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“The best ballpark in America”

This past Memorial Day, after more than a year-long hiatus, I resumed my quest to visit every ballpark in America in Pittsburgh. PNC Park, home of the Pirates, has gotten rave reviews by everyone who’s been there, my dad grew up a Pirates fan, and my parents live a mere three hours from the stadium. A visit was long overdue.

PNC Park claims throughout the park and on its website that it is “the best ballpark in America.” Does it live up to its billing? In a word, yes. Read on for the details.

My dad, mom, cousin, sister and her boyfriend arrived in Pittsburgh around 12:30 PM, about an hour before first pitch, via the Fort Pitt Tunnel. As we crossed the bridge into the city, I remembered how cool of a city Pittsburgh is, and noticed PNC Park and Heinz Field situated on the Allegheny River.

We parked about two blocks from the stadium and walked in, and I immediately noticed the atrium just behind the home plate gate:

I noted a similarity in look and feel to the cable cars on the other side of the river. It’s touches like these, touches that make the ballpark feel like it’s really part of the city, that I really like.

We got to our seats, and if PNC Park hadn’t been a part of the city yet, it certainly was when we took in the view of the field:

In a word, breathtaking. The bridge in center field, the skyline across the river, and the low seating in right and left field so as not to hamper the view. It makes you wonder why every stadium isn’t built this way, facing the skyline (and for what it’s worth, I think Progressive Field’s skyline view is pretty outstanding too, but PNC’s is unparalleled). It also makes the large hotel building that is going up next to Camden Yards and hampering that view seem a lot worse.

There were a couple of nice touches, such as kids getting to take the field with the players and getting autographs signed on the field (by either future Yankees or future grocery baggers, depending on the skill level) and the Memorial Day festivities. Not long after the game started, the rain began to fall and many of the fans (including us) headed for the concourses for food and shelter. Two $2.50 hot dogs and two innings later, the rain was gone for good, and what was left was a hot, sticky, smothering day. We got up and walked around to escape the heat and it turns out, there aren’t many bad seats in PNC Park:

These traditionally bad seats have such a great view of the skyline and the rest of the field, they might be the best steal in baseball.

These traditionally bad seats have such a great view of the skyline and the rest of the field, they might be the best steal in baseball.

I also enjoyed the seats inside the wall in right field: very handicap-accessible seats, a unique perspective that makes you feel a part of the action, and a breeze off the river if the wind is blowing right.

All in all, a great day and a great game that the Pirates ended up winning (for what it’s worth, that makes the home team 6-1 in my visits to their park; the only loss was the Yankees). And while it might have been more fun listening to the game on a radio from a kayak in the river, PNC Park is definitely a park I’d like to visit again.

So I said in the beginning of this post that PNC Park lives up to its claim as the best ballpark in America. I stand by this claim, under a couple of conditions: sentimentality and nostalgia. I’m not going to argue that if you’re an Indians fan, you’d rather go to PNC Park than Progressive Field. I’m not going to argue that if you’re a baseball fan and understand all the history, that you would have rather been in PNC Park than Yankee Stadium for its final game. But for an average guy to walk up and enjoy a game, PNC Park is the absolute best park in baseball (that I’ve been to) to do so.

I’ve posted the rest of my pictures from PNC Park here. More information on PNC Park available at Wikipedia.

Originally posted on Cleveland, Curveballs and Common Sense on June 3, 2010 at 7:30 AM. Post text content © 2010 Jimmy Sawczuk. All rights reserved.