More than 10,000 fans piled into PNC Park Thursday afternoon, ready to see the Pittsburgh Pirates try for a series sweep of the San Diego Padres. But when it came time for first pitch, the field turned into a ghost town.
Many were puzzled as the national anthem concluded and players from both sides were absent in their respective dugouts. Additionally, the FedEx grounds crew laid out the tarp on both the pitcher’s mound and home plate.
After waiting for what felt like hours, the Pirates updated fans of the situation on Twitter:
Our game will be delayed as we consider the current weather conditions and air quality index. We will have an update shortly.— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) June 29, 2023
A short time later, the team announced the finale would start around 1:20 p.m.
No one expected this to happen, especially since Wednesday night’s game went on without a hitch. A delay, or even cancellation, however, was basically guaranteed after several players voiced their opposition to playing in such poor conditions early Thursday morning.
One was Andrew McCutchen, who told Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that there didn’t seem to be enough concern for the poor air quality.
“You read the alerts... One of the main things is to avoid strenuous activity, and that’s what we’re doing for three-plus hours out there... I don’t feel like there’s enough awareness. We’re just out there in it. Gotta get the game in, right? We don’t have to. We don’t have to get the game in.”
Cutch also gave Mackey a brief ideology for how the situation was handled.
“It’s more like, ‘Chicago played in it, so you guys are fine.’ That’s what we’ve come to? They played in it, so we’re fine? I’m sure if we had a health expert coming in here, they’d be saying we’re crazy.”
Catcher Austin Hedges also voiced his issue with the lack of awareness to Mackey, saying the hazy blanket caused health issues.
“Visually, plus I felt like the amount I was sweating and having a tough time breathing, it was too many things impacting the situation.”
Hedges also broke an unwritten rule by calling out MLB for allegedly putting money over safety.
“...it doesn’t seem like player health is the No. 1 priority... Money always is. I don’t know. It’s pretty frustrating.”
Regardless of how you feel about the delay or players not wanting to play in the less-than-ideal conditions, one has to admire the joint effort by both clubs to bring the game to reality.
Both the Pirates and Padres eventually made the trek to their respective dugouts and play promptly began at the designated time.
As of first pitch, Pittsburgh’s air quality was 191, which was labeled “dangerous” by IQair.com.