September 2011

PNC Park Field Day 2011

Pirates in-game host Joe Klimchak welcomed nearly 50 people to PNC Park on Sunday for the annual season ticket holder field day. It was my first time attending the event and Joe painted a vivid picture of how lucky we all were to be standing on the grass of The Most Beautiful Ballpark in America. From “getting chills driving through the Ft. Pitt tunnel, to describing how breathtaking every moment in the stadium really is, he surely pumped us up for a fun day of catching, fielding and hitting.

It’s hard to believe just a few minutes earlier, baseball was an afterthought.

You see, it was a football Sunday. A Steelers football Sunday to be more exact. And, if were getting technical, it was a Steelers football opening day Sunday. In Pittsburgh, everything else comes secondary on any given Sunday in the Fall. The Steelers reign supreme and everyone knows it.

Everyone except for my buddy Andrew and me.

He joined me on the field (and here in the dugout) for two hours that we will never soon forget. In my first year as a Pirates partial season ticket holder, I have received many perks. The field day was just one of them.

We were able to step up to the plate for some batting practice.

Andrew was able to put two balls in play, after a few hacks.

I, on the other hand, went 0-for-8. Now, I can go on saying “oh, it harder than it looks.” We already know it is. But I don’t have an excuse for my pitiful showing. A 12 year old kid in front of me was able to ground it out of the infield, at least. It was funny because those waiting in line, mostly middle aged guys and their sons, were impressed by anyone that made contact, and ranted and raved for anyone that actually got a hold of one to the shallow outfield. All hits would have been easy Major League outs, but who cares? We were all there to live out our big-time dreams.

In the outfield, Andrew and I played catch.

And robbed home runs of course.

This was probably the coolest part of the day because we acted out situations in all corners of the gapping PNC Park outfield. From the indentation of the “North Side Notch” by the bullpens, to scaling the six foot wall, seen above, in left field, and playing ricochets off the fence in right field, we were roaming it all and making plays. And, as Joe instructed, we kept centerfield “just the way Andrew McCutchen left it” with the utmost care and respect.

I was able to get up close and personal with the Chuck Tanner memorial in right-center field. Unveiled on opening day, the Tanner jersey is the to honor the Pirates former manager who passed away over the winter. I wonder if the organization will keep it there for years to come? It will be a nice gesture if they do.

Andrew, a die-hard Yankee fan by trade, was most happy to touch a piece of New York. Already preparing for this weekend’s series, the Pirates placed the match ups for Friday-Saturday-Sunday on the out of town scoreboard. Boston does indeed travel to the Bronx for a three game set against their arch-rivals.

I met some new friends at the event. All of my fellow season ticket holders were very friendly and open to chat. After all, we are in it together. This Pirates season has surely been up-and-down, but we created great memories that we will carry into next year. Randi Hoffman isn’t a season ticket holder, but she is involved with the Pirates as a “PR face” for the organization. Along with Joe, she appears on commercials and online videos. Not only is she a pretty face, she is very nice too. Her and Joe make a perfect team. I would love to join them someday as a third wheel to promote the Bucs. That is my dream job.

Before leaving the field, we posed in a variety of baseball specific moments.

A manager observing his team.

A perturbed manager calling to the bullpen.

Attacking the Gatorade cooler.

Embracing the adoring crowd for a curtain call.

It may not be a world-famous baseball scene, but it should jog the memory of Pittsburgh fans.

Any ideas?

Eh, a little off. But my intentions were good. The Pirates gave out this Andrew McCutchen canvas wrap to all fans at a game last year. It’s a game I’ll remember forever as it was the night I met my girlfriend, Erin.

The staff had a great lunch provided after the event. Food included traditional ballpark fare such as hot dogs, hamburgers and pop. They also had ice cream sandwiches. It was probably the first time I actually ate an ice cream sandwich since the ice cream man came driving down my street in his truck back in 1998.

Before going back to our car, we were tempted.

The buzz around town was still for the Steelers and we milled around some tailgates and took in the sights at Heinz Field.

Art Rooney greeted us outside the gates and we peeked inside.

The sellout crowd saw the Steelers pound the Seahawks 24-0.

I am a Steelers fan. They’re cool and all. But, I’ve been spoiled. After seeing playoffs year in and year out, not to mention four Super Bowl appearances with two wins to boot, it gets old. I like college football so much more than the NFL. And I would trade all the Steelers success for the littlest thing the Pirates could achieve; a winning season.

The Bucs are always No.1 for me and the Field Day was just one example of how the fans are No. 1 for the Pirates.

Let’s Go Bucs.

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