I left the Cincinnati game as soon as it was over. It was a five hour drive to Pittsburgh and I just wanted to get there. I think that is my general attitude for this trip. I’d like to get to my destination as soon as possible that way there’s less chance for something to go wrong and I miss a stop. I didn’t sleep much the night before because I was excited but I still had plenty of juice left in my tank for this night. I stopped and got gas and energy drinks and continued on my way. I won’t say texting while I was driving with several friends made the trip go by faster, because texting and driving is illegal. So don’t do that! I certainly won’t say that using my iPhone to Skype my friend Rachel took place either. If it had though she would have seen my face as I was going through the tunnel to get into Pittsburgh. I hate tunnels. I have no idea why, it’s just an irrational fear of mine. But coming out of the tunnel in downtown Pittsburgh was really cool. You have no idea that the city is right there until you come through.
When I reached Pittsburgh it was nearing 3 o’clock in the morning. I didn’t see any point in getting a hotel for only a few hours so I decided to find a place to park my car and catch a nap. I knew I would run into situations like this so I came prepared with my pillow and blanket. Some of you may be thinking how could you just sleep in your car like that? I’ve had to sleep in some pretty gnarly places in my military career. Lying down in the back of a car is actually kind of nice. (I’m not very tall) I found a parking garage and decided I would camp out there for the evening. I made my way to the top story so I could get the best view I could of the city. I parked the car and walked over to the edge so I could have a look. I was directly across from PNC Park. It was a gorgeous view looking across the river at the ballpark. When I woke up the next morning the very first thing I saw was PNC. For a man who’s sleeping in a car, there’s no better way to wake up. I charged my phone a little bit and got cleaned up. I changed my clothes, brushed my teeth, reapplied deodorant and cologne. The trick to quick sanitation is baby wipes. They do the trick when you don’t have time to shower. All the military folks out there know exactly what I’m talking about.
I left the parking garage and started walking towards PNC Park. I love cities so I was taking in the surrounding area as much as I could. I am a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan yet I had never been to Pittsburgh before. I liked being able to see the yellow seats of Heinz field just a few blocks away. I made my way to the sidewalk and started crossing what I believe is the Roberto Clemente Bridge. Half way through I realized that they had the bridge closed. I made a mental note of this because I wanted to walk in the middle of the road. As I approached the park I loved the atmosphere I was walking into. They had giant blow up bounce things for little kids in the streets. The outside of the park has almost a European feel to it. There are several restaurants and they all had tables set up so people could enjoy their food and enjoy one of Americans most prevalent pastimes, people watching. There are several statues on the outside of the park of the Pirate greats. These statues were extremely crowded with people wanting to get pictures. I went and picked up my tickets at Will Call without any issues. The Pirates organization had comped me one ticket. They offered more but I knew I would be traveling to Pittsburgh on my own. I continued to walk around the stadium and check out the sites and made my way into a gate. I carry my backpack with me usually when I travel so they checked it and allowed me to enter their palace. I entered near a back entrance by the river and a kids play area. It was Easter so they were giving a plush toy of the pirate mascot to all the kids. I wanted one but unfortunetly I am slightly over the age limit. Jerks! If only they knew the age I actually act at times.
As always I walked right in and found my way to a place where I could look at the field. I took it all in and noticed a family bathroom right next to me. One thing I already appreciate on this trip is the opportunity to have a private bathroom. I continued to walk around when I noticed a lot of people standing in line and eventually spinning a wheel. I wanted to spin that wheel too. I got to the front and gave the lady all my super personal information such as my name. In return she gave me a Pirates card that makes me eligible for prizes. I also got to spin the wheel. I mustered up all my strength and spun this tiny plastic wheel that could rival The Price Is Right. The wheel stopped on $6 off a ticket. I took my voucher and started to walk away. An older gentleman at the end of the line asked me what the whole process was about. I informed him and also gave him my ticket voucher seeing as I probably won’t be back in Pittsburgh for a while.
I made my way towards the front of the park and ran into something I did not like. The bottom level of the park is the concession level. As you get to the front you are forced to go to the seating level which is actually the second level. You can’t just walk around the whole park. If you want to do that you have to go up a level then back down once you get to the other side of home plate. Just before I headed to the upper level I noticed some statues. In the High Park Legacy Square there are several statues that are in honor of the Negro League Greats that played in Pittsburgh. I went up to the main concourse and found my seat. I was on the third base line 20 rows up or so. During the national anthem they had a United States Army Reserve Specialist stand at home plate and honor the salute. They informed the crowd that she was deploying for Afghanistan tomorrow and everybody’s heart went out to her. Knowing you only have one day left at home and you’re wearing your uniform standing on home plate. That’s an amazing experience I’m sure. It was Kids Opening Day at PNC park and they had 9 kids down on the field to take part. They introduced the kids, ages ranging from 6-9, and they ran to whatever spot they were told on the field. When the Pirates came out they stood next to the kids, signed a ball for them, and sent them on their way. It was really cute to see these tiny kids running out and then standing next to these giant ballplayers.
One of the first thing I noticed once the game began is the sea of red. There is no doubt that there were more Phillies fans there that day then Pirates fans. The Phillies got off to a good start and you could of thought by the cheering that they were the home team. I look over and I see the Pirate Parrot mascot. He was taking pictures with kids and kept putting people’s heads in his beak. If you’ve ever been to PNC you know what I’m talking about.
I decided to get some food and found a place that served burgers. I got a $9 “Bucco Burger” which consisted of beef patty, bacon, BBQ sauce, onion straws, and cheddar cheese. I sat down to eat it and the first bite was delicious. After a few bites I wasn’t feeling it so much. I didn’t like the flavor of the BBQ sauce and there was too much of everything except burger. I finished half of the sandwich and decided to take all the toppings off.
The stands were empty and it was pretty chilly out. I decided to go to the very top level and see what a ballgame looked like from there. I was rather impressed by how close you felt to the game even though you were 7 miles high. There was only a few people in the entire section. They had kids and they seemed to enjoy the freedom of allowing them space to play in the nosebleeds. Directly across from me the section was completely empty except for two people. I made my way over to get a view from that side and saw that these two gentlemen were die hard pirates fans. I’m not sure if they dressed up like pirates or if they always looked like that. I watched nearly the rest of the game from this section. I started making my way down and missed a walk off hit. I was disappointed to miss that but I was ready to go get warm. The next stop on my trip was Cleveland and I had a very special day in store for me.
Keep On Smilin- It’s Baseball Season!