I Am A Fair-Weathered Fan!

Paul McGuillicuddyAnalyst IApril 23, 2009

PITTSBURGH - APRIL 13:  Nate McLouth #13 of the Pittsburgh Pirates swings at the pitch during the Opening Day game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on April 13, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

What started as a Spring Break with the prospect of seeing multiple games at several venues on a variety of levels ended with us arriving home a day early having seen just a few innings of baseball.

That’s okay. Quality can supersede quantity especially when it comes to peanuts and cracker jacks. I’m not quite sure that makes sense, but we’ll go with it.

Yes, we departed last Friday afternoon with our destination set for PNC Park - home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Earlier in the day a co-worker questioned the possibility of making the game on time—after all we were leaving at 3 p.m. for a 7 p.m. first pitch some 290 miles away.

Needn’t matter—a few innings in a ball park is better than none. Of course I hoped the Bucs and Braves would bat around in the first.  

No such luck. Instead the Pirate pitching staff shut out the Braves for the first of consecutive nights. Including the previous evening’s game against the Astros, Pittsburgh hurlers tossed 21 consecutive scoreless.

We arrived during the fourth. All told from the front door of work to a parking spot to the ticket window to our seats took us  five hours and ten minutes.  

We went for the cheapest seats in the house ($9) with the idea of moving up as the game progressed. The view window on the Pirates’ site offered a look from every section in the stadium except the general admission seating in left field.

Call it a case of exceeding low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised with our vantage point from the GAs. Good thing—stadium ushers clad in bright red pullovers were stationed throughout the game at the head of each field level section.  

If price is an accurate indicator of a stadium’s sight lines then PNC is above average.  We had a great view of the entire game. Considering we had the cheapest seats I’m thinking everyone else had a great view.

Overall PNC is built with the spectator in mind. Our $9 GA seats were close enough that Pirate left fielder, Nyjer Morgan needed to merely flick his wrist to toss a warm up ball one row from us. A different carom and I would have had a souvenir.

After seeing a game in its cookie cutter predecessor, Three Rivers Stadium, PNC offers personality. Wrought iron railings adorn much of the stadium’s facade and give it an antique appearance.

I was also taken in by a pitch count meter that provides the speed of a pitch on its release, after 40 feet, and at the plate. Spectators were also privy to the pitch’s break. It’s been a couple of years since I last attended a MLB game, but I don’t remember having access to those stats.  

Gotta love Pirate fans. By all accounts the Bucs should be relegation fodder. The last time they knew a baseball team with a winning record Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky gave cigar smoking a whole new image. Still Pittsburgh fans don’t miss a play and are always ready to cheer on the home nine.  

On top of that the GA section replete with college students only added to the atmosphere. Coeds regularly breaking into impromptu and spontaneous songs created a party atmosphere. I half expected to look over my shoulder and see Will Ferrell leading the coeds through the quad. Pittsburgh fans don’t need any silly pool to have a good time. The game is enough entertainment.

Being in Pittsburgh, sitting in the GAs, it only seemed fitting that I wash down the experience with nothing other than 22 ounces of Iron City—a craft beer just didn’t seem to go along with the experience.  

I can not tell a lie. I am a GA guy. The whole idea of finding an open spot, plopping down on a bench and maybe putting my feet over the seat in front of me is relaxing.   

It’s crazy to think we paid more for a parking spot ($15) than an individual ticket.

I tried to circumvent that expenditure when I made hotel reservations. Taking into consideration that on Saturday we would head for Cincinnati to visit our eldest daughter at school, I went in search for a place to stay that would not cause us to backtrack. At the same time I wanted something in the proximity of PNC.

We have had some luck recently with Comfort Inns so why mess with it. We’ll get a reasonable room at a reasonable rate somewhere in the vicinity of the stadium—everything will work out.  

Sure enough I found a place.  Advertised on the company’s site as being two miles from PNC.

Hmmmm…two miles? Is that a solid two miles? I wondered. Or is it 1.9 miles?  Or 2.9 miles?  

Before reserving the room I asked the attendant to clarify the distance. Just as I thought…the distance was actually three miles. At one point I considered parking at the hotel and walking to the game. After all we could save on paying for a parking space. That was until the better-half brought me back to reality and reminded me that three miles would take us at least 30 minutes to hoof it.  

In hind sight I’m glad the receptionist stated the distance as three miles because what she left out was one tiny detail—to get from the hotel to PNC Park one has to pass through the FRIGGIN’ FORT PITT TUNNEL. Yeah and they must have used a rusty old odometer. ‘Cause ours?  It measured the distance as five miles.  

Allow me to warn any conisdering a trip to Pittsburgh—DO NOT stay at the Comfort Inn on Banksville Road! It’s a bushwhack!!!!

The mileage discrepancy was just a start. Turns out the hotel brings in quite a crowd for Friday night karaoke. So much so that I had to park in a nearby lot. I’ll allow you to insert the f-bombs as you imagine me looking for a parking spot at midnight. Then the the karaoke did not stay in the bar. By all estimates Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ must have been the final song of the night. At least that’s what the group in the room next to us was singing as they came back after last call.

To make matters worse the hotel’s coffee machine broke down in the morning.  

I am not going to allow a poor showing by a hotel chain affect my assessment of attending a game in Pittsburgh.

Growing up and living in Rochester can create a dilemma when it comes to getting the most major league bang for my minor league buck. 

Believe it or not I can get a $14 bleacher at Yankee Stadium—352 miles away. At the Mets’ new digs of Citi Field—a 361 mile trek—The cheapest seat is $11—available in April against the Marlins and Nationals. That same seat during the derby with the Yankees costs $27. But a seat similar to which I occupied in PNC ranges any where from $24-$56 depending upon the opponent.

Jacobs…err…Progressive Field seems like an alternative at 264 miles. Cheapest seats by Lake Erie go for $9. Bring your radio or compact tv because the outfield reserveds offer a limited view of the diamond. Take comfort though—you can get an accurate read on the wind chill coming off the Great Lakes.

Toronto’s Rogers Centre should be a viable option at 173 miles except that getting across the border is unpredictable at best—some times there is no wait. Other times 99 are not enough bottles of beer on the wall for you to sing while waiting. The Blue Jays do offer 500 level seats for $9-$12. Their left field seats go for $22.

All in all Pittsburgh is beginning to look like my favorite for a major league experience.  We’ve already seen that we can make the commute down and back in a day. Ticket prices are reasonable—especially if you throw in a coupon from the calendar we received for our price of admission.

Of course if we stay over night, it won’t be at the Comfort Inn on Banksville Road.

Not that a crappy night’s sleep or having to search for a decent cup of coffee had anything to do with it, but we were a tad delayed in arriving in the nasty ‘Nati. Just in time to be too late for the Xavier-Fordham tilt. And wouldn’t you know it—the two did not play the usual Sunday game to finish the weekend series. Of course the following day’s showers would have prevented such a thing anyway.

While on campus I did manage to catch Derrick Brown and Jamel McLean getting in some work on their mid-range game. Yes I just switched sports.   

Originally we intended to leave Cincy on Tuesday and catch a family friend playing for John Carroll in the afternoon. We would finish the day with the Indians and Royals.

Wet field conditions caused a postponement of the college game. A first pitch temperature of 50 degrees and a forecast for intermittent showers deterred our evening plans. Yeah that’s right if given the choice between sitting in a baseball stadium during a cold April night or heading for my bed, I will opt to be horizontal between the sheets.

I am a GA guy. I am also a fair-weathered fan!


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