Happy Friday, everyone!
After publishing weekly episodes of the Pirates Playoff Projections for the last three months, I thought it might be fun to write something on the lighter side this week. What better way to spend a cold, wintry week in mid-January than by dreaming of the day we all get to walk through the doors of PNC Park on a sunny day and enjoy a ball game.
There’s plenty to love about the home of the Pirates since 2001, especially for the black and gold faithful. Some have called it the best ballpark in America, and PNC Park continuously shows up on “Best MLB Ballpark” lists alongside names such as AT&T Park, Wrigley Field, and Fenway Park. But what exactly is it that makes the home of a small market franchise like Pittsburgh so great?
I’ve given that question some thought, and I’ve ranked from fifth to first my favorite traits of our home ballpark. These are all strictly from my experience attending and watching games on the North Shore, so admittedly the list is biased. Feel free to leave comments below and let me know what you agree and/or disagree with. Let’s go Bucs!
5 - The Affordability
This may come off as a back-handed compliment, but I don’t mean it as one. There aren’t many places in the country where you can get an MLB ticket for 10-15 bucks. And with the smaller, homier nature of PNC Park, there’s truly not a bad seat in the house.
I hope this changes in the future as the franchise starts putting winning seasons together, but for now we can enjoy the fact that a summer weekend series doesn’t break our bank... but the beer might.
4 - The Food
This starts outside of the stadium at Mullen’s where you can get some buffalo pierogies, a juicy burger, or the biggest plate of loaded nachos I’ve ever seen. Wash it all down with some $3 IC Lights. Then take it inside for a Primanti Brothers sandwich, some BBQ at Manny’s in center field, or a cup of famous Crab Fries. You can’t go wrong if you come to a Pirates game hungry. You surely won’t leave that way.
3 - Pre-Game and Post-Game Festivities
Piggy-backing off the previous trait, there’s so much to do and enjoy around the ballpark, especially on a weekend. Take time to walk across the beautiful Clemente Bridge or rent a kayak and go for a cruise underneath the bridge and around the point. The Gateway Clipper is a great time killer before games too. The aforementioned Mullen’s is my favorite spot for a pre-game beverage and/or snack, but there are plenty of other options, including a few stands right out on Federal Street where you can walk around while enjoying a beer. The neighborhood feel and tailgating that goes on along the river, in the parking lots, and at the local sports bars are reason enough to attend a Pirates game all on their own.
After the game much of the same applies, as you’re a few steps away from a celebratory meal and/or drink. With a few hotels surrounding the stadium and downtown Pittsburgh a bridge away, you may never even need to jump in a cab or an Uber to enjoy a lot of what the city has to offer.
2 - The Atmosphere
When the Pirates are winning or in contention for the NL Central division, there’s no place quite like the North Shore. You get a “Let’s Go Bucs” everywhere you go. During the game the Pittsburgh faithful get up for every strikeout, single, walk, and manager yelling match. The City of Champions love their sports, and the Pirates are no exception. Unfortunately the dog days of summer can lose their flare when the team goes on a losing streak, but when I spent the days around Fourth of July at the park before the All-Star Break last year, the optimism and excitement were thick in the air. When the Bucs remain in contention as October draws nearer, the intensity grows. This city loves their team, and they let you know whenever they get a reason to.
1 - The Scenery and Views
Lastly, the views are the most well-known reason for PNC Park’s high ranking among other MLB parks. The Allegheny river running just beyond right field is glorious. The downtown city skyline just on the other side of the river is remarkable. The bright yellow Clemente Bridge is bold. The shrubs in center field help tie it all together, and the rotunda looking down on everyone makes you feel like home. If you haven’t ever witnessed the view on a sunny afternoon and a clear night from just below the broadcaster’s booth, make it a point the next time you’re at a game. It just might be the best view in sports. I’ll put a few of my favorite pictures (along with the main image of the article) below to cap things off.