PNC Park is glorious . . .
. . . but I wasn’t thrilled about the circumstances of this particular game:
Not only was the first pitch scheduled for 12:35pm, but it was “Weather Education Day,” which meant there were hundreds of kids inside the stadium by the time I arrived:
One good thing about the slow pace of the day was that I had time to catch up with some friends, including Todd Cook and his sons Tim (age 7) and Kellan (age 2), who were here to see their beloved Mariners. Now . . . do you remember when I got a fist-bump from Tim on 6/3/09 at Nationals Park? And when I tried unsuccessfully to get a double-fist-bump from both boys on 4/14/13 at Yankee Stadium? Well, it finally happened here in Pittsburgh:
(It’s all about the small victories in life.)
At PNC Park, the visiting team occupies the right side, so that’s where I headed when the seating bowl opened at 11am. Unfortunately, by that time, only two Mariners were still playing catch:
Because Todd and his adorable kids were there, I knew I had no chance to snag any baseballs from the Mariners, so I headed to the left field side:
As you can see in the photo above, several pairs of Pirates were warming up. Five minutes later, I got Tony Watson to throw me a ball:
It was a huge relief — I’m always nervous about getting shut out when there’s no BP — and ten minutes later, I got another ball from Mark Melancon near the foul pole.
Several Pirates signed autographs before the game, including Jason Grilli . . .
. . . and Russell Martin:
“Hey, Russell,” I said, “everyone tells me that I look like you. What do YOU think?”
He looked up briefly and replied, “Yeah, I see it a little bit.”
Moments later, a middle-aged women who, shall we say, wasn’t entirely there, started shouting, “Russell!! You’re CUTE!!” You’re CUTE, Russell!!”
It was awkward, and Russell didn’t respond, so I said, “Hey! That means I’m cute too, right?!”
That didn’t make things any less awkward.
Several minutes later, I met a ballhawk that I’d heard about and caught up with another whom I’ve known for several years. Here I am with them:
There was lots of time to kill, and I knew exactly how I wanted to spend it. Two words: donut burger. Several weeks earlier, I’d read about it on Cut4, and I knew right away that when I visited PNC Park, I *had* to try it. Zac and Robbie told me that the Hall of Fame Club served it — that’s the restaurant at the back of the second deck in left field — and they led me through a secret shortcut to get there:
I took a photo of them when we reached the club’s entrance . . .
. . . and by the way, this was the view behind me:
PNC Park is so beautiful that it hurts.
Here’s what the inside of the Hall of Fame Club looks like:
As for the burger . . .
. . . I’d describe it as “very good but not life-changing.” (It had bacon and cheddar and a fried egg; somehow I only gained three-quarters of a pound on this nine-day trip.) As I bit into it, my thoughts went something like this: “Hey, that’s a pretty good burger, and whoa! There’s something desserty going on. That’s weird. And tasty. Hmm. Okay.” Officially, this thing is called a “brunch burger,” and it’s definitely worth trying. Just know that the novelty is better than the quality; it IS ballpark food, after all.
When the game got underway, I was sitting here:
A.J. Burnett was pitching for the Pirates, and Felix Hernandez was on the hill for the Mariners. With these two hard-throwing righties, I figured there’d be lots of lefties hitting foul balls behind the plate. Good logic, right?
Yeah, well, there wasn’t ONE foul ball hit anywhere near me all day.
Meanwhile, my actual seat was in the middle of the 4th row behind the outfield end of the Mariners’ dugout, but get this — the usher wouldn’t let me move to any of the open seats beside the stairs. I didn’t want to sit on the outfield end of the dugout anyway. I predicted that Felix was gonna rack up lots of strikeouts, so I lurked behind the home-plate end . . .
. . . and attempted to run down the stairs at the end of each inning. Not surprisingly, a different usher scolded me and said I wasn’t allowed to do that, so I gave up on the Mariners’ side altogether.
As the innings ticked by, I got increasingly nervous. BIGS Sunflower Seeds, for those who don’t know, is challenging me to snag a game-used ball at every stadium this season, with $500 going to Pitch In For Baseball for every venue at which I succeed. Not only was this was my one shot at PNC Park, but I’d completed the challenge at each of the previous 12 stadiums.
Anyway, when I tried entering the seats behind the Pirates’ dugout, I was intercepted by an usher. I was screwed, or so I thought. How the hell was I going to get down there? And if I couldn’t get down there, how was I gonna snag a gamer?
I sat here for an inning and pondered my next move:
Eventually I noticed that there were three staircases behind the dugout, but only two ushers. Ha! I watched them carefully and waited until they both had their backs turned to the middle staircase, and then I went for it.
Great success! They never saw me, and I grabbed an end-seat in the second row. Check out my view:
It took a couple more innings, but eventually I snagged my gamer when Felix Hernandez grounded out to end the top of the 7th inning, and Garrett Jones tossed me the ball on the way in. Here’s a photo of it:
The man sitting in front of me was glad that I got the ball. He was actually annoyed at several kids in the section, who had each snagged about three or four (infield warm-up balls included). When he saw me photographing it, he offered to hold it for me so I could get a better shot of the field in the background. I was like, “Thanks, but I’m fine,” but he insisted, so I was like, “No, really, I appreciate it, but I got the photo I need,” but he kept insisting, so eventually I let him hold the ball for me:
Gee, sir, thanks so much.
I spent the 8th inning in left field . . .
. . . and the 9th inning in right-center . . .
. . . but no one went deep while I was out there. The only home run of the game was an opposite field shot to right-center by Jesus Montero in the top of the 7th. Even if I’d been in the outfield at the time, I wouldn’t have caught it because it landed in the middle of a crowded section, so whatever.
Final score: Mariners 2, Pirates 1.
After the game, I met up with Todd and the kids and tried to get another double-fist bump:
Stupid me. I should’ve quit while I was ahead, and by the way, that’s not blood on Kellan’s right calf. I asked Todd about it, and he said, “It’s chocolate.”
I chatted with Evan and Robbie for a while . . .
. . . and took one final photo on the way out:
Did you notice all those people in right field? Those were season ticket holders, who were getting to play catch on the field. I know what that’s like, and I wished I could’ve joined them.
• 160 balls in 21 games this season = 7.6 balls per game.
• 39 balls in 6 lifetime games at PNC Park = 6.5 balls per game.
• 893 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 13 stadiums this season with a game-used ball: Citi Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium, PETCO Park, AT&T Park, Safeco Field, Kauffman Stadium, Rangers Ballpark, Minute Maid Park, Great American Ball Park, Progressive Field, and PNC Park
• 6,619 total balls
(For every stadium this season at which I snag a game-used ball, BIGS Sunflower Seeds will donate $500 to Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. In addition to that, I’m doing my own fundraiser again this season for Pitch In For Baseball.)
• 26 donors for my fundraiser
• $1.63 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $4.89 raised at this game
• $259.80 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $6,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $28,165.80 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009