A few years ago, I was in Pittsburgh for the All-Star Game, Thanks to the generosity of a friend, I actually had a ticket for the game. I did enjoy being at the All-Star Game ... but frankly, I didn't quite get what all the fuss over PNC Park was about. It certainly seemed like a nice ballpark, but a lot of people seem to think it's the prettiest ballpark in the majors, and I just didn't see it.
I still don't. But after watching the Corsairs steamroll the Cardinals Monday night, I've a new appreciation for PNC. Not to mention the Pittsburgh Pirates. Because at this exact moment, PNC Park is one hell of a place to watch a baseball game, and particularly if the visiting team stands between the Pirates and their first championship of any stripe since before William Jefferson Clinton moved into the White House.
One thing helped: Monday night, I sat a lot closer to the action, just a couple of dozen rows from the field, just beyond third base; I felt I could have reached out and touched third-base coach Nick Leyva. From there, the Cardinals' reds seemed redder, the Pirates' blacks blacker, the playing field's green greener.
Or maybe it was just the unfolding drama, with the Pirates playing their biggest game since 1992, a chance to pull to within just a half-game of the first-place Redbirds. The game wasn't sold out, but 32,000 fans on a Monday night can't be wrong. And yes, the ballpark's quite nice. I think it might be a little overrated. There's a moat separating the wealthiest fans from the hoi polloi, and you can't really keep your eye on the game while walking around the lower concourse. But PNC's got a lot of things to recommend it, so many that I'll name just a few.
- The advertising signage isn't as garish as in many parks these days;
- the statues outside the ballpark -- Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, and Honus Wagner -- are dramatic and accessible;
- the out-of-town scoreboard on the right-field wall is wonderfully descriptive and colorful;
- another board displays not just the speed of each pitch, but also its horizontal and vertical break in inches.
One thing everybody raves about? The view. But I've never really been a view guy. When I'm at a baseball game, I want to be so engaged with the action that I forget about the view. And the Pirates making their serious push toward history, I doubt if I spent more than a minute looking at the tall buildings in three hours.
But I'm now happy to elevate PNC Park in my ballpark rankings, the upper reaches of which now look something like this:
1. Fenway Park
2. Wrigley Field
3. Dodger Stadium
4. Camden Yards
5. Coors Field
6. Safeco Field
7. PNC Park
8. AT&T Park
With a bunch of the other new ones tied for ninth, I guess. I'll be visiting the ballparks in Philadelphia and Washington soon, and I'll have an open mind.
For much more about the Corsairs, please visit SB Nation's Bucs Dugout.