Take Me Out to the Ball Game is a Cubs DNA series where our staff review other ball parks . Today, Caleb looks at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA: AKA home of the Piebutts.
PNC Park has been the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates since 2001. Nestled on the shore of the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, it's one of the nicer destinations in the National League. Shocking, I know, but what the Piebutts lack in a quality team they make up in great ballpark.
PNC was built in a time where teams were trying to get away from the boring coliseum aesthetic from the 70's and instead were looking to build ballparks similar to that of our very own Wrigley Field. PNC does it well with a great view of the city over Right Field and the Roberto Clemente Bridge in Center Field. The skyline makes for a perfect backdrop for the many concerts and fireworks shows PNC Park puts on every year.
There really isn't a bad seat in this ball park. Every section gives you a great view of the action (err...or lack of action some years for the Piebutts) on the field while offering great local food options like Primanti Brothers Sandwiches, which is a must anytime you're in Pittsburgh.
These suckers come with whatever meat you want, cole slaw, and are topped with homemade french fries. If you prefer an old fashioned baseball experience with soda, hot dogs, and all the ice cream you can eat, their All-You-Can-Eat section in right field is an affordable way for the entire family to see a Major League Baseball game and get their fill of good eats.
Pittsburgh is known for pierogi which are apparently dumplings filled with meat or cheese. I don't know, I've never tried them and to be honest they look disgusting, but that doesn't stop the Piebutts from racing pierogi around PNC Park like they were sausages in Milwaukee or Presidents in Washington. It's a great experience for families.
In 2009 I held an internship with the Pirates and saw so much of the ballpark that I could likely give you a tour today despite not being there for eleven years. As an intern I managed a few promotions including their "Hats Off" promotion where group ticket holders received free hats and their Bucaroos Kids Club. I had ballpark duties with both but the Hats Off promotion gave me a chance to get paid to watch baseball all summer long. I had a kiosk in Right Field that gave me the perfect view of the field and was never really interrupted by fans picking up their hats until the half innings.
The view from my kiosk was pretty darn good! They paid me for this!
I was also able to meet and interact with players daily. I'll never forget the stories Adam LaRoche told of cutting holes in the sliding shorts of his Braves teammates and the success of the team in 2009 with future Cubs Jon Grabow and Paul Maholm or the nearly daily "how ya doin" from newly called up Andrew McCutchen as I made my way through the tunnels to set up my kiosk or to host an autograph session for kids.
Adam LaRoche and Jon Grabow signing autographs for Bucaroos Kids Club members
I even met one of my favorite Cubs of all-time, Kerry Wood, and nearly took out his knee caps (Sorry Kerry!). The Pirates were hosting the Indians. Cleveland held a 5 run lead going into the 9th so my hopes of seeing Kerry Wood pitch were slim. However, the Pirates put up 3 runs on Matt Herges who was pulled for the Indians closer, my guy, Kerry friggin Wood! As he took his warmups I remember plotting out what I would say if I ran into him in the tunnel below the stands. When leaving, I would take an elevator down to the ground level in the tunnel underneath the stands so I didn't have to navigate through crowds. I usually had a large cart with boxes of hats for my promotion and my path took me right past the visitors' clubhouse. I played what I would say over and over in my head hoping I could time it right. "Hey Mr. Wood. Great game! I'm a Cubs fan!" No "Hey Kerry! Great game! I'm a big fan of yours!" That's dumb. I'd just wing it. Heck, chances were good that I wouldn't time it right anyway. He had to go back to the bullpen to grab his stuff and then walk all the way across the outfield to the clubhouse.
I took the elevator down and saw no one in the tunnel. Though I figured I wouldn't see him anyway; I was still disappointed. I pushed my cart down the tunnel hurrying to beat traffic and BOOM! Coming up the stairs was the man, the myth, the legend Kerry FRIGGIN Wood! I was in such shock that I simultaneously couldn't stop the cart and yanked on it to get it to stop before it slammed into Kerry's legs. This sudden jolt caused the boxes of hats to go flying inches from Wood's kneecaps and a small box of gas cards to spill all over the tunnel floor. In shock I looked at him, looked down at the cards, and back up at him. He simply smiled, laughed, and said "whoops" as he stepped over them and into the clubhouse. I didn't get a single word in, which was probably for the best, who knows what dumb thing I would have said. Hopefully one day I'll get the chance to actually say words to him and maybe even tell him that dumb story.
Needless to say, PNC Park will always be special to me. It was my first opportunity to see Major League Baseball from behind the scenes. I met players and had conversations with them. I was able to see their daily routines. I nearly crippled one of my all-time favorite Cubs. If you ever find yourself in the Pittsburgh area during baseball season, go catch a game at PNC. You'll have a great time even if the baseball isn't so great!