A Pennsylvania native student’s first time at PNC Park

Reading, PA is about an hour outside of Philadelphia. Lafayette College in Easton, PA is also about an hour outside of Philly. For the first 19 years of my life, it’s taken more time to get to and from a game at Citizens Bank Park — the Philadelphia Phillies stadium — than I’ve ever spent actually at the game. The experiences have been fun, sitting in a car with my brothers or friends bonding over the shared Hell that is sitting in sports event traffic at 1 a.m., but it was time for a change. I’m over the suburbs.

I transferred to Carnegie Mellon after a year at Lafayette, and I now live in Oakland. Oakland is about 15 minutes outside of downtown Pittsburgh, and it’s another 10 minute walk across the bridge to reach PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. There are no more car rides with rocking tunes or intense bonding experiences in an encapsulated space with people you already intensely trust, but the city offers a different viewing experience of baseball. Baseball is always more than just the game. Every third think piece about baseball analyzes the sights and sounds and smells of the game, but the experience begins by deciding to actually go to a game.

I chose Labor Day, Sept. 3 this year, to see an afternoon game at the park, and it took me all of thirty minutes to reach the stadium, in spite of Labor Day parades rerouting the buses. Walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge with a multitude of other fans as the water sparkles from the sun in the heat of the day is a uniquely Pittsburghian experience that every baseball fan should enjoy some day. PNC Park itself is a beautiful stadium, with an outfield porch under tree cover that looks with an unimpeded view on the river and city, and has one of the best views in baseball for those sitting behind home plate, with downtown Pittsburgh gracefully rising behind the center field wall.

As for the game, it was hot. There was little resistance to the beating rays of the sun, and there was little resistance from the Reds in the game. With a final score of 5-1, the Pirates handily defeated the Cincinnati Reds to put another win under their belt, inching back towards .500. Adam Frazier went four for four with two runs scored and three runs batted in, and Gregory Polanco was two for four with one run scored and two batted in. The star of the game, however, was Pirates pitcher Trevor Williams, who threw six-and-two-thirds innings, giving up only five hits and one walk. Earning himself a quality start, Williams gave up no runs in the innings he pitched, and a gracious Pirates crowd gave him a standing ovation on his way off the mound. Most contacts that Reds hitters made against Williams stayed close to the infield, save a surprising Billy Hamilton fly ball to center field. For a first experience at PNC Park, I’m glad the Pirates won, but the game is just another of the long list of statistics in the annals of baseball history.

Something important happened at the game, though, that I’m sure happens across America, but is the reason why people will always come back to baseball. My seat was right under the left field foul pole, about one hundred paces away from left fielder Corey Dickerson, but the heat was too much for me in that seat. I moved under cover, and there, in the first row of the outfield seats, was a little boy wearing a Dickerson jersey. Around the seventh inning the boy’s mother said it was time to go, that the sun was too much, but the little boy convinced her to stay a while longer: “What if the Pirates hit thirteen home runs in a row?”

This is why so many Americans love baseball. It’s a working man’s sport that requires effort day in and day out, every day of the summer, but you never know what you’re going to find at the park. There could be a once in a lifetime opportunity — a perfect game — or a banal experience that hits the right mark and leaves a lasting memory. Perhaps, something like a little kid wearing his favorite ball player’s jersey whose just twenty feet away.