By now you’ve probably heard of the #PNCBlackout. Several Pirates players took to social media, encouraging fans who would be in attendance for tomorrow’s playoff game to wear all black. The Pirates will also be handing out black towels to wave during the game, which wasn’t planned as part of the blackout. Here is an image of how the same plan worked in Chicago a few years ago for a White Sox game.
A lot of the players were excited when talking about the possibility of a blackout after today’s workout at PNC Park.
“I hope the blackout is going to happen,” Jason Grilli said. “I think everyone is going to climb on board that one. Why not do it?”
“It’s going to be exciting man,” Josh Harrison said. “It gives the fans something to look forward to. Not only do they look forward to coming out and cheering us on, but they get to look forward to participating in the blackout, which I think is going to be cool.”
The movement gained a lot of attention after a tweet from Andrew McCutchen. But it didn’t start from the MVP candidate.
“McKenry brought it up,” McCutchen said. “He tweeted something, I tweeted something. Everyone who had a Twitter had a part on it and got the fans talking about it. I’m excited to see how many fans are going to show up in a blacked out stadium, just to show that it’s not just us playing on the field. It’s them too.”
McKenry was out to dinner with a few players and their families, when Brandon Cumpton’s fiance brought up the blackout. She mentioned how Georgia’s football coach tweeted something for one of their games, and got a phenomenal response.
“That’s where we came up with it,” McKenry said. “Cutch is followed by a billion people. So we talked about it, and we brought in A.J., Walker, Tony, some of the guys who are really involved in Twitter to see where it went. I think some of the radio stations and some other people have gotten in on the action. So hopefully it will work out. And they’ve got the black flags to go along with it.”
McKenry pointed out an example of how the crowd can really play a role, referencing a key moment against the Cardinals this year.
“I always go back to the game where we played St. Louis, and Matt Holliday botched a fly ball and it turned into a home run for Cutch. Ultimately that made us win the game.”
Holliday did botch the play, and was harassed by the fans in left field the rest of the night. This year the fans at PNC Park have been electric, which is something that Clint Hurdle mentioned in his media session today.
“This park is not only intimate, it’s electric,” Hurdle said. “There’s been nights out here where it looks almost like there was an Oakland Raider football game about ready to break out when our people dress as Pirates. It’s just cool! The synergy downtown. The energy that gets brought into the ballpark, obviously for so many fans to have this opportunity to visit that feel-good they had before. That’s special.”
The fans have not only been electric, but they’ve gotten to know when to cheer. One thing that has stood out this year is that fans at PNC Park are cheering for big moments and big pitches. That hasn’t been the case in the past, and it can make big moments intense.
“You can feel the crowd’s emotion through every pitch. Especially when it’s close in that ball game,” McKenry said. “Being an opposing team on another field, it can create a little bit of anxiety, a little bit of…I don’t want to say panic, but a little bit of nervousness. And if you can do that, maybe they just mis-hit a ball. Maybe they don’t hit that ball in that gap that they were going to. They pop it up. They swing and miss at a pitch, or they lock up. That’s the full advantage of having home field, and we want to utilize it in every way we can.”
PNC Park has been a difficult place for opponents to play. The Pirates already have a key advantage tomorrow with the layout of the park. Francisco Liriano will be going up against a lefty-heavy Reds team, which takes away a key advantage with the short porch in right field.
“This is one of the toughest places for opposing teams to come and play anyways,” McKenry said. “We won 50 games at home this year, so it’s already tough. Just creating an even tougher atmosphere is a bonus, especially during a playoff push. This is when it really matters. We want to get as deep as we can, and any advantage we can get, we’re going to take.”
If this is pulled off successfully, with the game starting after dark, this could set up the most intense atmosphere in PNC Park history.