By Paul Semendinger, Ed.D.
On May 6 and 7, 2023, my son and I were in Pittsburgh to run the Pittsburgh Marathon (it was a great race, and I did well enough for a 54-year-old guy with a time of 3:34:17.) Of course, while we were there, in addition to seeing many beautiful sites, we took in a ballgame at the wonderful PNC Park.
It's no secret that I am a Yankees fan. I have now published two books about the Yankees, I run a Yankees website, and I have two Yankees podcasts. I enjoy going to Yankee Stadium, where my team plays, of course. But Yankee Stadium, I feel, fails in comparison to so many other ballparks.
I have previously been to Citi Field, Camden Yards, and Fenway Park. Each, for their own reasons, I think, are superior to Yankee Stadium. I can now add PNC Park to the list of great ballparks I have attended.
It too provides an atmosphere superior to the big stadium in the Bronx. In fact, PNC is one of the nicest stadiums I have ever attended to watch a baseball game.
There is so much about PNC Park that makes it special that it is difficult to list everything, but I'll provide a short list of the aspects of this baseball palace that rank as the biggest reasons why I loved it so much.
- The stadium and the sight lines are beautiful. We sat in the upper deck in left field. We were far away from the action, but we didn't feel far away. The stadium has an intimate feel. The venue itself is gorgeous. Just over the outfield wall is the river, the Roberto Clemente Bridge, and the city of Pittsburgh's tall skyscrapers. This provides an absolutely picturesque setting in which to watch a baseball game. The stadium, of course, has advertisements on the walls, but the walls aren't plastered with ads. It makes a big difference when one looks at a ball field and not a conglomerate of corporate logos of every shape and size on seemingly every inch of available space.
- Statues. There are three statues to great players from Pirates history outside the stadium. The first statue we saw was of Willie Stargell. Also there are statues of Honus Wagner and (although I don't appreciate the moment depicted) Bill Mazeroski circling the bases after defeating the Yankees in the 1960 World Series. I love when teams promote their history. Along with this, the Pirates Hall of Fame is visibly and accessible to all fans on a prominent wall near an entrance to the ballpark. These all allow the attendee to feel connected to Pirates history.
- Respect and Happiness. The Toronto Blue Jays were in town to play the Pirates that weekend. For whatever reason, there were hosts of Blue Jays fans present. They were everywhere. Not once did I hear a fan of the Pirates say that the Blue Jays stink (or worse) nor did I see any fan humiliated for rooting for the "wrong" team. In fact, there was a true sense of mutual respect. "You root for your team, I'll root for mine." To me, that's how it should be.
- There was no extra noise at the game. There were times at the game where the only sounds were the sounds from the fans and the action on the field. The Pirates don't have an overabundance of sound effects. There weren't strange noises each time a pitcher got two strikes on a batter. There weren't loud games on the scoreboard between every inning. I went to a Yankees game last summer and couldn't hear my cousin, who was sitting right next to me. The stadium was that loud. In Pittsburgh, I caried on a conversation with my son throughout the entire game. The focus was on the game of baseball, not loud noises and their sense that the fans need to be entertained by the scoreboard every second something wasn't happening on the field. That established a calm, peaceful ballpark experience. It was great.
One criticism I had of the park were the long lines at the concession stands. The people sitting behind us went for some food and missed 40 minutes of the game. Earlier I had tried to simply get a hot dog, but saw the long lines and didn't want to wait that long for ballpark food. While there were these long lines that blocked the entire concourse (I walked from end to end of the second deck looking for a place to get a quick hot dog), there were also some of the kiosks that were never opened. The Pirates have to do a better job there. Fans should not have to choose between a 40-minute wait or watching the game they came to see.
Pittsburgh is a beautiful city. PNC Park is a great stadium
The Pittsburgh Marathon is also great, but... man were some of those hills are killers. I am certain the hill at Mile 12 was higher than Mount Everest.
I had never been to Pittsburgh before, but I'll be sure to go back again!
Dr. Paul Semendinger runs the Yankees site Start Spreading the News. Paul is the author of From Compton to the Bronx, The Least Among Them, and Scattering the Ashes. You can find Paul on Twitter @DrPaulRSem. Paul has now completed 24 marathons (and New York City is still his favorite).