Friday, November 3, 2017

Ballpark Tour #1: PNC Park

Earlier this year, I wrote about my trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to attend a Jaromir Jagr autograph signing. Subsequently, I have not written a blog post since. But in that post I also included several photos from the outside of PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Being that it was March, the Pirates were over one thousand miles away at their Spring Training facility in Bradenton, Florida, so my best look inside came through a wrought iron fence beyond the center field wall. Take a look:

After seeing how beautiful the ballpark was from the exterior, I became increasingly anxious to visit again and attend a game. In August of this year, I got my opportunity to see the San Diego Padres take on the Pirates at PNC Park.

Before I even entered the stadium, I was already impressed by the Pirates' ticket prices. Granted, by August the Pirates were several games out of the second NL Wild Card spot, and the Padres were being their typical Padre-like selves, but for a Saturday night game, my twelfth row ticket behind the San Diego dugout was under $50.00 (fees included). Maybe I'm just used to the Southern California tradition of price gouging everyone literally everywhere, but $50.00 seemed like a great deal. 

In the photo above you can see some dark gray clouds in the background. Right as the game was scheduled to begin, there was a downpour of rain that lasted roughly five minutes. I hadn't seen that much rain since my trip to Spring Training in 2014, when the first ten rows of the stadium were completely under water before they finally cancelled the game. But the rain stopped shortly after and, thankfully, it never returned. After a twenty minute delay the first pitch was thrown, and I went to explore the stadium a bit.

My first order of business was to head up to the nosebleeds to get a behind-the-plate shot of the stadium. On my way up one of the famous PNC Park roundabouts, I took a photo of Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the distance. 

There isn't much to say about PNC's backdrop. It's the best in all of sports.

After snapping a few more photos, I made my way out to right field. Can you see the space between the digital scoreboard in right field and the elevated bleachers above it? There's a chain-link fence between the scoreboard and the stands, with a row of seats behind it. Most baseball fans will know what I'm talking about, but what I didn't know is that the Pirates let anyone sit there during regular games.

One thing I'm definitely not accustomed to is that kind of hospitality. Earlier this season at Angel Stadium, I was yelled at by an usher for trying to sit in left field during the ninth inning of an 8-1 game. There were three people in the entire section...

On to a less bitter note, here are more pictures of PNC's beauty:

One of my favorite quirks about PNC is the boat parking. Yep, boat parking. There are numerous spots along the river-walk for patrons to tie down their boats and leave them for the game. You can see a couple of boats tied down in the second photo.

Another impressive part of PNC Park was their "Pirates Authentics" stand. This is where the Pirates sell all sorts of game used and autographed items. Not only were the Pirates items reasonably priced, but they also had a cool selection of memorabilia from non-Pirate players.

One of my biggest regrets (autograph-wise, at least) is not getting Tony Gwynn to sign a jersey while I had the opportunity to. Still, the two Gwynn baseballs that remain in my collection, both signed in person, will always be cherished. As for the other items in the case, I can spot bats signed by Hank Aaron and Bo Jackson, jerseys signed by Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr, Robin Yount, and Steve Carlton, and, for some reason, a Josh Bell 8x10.

The Padres led throughout and scored two insurance runs in the eighth inning, winning 5-2. The Padres starter, Dinelson Lamet, threw five no-hit innings, but gave up a base hit to Bell in the sixth. 

Since this is an autograph blog, here is a picture of Roger Staubach signing my jersey the next morning outside of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The reason why I decided to write about PNC Park is because there are very few sites that give people an actual, in depth look at different ballparks and arenas. PNC was the seventeenth MLB park that I have visited, and none of them have looked anything like the pictures I've seen online. I've always enjoyed reading excerpts from a fan's perspective rather than someone who gets paid to travel from ballpark to ballpark (Although I must admit, that sounds like an incredible job). With that said, my pictures do not give PNC its proper justice. It is truly the most beautiful ballpark in the country, if not the world, and I highly encourage every baseball fan to put PNC Park on top of their bucket list.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh: 3/18/17

I mentioned in my last post that I would still try to write about the occasional signing or two. While it's difficult to write about every event that I attend, I still enjoy sharing my photos and experiences with the friends that I've made. So here I am, with a recap of one of my favorite trips in recent memory.

I made the 2,500 mile journey to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a signing with hockey icon, Jaromir Jagr. Jagr is second all-time in points, trailing only "the Great One" Wayne Gretzky. There's also a good chance that Jagr will surpass the late Gordie Howe for second most goals by the time he retires. If he retires.

Most people will think I'm crazy for traveling so far to meet just one hockey player. They're probably right, but the airfare was cheap and it was a chance to check out a new city. The city itself did not disappoint. I didn't have low expectations, but I had never thought of Pittsburgh as being an exceptionally nice city.  Of course my first stop was downtown and PNC Park.

My only complaint about the entire trip is that the signing didn't happen three weeks later, when the Pirates would be in town. PNC Park should be on every baseball fan's "bucket list" and it looked awfully beautiful even from the outside. I'll add it to the list of ballpark's that I have visited (which is up to seventeen) for now, but I'd really like to attend a game there in the near future.

The signing itself went very smoothly with zero issues. I was about three hundredth in line and yet it took less than two hours to get through. Everybody in line got to talk to Jagr and get a photograph with him. Props to Total Sports Enterprise, who hosted the event. I really wish more signings were this well-run.

All four items came out great and Jagr was very friendly. I was a bit concerned that he might have a problem doing so many inscriptions on the jersey, but there were zero issues. Also, for a man born and raised in Czechoslovakia, Jagr has surprisingly nice hand writing.

There was only one things left to do: watch Jagr in action. I attended the Florida Panthers - Pittsburgh Penguins game the next morning at the newly-named PPG Paints Arena (what a horrible name for an arena, by the way). The arena is one of the newest in the NHL and lived up to expectations. The Panthers got outplayed by the defending Stanley Cup Champs, and Sidney Crosby scored a natural hat-trick. It was cool seeing the best player in the game accomplish a rare feat in a season in which he should win MVP. 

I left the game a few minutes early to stop at Primanti Bros. on the way to the airport. They invented quite possibly the greatest sandwich on the face of the planet: meat, french fries, coleslaw, and onions on Italian bread. I went with no coleslaw and it was easily a 10 out of 10.

A proper way to end a very enjoyable and memorable trip.