If you call yourself a baseball fan and haven't been to PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, you are doing yourself a disservice. From the breathtaking view to the atmosphere around the stadium, there is truly nowhere else a baseball fan would rather be on a game day than in Pittsburgh.
I had been to PNC Park, home of the Pirates, a few times before and since the first time I experienced it, it has been my favorite place. Every year when my team, the New York Mets, plays there, I make it a point to go.
It so happened that the Mets were playing in Pittsburgh on my 21st birthday this year, so the stars aligned themselves for me. I was over the moon. I packed my family and my best friends, and off we went on our six-hour trip to Pittsburgh.
PNC Park is located on the Allegheny River. There is a beautiful yellow bridge, the Roberto Clemente, that separates the ballpark from the city portion of Downtown Pittsburgh. There is one way in and one way out: over the bridge.
Baseball fans, take my advice! If you want to meet your favorite player, go to Pittsburgh when your team is visiting. If it's a nice day, the players will usually walk over the bridge to the ballpark. If you hang around the ballpark or the bridge a couple of hours before game time, you will see your guys making their way over. I was lucky enough to chat with Brandon Nimmo, and most importantly, my favorite field reporter, Steve Gelbs of SNY.
On game day, the bridge is closed off to oncoming traffic, and it is free to walk over. Actually, the entire street parallel to the ballpark is closed off, leaving room for a giant block party before each game.
There are vendors in the streets selling food and drinks. There are restaurants and bars lining the entire ballpark (that connect to the ballpark!) that borders the street. There are bands playing, people dancing, etc. It is literally a giant party in the street for fans to enjoy before entering the ballpark and it is the coolest thing. Ever.
I got tickets for the game at the box office the morning of the game. There is hardly ever a full house at PNC Park, leaving plenty of time to buy tickets. I sat in section 117, which is behind home plate and has the most perfect view of the Roberto Clemente bridge and the skyline of Downtown Pittsburgh. I'm telling you, its breathtaking. Anywhere you sit in the park will be incredible. I promise.
The Mets had Jason Vargas on the mound, so I wasn't thrilled and was fully expecting a loss. I made peace with the loss before I even entered the ballpark. I wasn't wrong! The Mets lost in a walk-off fashion that night, but I didn't care. The atmosphere is too electric to be anything other than excited.
I'm from New Jersey and really only get to see games in New York, so it might not mean much when I say Pittsburgh is home to some of the sweetest fans. Maybe they're all sweet when they're not from New York, but I was sitting next to a die-hard Pirates fan. A season ticket holder, and everything. She told me she wished the Mets would have won for me on my birthday.
My final plea
If you are a baseball fan, do yourself a favor and catch a game at PNC Park. There is no greater town, view, or atmosphere in baseball. The next time your team is playing in Pittsburgh, book yourself a hotel room and go to the series. You will not regret it.
I can say in full confidence that Pirates fans are the luckiest fans in baseball based on ballpark experience alone!
Have you ever been to PNC Park? Tell us about it in the comments!