Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Trip to PNC Park, chapter three

On Sunday, I attended the final game of the three game series between the Phillies and the Pirates at PNC Park. This was the first time in my life that I attended an entire series. The Phils lost the game by a score of 5-1, as Paul Malholm managed to quiet their bats for nine strong innings.

It was a beautiful day in Pittsburgh, and we had eleven Phillies, Pirates, and Baseball fans in our group. I cannot overstate how enjoyable attending a game at PNC Park is. We each paid nine dollars for great seats in left field (our seats are boxed in red in the following photograph). We were able to find free parking about five walking minutes away from the ballpark, at a boathouse row style jogging/biking trail adjacent to the Allegheny River.

We got to the game about an hour and a half early, and were able to walk around, as well as catch the tail end of Phillies batting practice.

Sunday was a day which really reinforced my love of the game of baseball. Before the game, the Pirates had a ceremony to honor an usher who had worked at Forbes Field, Three Rivers Stadium, and PNC Park in a career spanning 70 years. I believe he had just turned 90 years old. It was wonderful to see this man being recognized and honored by the team he had devoted his life to. In these days of free agency and dismantling of championship winning teams, it was inspiring and heartwarming to see such loyalty. The Pirates had offered him the day off, but he refused to take it, so instead they brought his friends and family to the park to watch the game for the day. Also, throughout the game, several kids in the stands got balls tossed to them by the outfielders after the inning, or signed by players in the bullpen. Their excitement was a beautiful thing to see. For the rest of their life, they will remember going "down to the ballpark", being with their families and enjoying some baseball. Last year baseball set a record for total attendance, and based on the look in the eyes of some of the children there, they will continue to do so for many years to come.

Although the Phillies lost, they won the series, which is enough for me. If a team wins two out of every three games they play, they will finish with a record of 108 wins and 54 losses, easily enough to win any division in baseball, any given year. On the way out of the stadium, an usher, noticing our Phillies shirts, said, somewhat triumphantly, "No sweep today!!". Of course, sweeps are very hard to come by in baseball, but I guess avoiding one was still something for Pittsburgh to celebrate. Outside the ballpark, representatives of Shearer's Foods, Inc. were giving away free bags of barbeque potato chips, which were a welcome relief from hunger that was starting to set in.

Friends, Great weather, baseball, the Phillies, and a beautiful ballpark are ingredients to a wonderful time, and I had a great weekend. I would strongly encourage anyone who stops by Pittsburgh to include a game at PNC Park on their schedule.

Tomorrow, the Phillies will return to action back home at Citizen's Bank Park against the San Diego Padres. The Phils hope to see the return of Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino to the lineup, in what should be a shot in the arm for one of the NL's best offenses.

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