I don’t normally get sentimental in my writing, but I wanted to showcase something that holds a special place in my heart.
On Sunday, I attended the Pirates’ season finale against the Miami Marlins and I must admit, it was probably the best game I’ve ever gone to. Well, maybe the second-best.
There was no stress, no worrying about winning or losing, and certainly no negative thoughts. It was simply “a good day at the ballpark.”
The Pirates won 3-0 and it was a pitching duel all the way to the end. Andre Jackson, Osvaldo Bido, Kyle Nicolas, Dauri Moreta, and David Bednar paved the way for the team while Miguel Andujar and Jack Suwinski provided the lumber in the eighth. I came inches away from my first foul ball at a MLB game and Marlins GM Kim Ng sat a few seats over from where I was.
Nothing could beat it. Well, except one other ballgame I attended: my first.
Coincidentally, the first Pirates game I attended was 17 years to the day: Oct. 1, 2006. The Pirates welcomed the Cincinnati Reds for the final game of the year. The pitching matchup? Matt Belisle against Pirates southpaw Shane Youman.
My late father woke me up bright and early, surprising me with two tickets and a VIP badge, courtesy of some family friends. I was ecstatic.
As a kid, it was the greatest news you could hear.
I didn’t know much about stats or what could make a ballclub better, but I was well aware that Freddy Sanchez could capture the National League batting title that day, and I was going to do anything in my power to watch that happen.
We got to PNC Park around 11:45 that morning, mere minutes before the gates opened. Lo and behold, it was Fan Appreciation Day, something older fans were accustomed to.
We went to a certain part of the park where farmhands Marty McLeary and Rajai Davis were signing autographs. Afterwards, we went into the ballpark and took our seats along the first base side, letting the action blanket our minds for the next few hours.
Youman dominated the Reds through seven innings, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out one. John Grabow, Matt Capps and Salomon Torres held them in check through the final two innings, while Xavier Nady drove in Jason Bay for the game’s only run in the eighth.
Sanchez rode the momentum from the “Go, Freddy, Go!” chants and notched two hits to beat out Miguel Cabrera for the NL batting crown.
Moral of the story, just because the Pirates aren’t in a postseason race doesn’t mean it’s not worth making your way to the ballpark on the final day of the season. The vibes are high and players are just playing for fun.
If you get the chance to make a season finale, take it. You won’t regret it.