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A Pittsburgh Adventure (9/10/11)

On September 10, 2011, Tim and I headed off in our car for a weekend adventure to Pittsburgh.  The plan was for two games at PNC Park.  But the plan got cut short when our basement flooded in a storm and I was needed back on the home front.  But we still had a quality 28-hour
adventure.  Here is how it all went down.

He jumped on the PA Turnpike heading West toward Pittsburgh.  We ended up stopping off in Mechanicsburg, PA so Tim could see where his parents got married:

It’s a gazebo on the Liberty Forge golf course.  It had just opened when we got married back in 2003, and it was truly a beautiful sight for our wedding.  After a brief visit (which occurred during a bustling golf tournament), we grabbed an early lunch and hopped back in the car.

We arrived in Pittsburgh in the early afternoon and relaxed at our hotel before heading off to the park.  Our plan was to meet up PNC Park regular (and MLBlogger) Zac Weiss at the CF gate to see if we could get in early with the season ticket holders.  But the roads immediately around PNC Park confuse the heck out of me.  We ended up taking the wrong exit from the freeway, looping back around, and getting into a traffic-jam directly outside of PNC Park for 15 minutes.  By the time we parked and made it to the stadium, the gates had been open for
15-20 minutes and Zac was already in there.

We waited on the Riverwalk for a few minutes, and then heading into the LF seats…

…when the stadium opened for non-season ticket holders.  But the LF seats are small and they were relatively crowded.  We briefly bumped into PNC Park regular (and MLBlogger) Nick Pelescak.  After saying our hellos, I asked if the rest of the ballpark was open to everyone (there was almost no one in the park outside of the LF seats) and he confirmed that it was.  So Tim and I headed up the LF escalator and down into the LF foul seats.

The plan was to walk down to the cross-aisle toward the bottom of the section and then circle all the way around to the RF foul line where several Marlins were playing catch.  As we turned the corner into the cross-aisle, there were no other fans within 6-7 seating sections of us (except in LF, which is disconnected from the foul territory seats and not accessible without taking the elevator or spiral walkway).  Just then, a Pirates batter hit a foul ball right over our heads into section 132.  I quickly ran back up the stairway, cut into the seats and grabbed our first baseball of the day; with zero competition.

The very moment we made it to the RF foul line, former-Mariner Greg Dobbs was just finishing playing catch with monster-bomb-masher Mike Stanton.  We were right behind him as he left the foul line and started to walk toward CF.  I called out, “Hey, Greg!”  He turned around and saw us, an
“oh, there you are” expression registered on his face, and then he tossed us our second baseball of the day; again, with zero competition.

We decided to go down the foul line to the handicap-accessible seating area.  For some reason, it was almost completely empty for the duration of BP:

There were a handful of fans out there…including the aforementioned Zac Weiss, who can be seen in the background of the last picture wearing his black Pirates shirt.

Mike “The Beast” Stanton and Mike “Cammy” Cameron were hanging out along the foul line running sprints from the foul line out into CF:

When we first arrived in this spot, there was a baseball sitting on the warning track in RF.  As Cameron walked around in foul territory catching his breath after running a sprint, I asked him if he would pose for a picture with Tim after he finished his warm-up routine.  He happily agreed.  Then I pointed out the baseball on the warning track and asked if he could toss it to Tim.  He agreed again.  Cammy is the man.

Thanks, Mike!

After running a few more sprints, Cammy wandered over to the little doorway at the end of the section and posed for this picture with Tim:

He also signed the baseball he’d already given to Tim:

And then he signed about 200 more autographs.  The second he walked over to get a picture with Tim, every autograph hound in the stadium bolted straight for us.  There was quickly a group of ten people.  And then twenty.  And then…who knows how many.

While we were getting Tim’s picture with Cammy, we got to chat for just a few seconds.  I told him that my Dad caught one of his foul balls down in Miami on our Roadtrip.  I then told him it was cool that he was wearing number “24” now-a-days since he was previously traded to the Mariners for Ken Griffey, Jr.  He told me that he’d wore “24” when he was *young* – he did wear “24” when he broke into the Major Leagues with White Sox, but I got the feeling he meant he wore “24” when he was a kid, not just a young Major Leaguer.  Anyway, after mentioning Junior, I told Cameron that he did an amazing job coming in and filling Griff’s void after the trade.  He really did an outstanding job for the Mariners and us Mariners fans love him for it.

When Cameron finally started walking back to the dugout, a guy ran down the steps and called out, “One more, Mr. Cameron!?”  Mike responded something like, “Man, I just signed a ton!”  But he came back nonetheless and signed for this guy too.  He was so awesome.  I really couldn’t believe all the signing he did.  And many of the beneficiaries were the big-time autograph dudes who gave board with 5-6 of his cards, and he
signed every single one.  Mike is the man!

As he walked away, I asked Cameron if he got one of the Mariners 116 win, two-person McLemore and Cameron bobblehead.  He started to launch
into a longer explanation, and then stopped himself.  Bottom line, the answer was “yes.”  He got one.  So that’s cool.  When he said he has one, Tim yelled out, “I have one too!”  (Special thanks to Brian Powell for sending us his!).

After getting Tim’s picture with Cammy, we relocated to the shallow RF section of the handicap-accessible seating area.  A Marlins lefty ripped a foul grounder right at us.  Tim put his glove over the short wall and tried to scoop it up, but it went under his glove…and right into mine.  Tim immediately turned around with a frustrated look:  “Hey, I was gonna catch that ball!”  “But you didn’t,” I explained, “it went right under your glove, so I had to catch it!”

Tim couldn’t argue with my logic, and he was happy to have the ball despite missing out on the grounder attempt.

He had fun leaning over the wall and practicing so he could catch the next ball hit down the line:

(Note: In the last picture, Cameron is still signing autographs in the background).

Tim also got a kick out of the fact that he could easily lean over the fence and rub his fingers through the warning track dirt:

So we had connected with two former-Mariner Marlins (Dobbs and Cameron), but the Marlins had still another former-Mariner – Jose Lopez.  But
this is as close as we would ever get to Jose:

We spent some time during BP chatting with Zac Weiss:

Just before that last photo, Tim and I were at the back park of the handicapped-accessible seating area and Zac at the front (where he is pictured in that last photo).  A grounder came down the line and snuck past Zac on an unfortunate (for him) bounce.  I leaned as far as I could over the fence and scooped the ball off of the warning track.

As the Marlins cleared off the field, Zac, Tim and I headed over to the Marlins dugout on the 3B side.  Alex Sanabia (who gave Tim the 99thbaseball of his life last season) was standing at the top of the dugout.  He had a baseball and wanted to get rid of it.  He looked at Zac and must have thought “too old.”  Next, his gaze turned to Tim and he though “just right.”  So Sanabia tossed us our sixth and final baseball of the day.

Thanks, Alex!

PNC Park is pretty amazing for BP.  95% of the fans attending BP were out in LF the whole time.  There was lots of competition out there.  Meanwhile, 1% of the fans were in the RF handicapped-accessible seats and we all got some easy, no-hassle baseballs.  Great!

Ah, I forgot to mention, I thought we were going to get another baseball before the Sanabia  ball.  Zac, Tim and I were handing out talking (where we they are pictured in the last phone), and No. 21 on the Marlins drilled a one or two hopper right at us.  I thought it was going to take a nice big (and easy) bounce right to me for an easy catch.  Instead, it took a crazy back-spinning, low, sliding, superfast bounce right at us.  It shot like a rocket right over our heads and went all the way over the seats and into an area where they store groundskeeper-stuff.

After hanging out by the dugout for a bit, we got our picture with Zac:

And then we all  headed to the Riverwalk and then walked out to LF.  Once we got out there, we split up with Zac because Tim wanted to walk up the spiral ramp.  On our way, we ran into Nick Pelescak again and he took a walk with us.  We headed up the ramp and got Tim’s PNC Park bonus picture for the myGameBalls.com photo scavenger hunt:

We stopped at the top of the spiral ramp and chatted a while with Nick:

He’s a real nice guy and he’s hauled over 1,000 baseballs out of PNC Park and several other MLB ballparks over the course of the last couple years.

While in the upper deck, we took the occasion to check in with Tim’s first ever water fountain!  Back on September 29, 2007, Tim used this fountain for his first ever water-fountain drink of his life.  Since then, we check in on his first fountain whenever we’re in town.  On our 2010 trip, his water fountain reunion photo didn’t make the cut on the blog report.  So let’s check out both 2010 and 2011 now:

After heading back down the spiral ramp, Nick broke off to go find his wife and son and Tim and I went and bought some nachos.  Here is an ultra-serious looking Tim eating nachos in our seats for the game:

We got those seats in section 136, row C for just a couple bucks per ticket on stubhub.  That’s one of the perks of the end of the season – cheap tickets!

Here is a view of PNC Park from our seats:

Tim cut the serious act, and had some fun goofing around and eating nachos in the LF seats:

And then he did some random posing:

When the game started, it was all Marlins.  Actually, the Marlins did not muster much offense either.  But it did not matter because Anibal Sanchez was on fire.  He was making the Pirates look silly – like this hapless hack back Derrick Lee:

Meanwhile, Tim was licking left over cheese off of his index finger and pretending that it was exploding in his mouth – like this:

Facing off against Sanchez, the Pirates had Jeff Locke make his MLB debut.  Locke pitched five innings, gave up five hits, and three runs, and collected his first career loss.  I got this picture of Locke’s first career Major League swing:

With one out in the bottom of the second inning, Neil Walker hit double.  And that was all she wrote for the Pirates.  Anibal Sanchez threw a complete
game 1-hitter.

In the top of the third inning, we went to go get ice cream helmets.  Tim got mint chocolate chip and I got (the incredibly delicious and highly recommended) Pirates Buried Treasure.  Check out the cool view from the ice cream helmet line:

Ah, yes.  PNC Park is incredibly beautiful.

The Marlins scored three runs while we were in line for ice cream.  They were, ultimately, the only runs of the game.  And we had no clue they even occurred.  When we got back to our seats – after walking through this blue light area –

…there were runs on the board.  And that’s all we knew.  We saw Nick and Zac at the back of one of the sections in LF and I asked them if they caught any homeruns when we were off buying ice cream.  They didn’t.  And that is all I know about those three runs – they were three Marlins runs during which the crowd made absolutely no noise (so as to tip me off that anything was happening on the field) and they did not result in Nick or Zac catching any homeruns.

Just like last season, I enjoyed a “Pirates Buried Treasure” helmet and Tim had a mint chocolate chip helmet:

Here’s what it looked like from our seats after the sun went down:

After eating our ice cream, Tim wanted to roam around the ballpark and check out the river.  We headed out to the Riverwalk area and Tim got a run-by head patting from the Pirates Parrot:

He posed with a picture of a P-shaped bush behind the bullpens…

…and then we headed down toward the river.  This big barge arrived on the scene:

I am pretty sure it is the fireworks barge for the post-game fireworks.

We wandered through a little picnic area behind the batters’ eye:

And we checked out the view of the Roberto Clemente bridge:

Finally, we found a little nook in the picnic area that Tim thought resembled a bullpen.  So we took turns pitching to each other…

…using the drain as home plate.

While I was pitching to Tim, he missed a pitch and it rolled to the steps behind our home plate.  When he went to retrieve, an elderly Japanese couple were walking by.  The man noticed Tim’s Ichiro shirt as he passed by and called out to his wife an excited, “ICHIRO!” with a point at Tim.  He then
doubled back and walked a small loop around Tim to make sure he’d seen it correctly.  After confirming his initial belief, he walked back to his wife and pointed at Tim with increased excitement, “ICHIRO!”  And he looked over me with an approving smile.  It was pretty cute.

After our bullpen session, we headed back to the LF seats.  We hadn’t missed a thing – well, except a couple more Pirate strike outs – it was still 3-0 Marlins.

As I sipped a local brew with a snazzy pin-striped and Pirate-logoed can, an usher kindly took our photo standing in the concourse behind section 136:

It was time for more adventuring, and this was the last we would see of section 136 for the night.  So I took one more panorama from the concourse before we started walking:

Tim wanted to see the upper deck some more.  So we wanted around the big spiral walkway in LF:

There is a really small section of seating above the LF bleachers, just below the scoreboard, that I have never visited.  In the past, it has always been chained off for private parties.  I think it is called the “Pirates Deck.”  As luck would have it, it was open to the public during this game.  So we headed down the stairs at the back of the spiral walkway and entered the Pirates Deck.

The deck was almost empty.  We headed to the last section in deep LCF and got Tim’s picture:

And then I took a panorama of PNC Park from the front row of section 339:

On our way out of the deck area, we noticed a switch-back ramp leading up to two seats perched behind the back row of the seats.  It looked like an elevated perch for the King and Queen to sit and watch the competition down on the field.  Since it was empty, we walked up the ramp and Tim asked me to take the following series of photos:

After the King’s Perch, we headed to the seats behind home plate.  There was another little handicap-accessible seating area right behind home plate.  We claimed a spot and watched the game from there for a bit.  Standing was fine for a bit…

…but eventually Tim got the urge to climb on the railings…which I strongly discouraged.

After getting Tim off the railing, I got a panorama of PNC Park from section 316:

After exchanging a few texts, we met up with fellow MLBlogger Matt “PittPeas” Peaslee and his girlfriend Erin:

I suggested that pose in the classic Peas-pose (that you should no doubt recognize if you’re read his blog).  Upon review, it appears that I need some work on my Peas-pose.  My arms are way too high and straight.  Tim’s Peas-pose needs some work too; he’s just doing a “we are the champions”
celebration pose!  Matt is a great guy.  It was good to finally meet in person.

The game was sailing by quick.  After parting ways with Matt and Erin, Tim and I headed down the spiral walkway behind home plate.  We planned on making an attempt for a post-game umpire baseball.  It was the ninth inning, but for whatever reason, I thought it was still the eighth.  After I got this photo from the concourse of Andrew McCutchen striking out…

…I realized it was the ninth inning and there was only one out left in the game!  We scrambled to get into position, and post-game fireworks made it the easiest post-ninth-inning-third out trip ever from the concourse down to the umpire tunnel (because everyone stayed seated for the fireworks), but we arrived about 5 seconds too late.  Home plate umpire Dan Iassogna had unloaded his entire baseball poach by the time we got into position.  Oh, well.

The silver lining is that we were in the perfect spot (and found a couple open seats) when the fireworks started about 5 minutes later:

The fireworks show was great, and no one enjoyed it more than Tim (and Shelly):

To my amazement, the Pirates did not clear out the RF seats for the fireworks show.  Check out how close it looked like the people in right field were to the fireworks:

After the fireworks show, an usher took a final father-son shot of us before we left the ballpark:

And then I noticed a cool “125th season” logo on top of the Pirates dugout:

I wonder why the Angels got a 50th Anniversary commemorative baseball, but the Pirates did not get a 125th season baseball?  I’m guessing it is because they were not the “Pirates” the entire 125 seasons – since it says “Pittsburgh Baseball.”  Anyway, it is too bad. That would have been a cool commemorative baseball.

After the game, we spent the night in a Pittsburgh hotel, and then did one *touristy* thing before heading home.  We had heard of the Duquesne Incline from some friends.  So we decided to check it out.  While watching BP, I discussed the Duquesne Incline and discovered there are two inclines in town – the Duquesne and the Monongahela.  So we did ‘em both.

First, the Duquesne Incline:

Essentially, it is a two track train that runs up a really steep hill in Pittsburgh.

At the top, there is a look out spot with a phenomenal view of Pittsburgh:

Following the river from left-to-right and taking the left (upper) fork, PNC Park is on the left (upper) side of the river between the first and second (Roberto Clemente) bridges.

Here’s a good view of the crazy incline train cars:

The two cars are pulled up the incline on big steel cables.  They appear to be balanced against each other, when one is at the top, the other is at the bottom, and they always meet in the middle.

The Monongahela incline also provided a spectacular view of Pittsburgh (although with no view of PNC Park):

And there was a sign at the top pointing the way to ice cream:

After devouring some tasty cones, we rode the incline train back down to the bottom…

….and hopped into our car for the ride home.

Although we wanted to go to the Sunday game (featuring Kids Run The Bases), it was still a great little weekend father-son get-away.

2011 C&S Fan Stats
28/5 Games (Tim/Kellan)
19/8 Teams [Tim – Mariners, Orioles, Rangers, Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Rays, Braves, Diamondbacks, Astros, Royals, Cubs, Angels, Indians, Reds, Giants, Tigers, Yankees, Marlins, Pirates; Kellan – Mariners, Orioles, Angels, Mets, Indians, Yankees, Phillies, Braves]
22 Ice Cream Helmet(s) (Orioles (2), Nationals, Phillies (2), Rangers (2), Mets (1), Reds (1), Tigers (1), Marlins (2), Braves (2), Rays (3), Pirates (1)).
82 Baseballs (16 Mariners, 7 Rangers, 4 Orioles, 4 Umpires, 2 Nationals, 2 Brewers, 6 Phillies, 2 Mets, 2 Rays, 8 Braves, 2 Diamondbacks, 1 MLB Authenticator, 2 Easter Egg, 1 Glove Trick, 2 Royals, 2 Cubs, 5 Angels, 4 Indians, 2 Giants, 1 Tigers, 6 Marlins, 1 Pirates)
13/4 Stadiums [Tim – Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Citizens Bank Park, Minute Maid Park, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Citi Field, Great American Ball Park, Comerica Park, Yankee Stadium, Sun Life Stadium, Turner Field, Tropicana Field, PNC Park; Kellan – Camden Yards, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Citizens Bank Park]
16/9 Player Photos* [Tim – Felix Hernandez***, Adam Moore, Garrett Olson, Chris Seddon, David Aarsdma, Michael Pineda, Miguel Olivo, Ryan Langerhans, Greg Zuan, Mark Lowe, Michael Saunders, Chad Durbin, Russell Branyan, Brandon League***, Brendan Ryan, Mike Cameron; Kellan – Luke French, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Justin Smoak, Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Langerhans, Michael Saunders, Tony Sipp, Chad Durbin]
3/1 Management Photos* [Tim – Howard Lincoln, Jack Zduriencik, Eric Wedge; Kellan – Jack Zduriencik]
7 Autograph(s) (Michael Pineda, Michael Saunders, Mark Lowe, Felipe Paulino, Aroldis Chapman, Jack McKeon, Brandon League, Jaime Navarro, Brendan Ryan, Dan Cortes, Josh Lueke, Blake Beavan, Jamie Wright, Jack Zduriecik, Carl Willis, Tom Wilhelmsen, Casper Wells, Mike Cameron)
1 Bat* (Milton Bradley)
9/2 Mascot Photos* [Tim – Mariner Moose, Teddy Roosevelt, The O’s Bird, Mr. Redlegs, Gapper, Slider, Sebastian (U. of Miami), Homer, Raymond; Kellan – Mariner Moose, The O’s Bird]
3/0 Divisions Closed Out** [Tim – A.L. West (Safeco Field, Oakland Coliseum, Angel Stadium & Rangers Ballpark in Arlington), N.L. East (Citizens Bank Park, Shea Stadium, Citi Field, Nationals Park, Sun Life Stadium, & Turner Field), A.L. East (Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium (1923), Yankee Stadium (2009), Fenway Park, Rogers Centre, Tropicana Field); Kellan – N/A]
2 Line-up Cards (Royals vs. Rangers; Indians vs. Orioles)
* includes Spring Training**divisions where we have seen each team play a home game.***2011 All-Star
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