I could be a Pirates fan.
Believe me, I know all that implies. As a middle-aged Twins fan, I've felt Pirates fans' pain, albeit in lesser doses. I can sympathize with the hopelessness and even apathy that sets in after years of mismanagement.
Watching the supposedly competitive Bucs yesterday didn't inspire me to join them anytime soon. If you're wondering what the "traditional" Twins philosophy - pitching, defense and maybe a little hitting - looks like in the NL, look at the Pirates. I'm sure the announcers focus on the pitching and defense, but it's hard to get past just how inept that offense is.
But I could be a Pirates fan, just because of PNC Park.
I last visited PNC a couple of years ago when we sat with friends in the upper deck. I came away thinking I had found the best new ballpark in the majors, and maybe second to only Wrigley in my heart. That was reinforced last night.
Last night we had much, much, MUCH better seats - 2nd row down the first base line just past first base - and they cost us just $34. (That's one of the other perks for being a Pirates fan - the cost for everything is quite a bit lower.) Like I said, they were great seats - actually a little below field level - but I think I might have liked the upper deck seats last time just as much. Why?
Cuz this is the view from the upper deck.
It helps that Pittsburgh is a beautiful city, which I did not expect before visiting. It is classic big steel, defiantly proud of its heritage, jutting its chin out at our expectations. The ballpark leverages that too, closing the adjacent riveted bridge that leads to downtown to everything but pedestrian traffic and independent vendors. The result is an urban ballpark plaza that also happens to cross the Allegheny River.
My friend Bob joked about just how scenic the ballpark was and how the architect must have reacted to seeing the site. "It goes where? And I can turn it anyway I want?" He or she must have felt like they had died and gone to heaven. But give the Pirates some credit - they didn't screw it up, and it would have been easy enough to do. The ballpark works because center field doesn't have any bleachers, allowing the city and river to bleed into the park. I'm sure at some point adding a 10,000 seat tourniquet occurred to the bean counters.
Not doing so proved prescient, because the Pirates aren't selling those seats anyway. The park was about half full last night. It felt a little like looking into the Twins future. That's bad news for us payroll trackers, but sure makes for a nice intimate ballpark experience. I enjoy the packed energy that is currently at most Twins home games, but I think I'll also like the camaraderie that comes from a smaller more interested crowd.
I sure did last night.