Tagged: PNC Park

Phillies go home begrudingly

Thank you, Phillies.

Because of your help a grand total of 108, 807 fans came through the PNC Park gates, this weekend. In fact, you jump-started  a record breaking crowd of 39, 441 on Saturday night to set the highest number of people ever at a baseball game at the 10 year old stadium.

You also helped pumped some large numbers of cash into the economy of Western Pennsylvania through merchandise purchases, food and drinks, hotel rooms and ticket sales.

More importantly, thank you for some great memories from two of the best wins in the history of PNC Park.

Friday and Saturday were big momentum gainers for the Bucs earning a pair of hard fought wins. The play of both teams ignited the crowd, which was indeed more Philly oriented, but showed Pittsburgh that baseball could indeed be fun to watch.

The atmosphere prior to Sunday was “better than any baseball game I have ever been too, playoffs included,” one person on twitter said.

People were pumped.

Brooms were out in full force and the Pirates were just one win away from being four out in the NL Central. Oh, and a game from standing at 29-29, the immaculate .500.

While the door wasn’t slammed, this weekend proved to many people that the Pirates mean business and have the potential to play any team toe-to-toe on any given night.

For that, we have the Phillies to thank.

photo credit: getty images

Just like the chance of rain in Pittsburgh, the Pirates are threatening

By a show of hands, how many people check the weather reports first thing in the morning? 

Obviously I can’t see the response, but I’m certain a grand majority of you readers do. On any given night in the Pittsburgh area, rain is a common theme. I have to be sure to check, re-check and for good measure, check yet again on nights I anticipate going to PNC Park. Nearly every night has been at least a 40-60 percent chance of precipitation. In fact, two games I was all set to go to were rained out. 
My luck changed Saturday.
With a 60 percent chance of rain, 32,298 other people joined me in the stands to witness a  6-1 Pirates victory. 
It was my first win at PNC Park this season. 
The Pirates have taken notice as it jump started a three game winning streak, at home nonetheless. Each game has been relatively equivalent to each other with strong starting pitching, quick defense and clutch hitting late in the game. 
Charlie Morton went 7.2 innings with five strikeouts giving up just one run on Saturday.
James McDonald earned a career high eight strikeouts and let up three hits in 6 innings in a 5-4 win on Sunday.
Jeff Karstens continued the trend going 5.2 solid innings allowing just one run to set up a 4-1 victory on Monday. 
While Saturday was the only sure fire contest, Sunday and Monday were come from behind affairs. Ryan Doumit’s three-run blast set the Pirates ahead in the eighth inning in honor of Mothers Day. On Monday, also in the eighth, Neil Walker began a hit parade scoring Xavier Paul on an RBI double. Lyle Overbay followed suit with a RBI double of his own. To conclude the scoring, Doumit came through again. He ripped a double down the right field line scoring Overbay. 
The win put Pittsburgh at 18-17.
Yes, that is indeed a game over .500. 

Home Sweet Home


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There may not be a more refreshing sight that will grace the PNC Park jumbo tron, this year.

Aside from a playoff picture, of course. 
Thursday brought opening day to PIttsburgh and along with it came an enthusiasm that has rarely been replicated in the ten years of PNC Park. People were excited.
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The energy outside the stadium was almost like a college football tailgate party. Upon my arrival to Pittsburgh around 10 am, Thursday, parking spaces were scarce. There were lawn chairs spread out, corn hole bean bags flying and cold beers being drank. A wonderful sight as many people chose to take an old fashioned sick day and mosey on over to the ballpark. It is a tradition unlike any other.
I was excited to connect with many people I have met through the glory of Pirates baseball and set aside much time just to take it all in. Opening Day is unlike any other in the season. Obviously, no matter who are primary team is, this day is special. But for the Pirates, there aren’t many more games like it. Without a legitimate playoff hope in the past decade, it is hard to sustain the optimism over the course of the grueling schedule. 
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The above picture signifies the feeling of the torment that is winter, the despair that the bleak weather will never subside and we won’t be able to experience the glory that is baseball season. I am here to testify that we truly can be at peace again.
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The glory can be felt throughout the field of green and even more so by the members of each club that often go under appreciated. Opening Day is the only time during the year that the head trainers, clubhouse managers and even massage therapists get their recognition in front of a sold out crowd. In Pittsburgh, it was the second largest in park history, 39,290. 
Erin and I were debuting in our new seats for the year, a pair of 20 game plans in section 322, row B, seats 1 and 2. Now, in most other ballparks that section may roll some eyes. For us, it was perfect. At just $140 we are secured for a fun-filled summer at the Best Ballpark in America. Indeed it is. 
While spirits were high and Pittsburgh was joined together in baseball unity, the team could not feed off the energy and fell 7-1 behind an un-spirited pitching performance from starter Paul Maholm and the bullpen. After back-to-back hits from Jose Tabata and Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen tallied a RBI. Even though things seemed to be looking up, six straight innings without a hit dug the offensive hole for the Pirates.
Friday night erased all negative thoughts of the day before.
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The smiling faces and happy thoughts seemed to have exploded from the gallows of uncertainty. The pitching shortcomings of the night before far exceeded themselves against the Rockies on Friday. Ross Ohlendorf did give up a 3-run homer to Jason Giambi, but those were the only runs to cross the plate for Colorado. It took 14 innings but a double from Jose Tabata scored Josh Rodriguez to give the Buccos their first win at their own digs in 2011.
It still remains the only one as they dropped the next two games against the Rockies.

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Saturday night was WVU day at the park, a project I helped organize with other members of the graduating Public Relations class interested in sports communications. It was a great opportunity to get our foot in the door and was a rewarding endeavor. 
It was also fireworks night. While they entertained in the night sky above beautiful downtown Pittsburgh, the real explosions came in the left field bleachers.  
Saturday nights are a time when PNC Park is usually packed, packed with idiots who don’t know how to understand baseball and were never taught how to behave in public. A large group of fans in the bleachers began chanting “USA, USA, USA,” to what I believed was a mocking response to Rockies reliever Rafael Betancourt, a native of Venezuela. 
In fact, it was an unruly fan who was escorted out of the stadium not before resisting arrest and assaulting a stadium usher. Why the patriotic cheers? Well, he was wearing a very outlandish red, white and blue jumpsuit that had USA stitched on the chest. Not exactly what I deem to be proper ballpark attire, anyway. Videos of the event can be seen on youtube, including one shot by fellow MLBlogger, Erik Jabs.http://countingbaseballs.mlblogs.com 
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National media outlets have picked up on the event. Sportscenter and the New York Daily News have featured it. The fan was reluctant to obey the orders instructed to him by the Pittsburgh cops. A taser was induced with no effect as he wasn’t going to the ground. This forced police to draw nightsticks and mercilessly beat the man to the ground. People are calling this excessive force and police brutality, I call it making an example of a goon. You listen to the police, no matter who you are or what you may have did or didn’t do, you act with respect when confronted by cops. This guy did the far opposite and had this embarrassment coming.  
With a fresh seri
es against the Brewers coming up this week, I plan on returning to my summer home to catch some more baseball. We all have a special place where we need to go to take time off, relax and be entertained. For ten years, PNC Park has been my spot. With 78 more home games to go I plan on enjoying every single one I get to go to, win or lose. 
photo credits: pirates.com, nydailynews.com

Long history with Orioles continues in Spring and beyond

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The 1970’s were a time of puffy hair, bell bottoms, disco and apparently some funky golf carts. Not to mention some pretty good baseball as the legends of the day took the field throughout this legendary decade. Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson and Carl Yastrzemsk
were just a few of the go-to names of this era. Perhaps the greatest
players came from Pittsburgh and Baltimore, though. 


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The fun started in 1971 when the Pirates and Orioles met up in the World Series. Baltimore already had its foot in the door of 70’s supremacy as it won the 1970 world title. It was a legendary occasion during game 4 of the series. My father and grandfather were in attendance for the game in Three Rivers Stadium as it was the first night game in World Series history. Going the same route of many of his baseball cards and other precious heirlooms, the ticket stubs and other memorabilia from that game probably went by way of the trash can. 
Roberto Clemente would be named MVP as the Pirates won the series in 7 games. Perhaps the most beloved Bucco of all time, Clemente hit safely in all seven of the games not just in the ’71 series, but also in his previous World Series appearance back in 1960. A pair of other honored Pirates, who still have deep ties to the team, today, were integral in bringing a ring and trophy back to Pittsburgh.
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Pitcher Steve Blass and catcher Manny Sanguillen, currently the color announcer and special instructor, respectively, were battery mates in the classic victory which also equated to one of the most epic photographs taken on the diamond. Their dramatic pose is pictured above. 
These two teams would indeed meet again, this next time some eight years later. 
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In the 76th edition of the Fall Classic Pittsburgh and Baltimore again clashed for a seven game series with the Pirates coming out on top once more. 
Again, the game was clinched in Baltimore with the visiting team winning. Willie Stargell, Bruce Kison and Sanguillen were the only remaining members of the club that defeated the Orioles at the beginning of the decade. You could call these Bucs the original Florida Marlins of the late 1990’s early 2000’s, but not really. That’s just one comparison to a franchise that unloaded and rebuilt within a relatively short time span to win a pair of World Series titles. 
This game 7 for the Pirates was earned the hard way.
Pittsburgh found itself down three games to way so it took a valiant comeback to bring another Championship home to the Steel City. It was also a stunning year when the Steelers would do the same for Pittsburgh when they won their Super Bowl title. 
The decade saw a passing of the torch, of sorts, as one legend (Clemente) passed the reigns of the program to another (Stargell). 
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They had all their brothers with them, not sisters as Sister Sledge originally sang. Stargell lived up to his nickname of “Pops” and was the leader, father, of this team. Every player was easy to recognize and had his own flare and personality about him. They were a breath of fresh air to Pittsburgh as many were still coping with the tragic death of Clemente, much to soon from his still budding career. 
The Orioles and Pirates fail to live up to the plateau of greatness these teams before them have paved.
However, they still duke it on when possible.
It is the Orioles, this time, that have gotten the best of the Pirates. Already facing each other three times with Baltimore coming away victorious each time. The most recent loss for the Pirates came Monday, 8-2. The chance comes again, Thursday, to get off the snide. After that, one more game of Spring Training will come between the two old rivals but it will not be the last they see of each other in 2011.
The O’s come to PNC Park for an Inter league tilt on June 20, 21 and 22. It will be a homecoming of sorts as two games will commemorate both the ’71 and ’79 series. Promotional items to be given away include a canvas wrap of Blass and Sanguillen as well as a Ceramic Beer Stein with the 1979 “Fam-A-Lee” engraved. 

Remembering Chuck

tanner.jpgI’ve never been one to blame the manager for a team’s short comings.

It’s the job of the team with its skills and talents to live up to the true potential.

However, behind every great team is an even greater coach. Chuck Tanner was the epitome of that kind of great coach.

He was heralded as the ultimate “player’s manager” with not only his knowledge of the game but interpersonal relationships with the members of his team.

Those “Beyond Baseball” commercials seen on TV truly define what Tanner saw through the national past time.

In a statement, Pirates President Frank Coonelly said  “Chuck was a class act who always carried himself with grace, humility and integrity. While no one had a sharper baseball mind, Chuck was loved by his players and the city of Pittsburgh because he was always positive, enthusiastic and optimistic about his Bucs and life in general.”

Even though the city of Pittsburgh is far removed from having a heartbeat for baseball the outpouring of support has been overwhelming. People who haven’t seen, or cared about, a baseball game for ages cared about Tanner and remembered a time long ago when baseball was the living and dying point of the Steel City. Tanner brought attention to the game and even though it took his death to garner the necessary support, there has been a wonderful display of emotion to Tanner, himself, his family and the Pirates.

A nationwide audience has bestowed best wishes to the club and Tanner. Being a feature on Sports Center, ESPN’s bottom line, MLB Netowork and even the nightly national news, Tanner was a perfect ambassador to baseball and was adored for generations. For a time on Twitter, his name was even trending along the likes of Justin Bieber and Egypt.

 

family.jpgMoving forward, the centerpiece of teh “We-Are- Fam-a-lee” Bucs of 1979, Tanner’s legacy will never be duplicated. He wasn’t the winningest manager of his time or in Pittsburgh, but he still has the distinction of being the last skipper to lead the Pirates to the World Series.

He will surely be missed. His spirit has never wilted from the organization as even up to his dying days he was an advisor to the General Manager in the Pirates front office. Tanner will always be a part of the Pittsburgh Pirates, his attitude forever etched inside of all ballplayers that set foot in PNC Park. He did his job, now it would be nice for the Pirates to give back. As I’m sure will be the case, Tanner needs to be honored in the 2011 season. A patch on the jersey would be great but a memorial within the walls of PNC Park would be a great tip-of-the cap to a Western Pennsylvania native and true believer in the black and gold.

photo credits: baynews9.com, postgazette.com

Middle infielders have always been heart of Pittsburgh

globetrotters.jpgIf you were anything like me growing up there was always a few days throughout the year that we looked forward to most. Christmas, Birthdays and Opening Day go without saying, but there was always a time, usually in mid-January, when Youngstown, OH would get a little nutty. The world famous Harlem Globetrotters would pay a visit to YSU’s Beeghly for their famous act. 


As a kid, it was pure magic. The whole team of characters had their own personality and skills that put butts in the seats, but there was always two players that had me coming back year after year. The “showmen,” as they were called would be mic’d up and come out before the game to kind of warm up the crowd. With many antics and tricks up their sleeves the showmen would have me laughing all night. The game itself was really nothing more than what my friends and I tired to do in our driveway every day after school, but the showmen somehow brought it all together.

Kind of like the recent middle infielders of the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

While everyone has their favorite players, it always seems like the shortstop and second basemen receive a bulk of the attention a majority of the time. The Pirates have tried out many pieces at these two positions. Just like the showmen for the Globetrotters there are some that stick out more than others.

Here is a list of some of the past middle infielders for the Pirates since 2001:

Pat Mears
Warren Morris
Abraham Nunez
Jack Wilson
Enrique Wilson
Pokey Reese
Mike Benjamin
Jeff Reboulet
Bobby Hill
Jose Castillo
Freddy Sanchez
Luis Rivas
Brian Bixler
Neil Walker
Ronny Cedeno
Pedro Ciriaco

Some notable, others not. But everyone on that list made some appearances in Pittsburgh at the two “showmen” positions. Maybe its the flare and flash that is needed to be a quality middle infielders. Quick feet and hands are not the only attribute needed to be a showman. It also takes a vocal persona, intriguing backstory and all around love of Pittsburgh (see its not an easy role). But from the aforementioned core of 16 players, from my judgement only five up the middle players have earned the rite.

Here they are, each with their own personal and specialized title to describe their time in Pittsburgh.
Showman Emeritus: Jack Wilson

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Still nearly two full years removed from his departure from Pittsburgh, Jack Wilson is regarded as the favorite player of many fair-weather fans. He epitomized what it means to be a major league player. When he rose through the ranks in 2001 to be the opening day starter to open PNC Park nobody could have thought some seven years later he would define Pirates baseball in the decade of the 00’s. It was not only his jaw-dropping skills at shortstop that made him appealing it was his never say die attitude. Though he played in the heart of the Pirates 18-year losing streak, you never would of guessed it. No ball was off limits and he wanted to win night in and night out.
Creative Showman: Pokey Reese
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He didn’t wear the black and gold long but his time was marked with great happiness. Reese was a unique type of ball player. A hard nosed fielder, who like Wilson, was a human vacuum cleaner. He had one of the highest fielding percentages in the league while he played for the Pirates and was an improbable complement to Wilson. He was his own player, and although quiet, still was able to draw attention. Just look at the guy, he had the flare in his simple appearance with the cornrows and style. The bobble head pictured to the left was, and remains my personal favorite of the many promotional items given out at PNC Park over the years.







International Showman: Jose Castillo
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He was never quite understood in Pittsburgh, but was always consistent. He got lazy, especially at the plate, toward the end of his three year tenure, which overshadowed his solid glove work. Castillo spoke very little, if any English. I remember getting autographs from him throughout his time as a Pirate trying to converse with him, even in his native Spanish. Mind you, I was in my mid teens at the time and probably pretty juvenile with my adaptation of the language, nonetheless, Castillo was mute. He doesn’t exactly feel the love of Pittsburgh notion, but got the job done at second base to get him registered on this list. As his double play partner, Wilson kind of assisted Castillo’s well-being and development. It reminded me of a Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen tandem. Both made each other better.

Stunning Showman: Freddy Sanchez
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When I hear the mere mention of Freddy Sanchez, I get a smile on my face. He wanted to be a Pirate, Jerry Seinfeld, and countless big league ballplayers would never dream of it, but Sanchez yearned to be here. He gave it all. His blood, sweat and tears are still embedded in the PNC Park dirt. He was worth the price of admission and was the centerpiece for many memories for many fans. He was not only a ballplayer, but a quality family man, his kids and wife were as much a part of the club as he was. Always worth respect.
All-American Showman: Neil Walker
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The current showman for this team in ruins is Neil Walker. Known as the “Pittsburgh Kid,” he has something that not even Wilson and Sanchez had, he actually is from Pittsburgh! That fact alone makes him one of the most marketable players on the team, a needed fresh face. In just 127 games he has proven his many doubters that he will be the 2nd baseman for the Pirates for many years. His determination is his driving factor and that will soon give him fans from across the country. He now has a great reputation to carry forth leading a new generation.
It may not be the most notable group you could think of but its what defined Pittsburgh baseball throughout a dark time. Each guy had special attributes and a solid knack for the game of baseball. The past is in the past, but Walker has the chance to be a Wilson or a Sanchez. In fact, he has the opportunity to do what no showman has done before him, lead the Bucs to a winning season.
photo credits: energeticcity.ca, cantstopthebleeding.com, chicago.sbnation.com, postgazette.com, babeslovebaseball.com

PNC Park-just as beautiful in December

The bustling winds, fluffy white snow and bone chilling temperatures do not scream baseball. However, for my brother, Zach and I, a trip to PNC Park was just what we needed to cure our national pastime blues. 

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Just last week I pulled the trigger on a 20 game package for the 2011 season. For just $140 dollars I will be able to see 20 Pirate games in pretty darn good seats. 
We were allowed to go to the park last Saturday because of a special Christmas event for season ticket holders.
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Notice in the picture to the right I am not wearing that fresh Pirate jacket. This is the first picture we took in the day as we entered the park. The event was a shopping blow out sale for season ticket holders. Many items were available for purchase at heavily discounted prices. After a lot of shopping for others at this special holiday time, I splurged on myself for the jacket at a mere $40 bucks (it usually sells for $99). 
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We were greeted in the Pirate locker room by Santa Pirate Parrot! If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times, he is definitely the best mascot in all of sports, put a Santa costume on him and he becomes the most festive mascot in all of sports. The Pirates locker room is the second largest clubhouse in all of Major League Baseball, fun fact for ya. It is behind just the New York Yankees. 
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Another ballpark mainstay graced us with his presence. Joe Klimchak, game day host at PNC Park and regular on Pirate commercials was there spreading cheers of Christmas and baseball. We all shared a productive conversation with topics ranging from gift ideas to new manager Clint Hurdle and from the current core of players to my own career aspirations. He is a guy that would be great to have a beer with.
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Now the Parrot and Joe are great. The Peaslee brothers must be great as well because the Parrot took a liking to us as you can see. Well, Kent Tekulve, famed Bucco pitcher from the 70’s was also there reminiscing about the golden age of Pittsburgh baseball. You can see in the background banners from the 1971 and 1979 World Series Championships, “Teke” was a part of those teams. He was also festive in his Christmas sweater.
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We were able to troll around the locker room and yep, we had a good time.
Some of the items up for sale, including our new jackets, were Pedro Alvarez T-shirts (he is changing his number from 17 to 24, so that may have been a driving force behind the price drop), other jackets, hoodies, Fatheads and many game used items. We also picked up dugout lineup cards from various games we attended. The cards are simple items but add to our priceless collection of baseball goods. Bats, jerseys, bases and balls were also there, including, for some odd reason, a Lastings Milledge autographed baseball for a mere $100 dollars. In all honesty, a ridiculous price, but nonetheless it took everything in my power to withhold buying it to honor a fallen comrade. 

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On our way out we were able to give well wishes to Hurdle on a dry erase board sitting outside his office. It may have offended some but I told him how I truly feel. My message read: “Go Bucs and goodl luck Clint from all your friends at West Virginia University!” 
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The time came to bid adieu to PNC Park but with only about 100 days left until opening day, we knew that before we know it, the day will come. The glorious sport of baseball will again be upon us and a rebirth of a season will come.