(Photo Credit: David Hague)

How PNC Park Can Change In October

In television reporting classes, they teach you to never start your story with video of a building. Buildings don’t move. Buildings don’t have feelings. People empathize with other people, not with buildings.

Ballparks are not other buildings. People romanticize about their ballparks and some cry when they are torn down. We as baseball fans love places like Fenway Park, Dodger Stadium and Wrigley Field as more than mere buildings. Part of that is the history of those parks. We call them “hallowed.”

Pirates fans have loved PNC Park as a venue in its decade-plus of existence. It is well-situated, scenic, cozy and near-perfect for watching games.

The park lacks history, though. There have been great moments, personified by the likes of Brian Giles, Rob Mackowiak, Homer Bailey, Ryan Howard and Freddy Sanchez. Those men and others created fond memories, but there has never really been a Pirates moment at PNC Park worthy of immortalization into a painting or even a moderately-sized banner.

October is the setting for producing those iconic moments. PNC Park now becomes a canvas where the paintings can be created. Heck, it’s already begun. Pirates fans will long remember the chants that got Johnny Cueto to drop a baseball and then subsequently allow one to be deposited in the left field bleachers.

When the 2014 season starts at PNC Park, Russell Martin’s home run trot could be on a poster. That’s a start. If you walk around the ballpark now, the photographs and signs honor a different time: Bill Mazeroski’s home run trot, Roberto Clemente’s words, Willie Stargell’s batting stance. There are flags and suites with the franchise’s most important numbers: 1909, 1925, 1960, 1971 and 1979 for the five World Championships. History honors the victors.

If you take a walk around Busch Stadium, you will see many examples of the Cardinals honoring a rich heritage of legendary players like Stan Musial and Bob Gibson. But you will see a lot more of recent success; the scoreboard videos and memorabilia show highlights and celebration from Matt Holliday, Adam Wainwright and Albert Pujols. Even young St. Louis fans now have indelible championship memories.

This is what the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates can create, and the opportunity is wide open for them. The odds give them a 58-percent chance to win their first playoff series since 1979 and play for the National League pennant. At the very least, the Pirates will get two more games at PNC Park to try to earn a victory, create a few heroes and form some lifetime memories to be made into paintings and framed photos.

The best part about it is that the art is not created in a studio. For the next two days and possibly more, they get to paint in front of 40,000 screaming crazy people. Awesome, right? It is performance art, except it’s the kind that people actually enjoy.

PNC Park is already becoming notorious based almost solely on the Tuesday night’s raucous crowd. Players and media members watched the Wild Card, saw the blacked-out stands, heard the sing-song taunting, read the reports from people who called it the loudest and most electric crowd in Pittsburgh baseball history.

So national perception of PNC is changing as we speak. If you heard writers ask the Cardinals and Pirates players about returning to Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4, you would think the Bucs were about to experience a degree of home-field advantage somewhere between a Steelers Monday Night game and Italian soccer match.

And maybe it can be, no one can say for sure. The Pirates called for another #PNCBlackout on Twitter. Though neither home game will be played in the evening, when has an afternoon start stopped Pittsburghers from showing up excited and inebriated to scream and wave towels?

What we do know: the television cameras will open with live video of a building packed with Pirates fans who have long waited for their chance to see these playoff games of consequences.

As for what happens after that? Who knows. The best October moments, the ones that we remember and cherish, are never planned.

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James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as NBCOlympics.com, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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  • http://allmyforeparents.blogspot.com Israel P.

    Well said.

  • dcbuccofan

    Don’t you mean “people empathize”?

    • blackmax

      quote: ” Bucbuccofan October 5, 2013 : Don’t you mean “people empathize”?

      Don’t stop him, he’s on a roll.

      • dcbuccofan

        So true! Darn auto spell!

    • James Santelli

      Heh, didn’t get too far into this one before screwing up. Thanks.

  • http://www.acme-tv.com LongJohnSilver

    I wasn’t aware that part of the equation to scream and wave towels is that you have to be inebriated.

    Great article until that statement.

    • James Santelli

      Oh, come now.

    • James Santelli

      If you’re reading that sentence as anything more than “Many Pittsburgh Steelers fans show up at Heinz Field for afternoon games to drink and wave towels,” then I think you have missed it.

      • http://www.acme-tv.com LongJohnSilver

        Oh come now yourself. The way your story line states it, it makes it sound like Pirate fans are a bunch of drunken louts rather then passionate fans with 20 years of pent up frustration to let loose. Even your “Steeler” reference is milder, stating that they show up to “drink and wave towels”. I guess they know how to drink and wave towels responsibly ?

        As stated earlier, it was a very good article, but it would have been better served without that statement.

  • vgsailor

    ” then subsequently allow one to be deposited in the left field bleachers.”

    Actually it is the same ball that he dropped that was deposited in the bleachers on the next pitch.

  • blackmax

    James, it’s a great essay. Don’t worry too much about the readers’ cavils. We’re just excited and out of sorts.

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