Karstens could catch lightning in a bottle.
The paid attendance at Tuesday's game was 23,686 including 4,800 day of game sales. That's roughly 5,000 extra people going to see Karstens pitch against the Reds, who have just traded away their biggest draws(Griffey and Dunn). Amazing.
So for now, the deal is paying dividends. The Pirates had more people in their stadium than Bay or Nady would have brought in and Karstens was the center of attention in his home ballpark, something he never was with New York. It really was too bad he picked up his first lost but he can rest well knowing that he finally gave 23,686 Pirate fans some excitement in the August.