PNC Park in Pittsburgh has the reputation of being one of the nicest ballparks in Major League Baseball. Over the past two days, I had the chance to make the trip to see two Pirates games at this breathtaking stadium. The following article details my experiences at PNC Park.
Capicola, Provolone, Coleslaw, Tomato and French Fries form the perfect sandwich
A baseball game is just not complete without a proper pre-game meal. A few blocks away from the stadium, Primanti Bros, a Pittsburgh staple, did just the trick. The sandwiches at this restaurant are both delicious and massive. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this picture I took of my capicola and cheese masterpiece. If that doesn’t leave you salivating, check out the full Primanti Bros menu. As tasty as it was, this beautiful sandwich was not even the highlight of the meal. Iron City Light (a local beer) was on special, and I was immediately hooked. On the way home, I had to pick up a case of this fine brew. Altogether, this flawless meal came to $21.00. With all due respect to Boston Pizza and Jack Astor’s, the experience at Primanti Bros was far superior than Toronto’s pre-game options, not to mention drastically cheaper.
So feeling a little buzzed, I make the walk over to PNC Park. A giant statue of Roberto Clemente, epitomizing the storied Pirates franchise, waits at the outfield gates, while Honus Wagner greets the Pittsburgh faithful at the home-plate entrance. Fans posed for pictures with these bronze gods, emphasizing the nostalgia that baseball thrives on. Smaller statues of players are also scattered inside the stadium. Immediately, PNC has a feel that the Rogers Centre cannot come close to matching.
Totchos: Tater Tots smothered in chilli sauce, cheese and sour cream
Before settling into my seat, sampling the concessions of a new ballpark is a mandatory activity. I grab a basket of “Totchos” (pictured to the right), one of the signature dishes PNC has to offer. This dish is tater tots smothered in chilli sauce, nacho cheese, and sour cream. Anyone with a heart problem should probably stay away. Luckily my heart is ticking just fine and I devoured my totchos with gusto. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places, but the Rogers Centre could greatly enhance the fan experience by adding similar types of signature concessions.
I finally arrive in my seat and gaze upon the Pittsburgh skyline. This view has to be the best in baseball. Wisely, the jumbotron is positioned in left field so it does not obstruct the bewilderment. As spectacular a sight as it was in daylight, when the later innings arrived and the buildings became illuminated, it was the view and not the totchos that could make your heart stop.
As for the Tuesday night game itself, I was not expecting an atmosphere as raucous as the one that caused Johnny Cueto to drop a ball in last season’s playoffs, but I was prepared for a lively crowd. That was not the case at all. A typical Blue Jays crowd would generate the same noise level as what I experienced in Steel City. Perhaps this had something to do with the Bucs’ recent struggles. The Pirates jumped out to a 2-0 lead behind nearly six innings of no-hit ball from Gerrit Cole, but when the St. Louis Cardinals tied the game in seventh, it almost seemed as if the fans had conceded. A “here-we-go-again” feeling was veiled over the stadium.
Ike Davis woke up the listless sea mates in the eighth with a pinch-hit three-run home run. As broadcaster Greg Brown exclaims after every homer, “clear the deck, cannonball coming.” Mark Melancon came on for the save in the ninth and finished the game with ease. Raise the Jolly Roger, the Pirates win 5-2. The Jays blow the booming foghorn when they win, but seeing the Jolly Roger go up is something fans remember and look forward to on a nightly basis. Another minor detail that makes PNC’s experience superior to the Rogers Centre’s.
Luckily, I had tickets for Wednesday afternoon’s game as well. I did not indulge in a pre-game meal this time, as I wanted to sample more concessions. A Lobster BLT and a nine-cheese, bacon-and-apple-stuffed grilled cheese nicknamed “The Closer” fit the bill. Again, Rogers Centre needs to follow suit in this regard. These two sandwiches took stadium food to a whole different level than what I’m used to in Toronto. Unfortunately I could not stop eating to take any pictures. Sorry everyone.
Wednesday’s game had a livelier atmosphere than Tuesday’s, but still nothing near the level I was expecting. A Blue Jays game against a division rival could easily match, if not top, the “stadium buzz.” With Adam Wainwright pitching for the visitors under a hot, hazy sun, Davis again provided all the offence the Bucs would need. In the second inning, he took the three-time all-star deep to centre field. This ball actually carried all the way out of PNC Park. The Pirates went on to win 3-1. As the Jolly Roger went up, I noticed the team’s victory song playing in the background. Check out the song here. These subtle intricacies really elevate the fan experience at PNC Park.
So there you have it. A Torontonian’s perspective on Pittsburgh’s stunning PNC Park. Have you ever been to PNC (or any ballpark aside from the Rogers Centre)? I would love to hear your thoughts on these unique MLB stadiums.