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I went to PNC Park on Saturday and it was OK

Aug 19, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT

PNC Park

I went to Pittsburgh on Saturday to take in the Diamondbacks-Pirates game. The reason: I mentioned to a friend of mine that my girlfriend had never been to PNC Park and that I wanted to go back. The friend — who happens to be a Pirates season ticket holder — shot me a couple of tickets for Saturday’s game. Makes me wish I had told him that I was really wanting to drive a BMW 550i. Maybe next time.

Anyway, with tickets in hand — way better tickets than we had any business having — we drove to Pittsburgh Saturday morning for that afternoon’s game.

Everyone who has been to PNC Park will tell you it is either the best park in baseball or is one of the best. That’s a totally defensible notion for a number of reasons but lately I’ve been wondering exactly why people say that. What part makes it the best? Because I feel like there are a lot of things people value about ballparks and not all of them stack up equally.

Two parks you hear about as “best ever” more than any others are PNC and AT&T Park in San Francisco. What do these two parks have in common? The views. PNC looks at perhaps the best skyline in a major league park and AT&T looks out into the San Francisco Bay. Each park has its own charms apart from its view, but I feel like that’s what people are keying on when they say those parks are best, don’t you? Maybe that’s just what they start with and the part they talk up the most, but I feel like for most people that weighs really, really  heavily.

And I like it too, of course, but I feel like that’s not the most important thing. Because I have a couple of nitpicks for PNC Park that I feel prevent it from being The Best Park in Baseball despite that view.

  • Nitpick one: I think the speakers are too loud. At first I thought this was because we were sitting in amazingly good seats and perhaps we were just too close to some speakers. But looking around, I noticed that those big black speakers are pretty uniformly distributed and that we weren’t all that close to one to begin with. Just a very loud park when they decide to pump in music. Which, to PNC’s credit, isn’t as often as some other places, but there were several times I thought the place was just too darn loud. Only crowd noise should be so loud that you literally have to shout over it at a ballpark, not anything electronically-enhanced.
  • Nitpick two: It’s kinda cramped. I observed this on my first trip to PNC back in 2007 and wrote about it then, but the observation still holds. Back in 2007 I was in normal seats down the third base line, so maybe that was just a function of where I was sitting? Nope: on Saturday we were lucky enough to be in what are quite literally the best seats in the house: the Lexus Club right behind home plate. The view was great and the service was great but there was, once again, less legroom and elbow room than you typically see in newer major league parks, even in many of the usual box and reserved seats down the lines.

Again: these are total nitpcks, inasmuch as, boy, these were fantastic seats otherwise and at some point I can tune out excessive noise. So, no, this is not a negative comment as such. I just feel like, if your thing is “We Are The Best Park in Baseball” — and there are signs around the ballpark which literally make that claim — even the nitpicks are fair game.  All things taken together I think PNC is a top notch park. Probably a top-5 in my experience. But there are aspects of it which I don’t like as much some folks do which puts it back in the pack with the other really, really good parks.

With that out of the way, some random observations:

I couldn’t get a good picture of it, but the PNC Park banner scoreboards down the lines have some great info you don’t get in a lot of places. In addition to the speed of each pitch it gives you a readout of the horizontal and vertical break of each pitch. This, in conjunction with the wonderful out-of-town scoreboard on the right field wall make PNC the tops in information-presentation in my view, even if the legroom is not the best.

There is a rotunda — kind of a ramp thing — out in left field which is a lot of fun:


It is all standing room for fans and, I presume, the place where the rowdiest people will be come playoff time. Also: when I was up there I saw no less then five people smoking and observed another five being told by stadium personnel to put out cigarettes. PNC Park had the most scofflaw smokers I’ve ever seen in a ballpark, actually.

This guy was the peanuts-popcorn-Cracker Jack guy in our section:


Handlebar mustache, full-blown Homestead Grays uniform. Pretty damn awesome. Given that the section is one in which fans get free food, I imagine a lot of his happiness is based on the fact that he doesn’t have to make change or count money apart from the tips he gets. Either way: he was on his game and a pleasure to have around. Especially when I wanted Cracker Jacks.

I was told I had to get a Primanti Brothers sandwich. I was told that they were better at the restaurant than in the ballpark, but that wasn’t an option for us, so we got a capicola sammy:


It was good, but not up to the level people talk them up to, in large part because it wasn’t made to order and tasted like it had been sitting out for a while. I get a better sandwich of this type — fries and slaw on the actual sandwich — at Planck’s here in Columbus. In this I found another parallel with AT&T Park: garlic fries are the same way.  Good, but you can do better elsewhere. I found some other concessions at both parks better than the thing which gets all the attention.

For what it’s worth, my best meals in Pittsburgh game came at Burgatory for lunch before heading to the ballpark and brunch the next morning at Harris Grill, each of which were utterly fantastic.  Side note: a guy working at Harris Grill came up to me and said “you’re Craig Calcaterra,” which was simultaneously flattering and embarrassing. I am a jerk and forgot his name, but he’s an HBT reader, so hi, dude. And thanks for the ego boost.

I walked into the team store to look around. Lots of good Pirates gear. I guess when black is so big a part of your color scheme that’s understandable. You can do a lot with black. This stood out, though:


Yeah, that’s what Dale Berra and Dave Parker said too.

As for gear, Allison and I each wore some Pirates stuff so as not to stick out. And because, secretly, I love excuses to wear stuff from just about any team as long as they aren’t actually playing the Braves at that particular moment:


Note: if the Pirates beat the Braves in the NLCS, I am burning this hat and shirt.

As for the game itself: not very competitive. Jeff Locke was rocked early. Despite the big hole early, the Pirates had their chance to tie it in the sixth but missed their opportunity. After that the Buccos’ bullpen was awful and it was 15-5 late. Not that it stopped this guy in front of me from rocking his rally cap:


There was no rally. The Dbacks won. After the game we went across the street to Beer Market and had some of their many, many awesome beers on tap and shot the breeze with some HBT readers who headed over there too. A fun time was had by all.

All in all: an enjoyable 30+ hours in Pittsburgh. Nice people. A really nice city which I want to explore more when I have more time. A great park, even if I don’t think it’s necessarily the hands-down Best Park in Baseball. A “meh” game, but bad baseball is better than good anything else.

  1. joshfrancis50 - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    I also like to wear other teams’ gear, even though I’m a die hard Reds fan. I dunno…I guess I get bored with the same stuff. But I typically leave the other gear for the off season, because as David Puddy so eloquently said…”gotta support the team”.

    • jcmeyer10 - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:15 PM

      Went to a Minnesota Wild game and showed up in a Parise shirt, would done the same for the T’Wolves game but my lady and I are Celts fan and the Celts were playing.

      When you got no horse in the race, it’s fun to live it up with the locals.

      When in Rome.

      • joecsports - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:22 PM

        I agree. It is fun to got to ballpark and wear home team gear and root for them. I have been to all the new East Coast parks and PNC is the best to watch a game in and also has a wide variety of food. Fans are friendly and it is great to see the place full now. By far the weirdest experience is going to the new Yankee Stadium. Most of the seats in the ball park are covered and you feel like you are inside a building watching something outside. Narrow walk way to walk around the ball park. You get the feeling that the Yankees were all in one stubborn, stupid and money grubbers. It is not a ball park at all. Citi Field, Citizens Bank, Camden Yards and Nationals Park are great venues too. (Camden Yards is the best of those four). You will never be able to replicate Fenway and Wrigley.

      • stlouis1baseball - Aug 19, 2013 at 5:29 PM

        I just can’t get my head around that Meyer. I feel like I would be selling out my team.
        I appreciate you, CC and Joe doing it. But it just feels like it would be wrong…for me.

      • jcmeyer10 - Aug 19, 2013 at 5:32 PM

        I hear where you are coming from, no doubt. I just know in my heart of hearts I am a fan of my team and no amount of outward expression could change that.

  2. jcmeyer10 - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:12 PM

    What’s your favorite park? I live in Boston and am a Sox fan but I loved Coors Field. One of the best views, especially from the second level on the first base side. Can’t beat their 12 dollar seats.

    • asimonetti88 - Aug 19, 2013 at 6:15 PM

      My personal favorite is Petco Park in San Diego, but I also really like AT&T Park and Coors Field. Coors Field has a definite charm to it that you can’t really quantify.

  3. cjh88 - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    I did the exact same thing this weekend. Freaky. My drive was a little longer, 4.5 hours from near Toronto (and back the next day) and my seats were not all fancy and padded like theirs appear to be.

    Great park. Went to AT&T last year. They are the two best I have been to (Skydome is 1,503rd for those who care, just behind a makeshift park between some houses we played on as a kid)

    And a super drunk guy fell over two rows of seats 30 minutes before the game even started (he was fine, except for a large glob of mustard that was on his face for the next hour). Gotta love pregame tailgating for baseball. way to go Pittsburgh!

    And we stayed for the whole 4 hour blowout!

    Gotta say, Pitt was a pretty nice looking city

  4. muskyhunter2542 - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    Miller Park in Milwaukee is better then PNC.

    • El Bravo - Aug 19, 2013 at 5:08 PM

      Not an f’ing chance. I was just there and saw it with roof open and closed. Nice views of the field is the best thing it has going. It has okay food, which is sad, they should have AMAZING food. The park is in a bad location to get in/out and it is simply not that amazing in any particular way. Even if it had a view of downtown Milwaukee, the town has no discernable skyline. Miller tastes like poo as well.

      • stlouis1baseball - Aug 19, 2013 at 5:31 PM

        In fairness…you are a Braves fan from Chicago.
        With the Chicago angle…you are supposed to dislike Milwaukee.

      • muskyhunter2542 - Aug 20, 2013 at 9:49 AM

        You my friend, are incorrect!!!

    • bk2121 - Aug 23, 2013 at 9:55 PM

      I was born and raised in Pittsburgh and lived in Shorewood for 5 years. Milwaukee was a great place to live, but there is no way that Miller Park is better than PNC. The stadium location is horrible, except that it’s an easy in and out. A downtown or lakeside location would have been awesome. The stadium itself is fine and is pretty good place to watch a game. The tailgating is great, especially on opening day. I was amazed at how many people were tailgating the first time that I went to a game, but that is the only thing better at Miller Park.

      • muskyhunter2542 - Aug 26, 2013 at 9:13 AM

        Agree to disagree!!!

  5. quintjs - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    quite nice to see a post simply about enjoying baseball. HBT should do this next year with one post about each ballpark throughout the year – send the team around some games.

    • asimonetti88 - Aug 19, 2013 at 6:16 PM

      even better, they can send me and I’ll do the posts for them.

  6. jcmeyer10 - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    Also, dude photo-bombed your selfie. (Wow, just reading that sentence, don’t know if I should be more disappointed?)

    • Craig Calcaterra - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:18 PM

      First thing Allison said when we looked at the pic: “that guy photbombed our selfie.” So we feel ya, dude.

      • Alex K - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:48 PM

        The real question is where are the duckfaces? Isn’t a duckface obligatory for selfies?

      • jcmeyer10 - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:51 PM

        Haha, I was just left wondering what to think when that was literally and un-ironically the first thing that came to mind.

      • jcmeyer10 - Aug 19, 2013 at 8:54 PM

        All joking aside, please keep these coming. I think there should be more of a focus on seeing the parks and the experience of going to a ball game.

        After all this A-Rod drama, it’s nice to get a check in on what it’s all about.

  7. The Dangerous Mabry - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    My wife is from Pittsburgh, so I’m out there from time to time. I have to agree that I don’t understand the hype around Primanti Brothers, but we eat there all the time because she’s nuts about it. I will say that they serve their sandwiches on very nice bread, which is probably the strongest part of the sandwich, and often overlooked by everyone who focuses on the slaw and french fries.

    My ballpark excursion this weekend was to see the Scranton RailRiders (new name and branding for the Scranton Yankees) and the real strength of the experience is that you can start the day at Steamtown (a national parks service historic site) where you can look at old trains and trolleys, then take a circa 1905 trolley five miles to the ballpark to catch the game. It’s a pretty fun experience altogether, and they’ve got a nice park there in Scranton nowadays. I’d recommend it to anyone, if you’re going to take the trolley, especially if you’ve got kids along.

  8. philsieg - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    Let’s not forget Coors Field. Sitting down the 1B line watching the sun set over the Rockies isn’t too shabby a view. And from the upper deck it’s truly spectacular.

    • jcmeyer10 - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:45 PM

      Best bang for your buck in baseball.

  9. mdpickles - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    Went to college in Western Pa. and have seen nine games at PNC. Seven of those was to see my Phils play. Also went to AT&T Park. Great destination ballparks, both deserve the hype.

  10. riotpunch26 - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    You and your girlfriend look like brother and sister.

    • jcmeyer10 - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:49 PM

      MeHarmony is what you are looking for on this one. That’s where you could joke Craig met his lady.

      Craig, I just couldn’t pass this up.

    • stlouis1baseball - Aug 19, 2013 at 5:03 PM

      I thought it was just me.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Aug 19, 2013 at 5:13 PM

      Ummm ….. ok.


      • jcmeyer10 - Aug 19, 2013 at 5:15 PM

        Haha, nothing to be ashamed of!

  11. dondada10 - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:31 PM

    I loved PNC for the sight-line and the little treasures around the stadium the the sculpture of Ralph Kiner’s hands. Camden Yards, which is now in the middle of the pack as far as oldest stadium’s go, is really nice.

    I personally loved Comerica Park. The big tigers they have inside and outside the stadium are impressive. It also has a nice downtown sight-line.

    • franklb - Aug 19, 2013 at 6:04 PM

      Camden Yards is hands down my favorite park. AT&T is overrated, mainly because it’s cramped. Concourses are narrow. The Giants also are busy wringing every last cent they can squeeze out of fans after the two rings in three years extravaganza. Poor ticket, food, and beer value.

      • jcmeyer10 - Aug 19, 2013 at 8:43 PM

        but but Dippin Dots in a mini helmet!!!!

  12. crispybasil - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    Great post. Now I want a sandwich, though.

    • jcmeyer10 - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:49 PM

      Great username, now I want Spicy Basil Udon.

  13. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:34 PM

    The field is on my To-visit list. I’m personally biased towards Camden Yards, and will never be able to understand anyone who doesn’t say it’s the best ball park ever built, but again…biased. PNC is close enough for a day trip, or maybe a nice weekender. I missed out last time the O’s traveled there, and have been holding off till they go again, but that may be awhile. So, yea thanks for stoking this fire once again.

  14. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    Also, is it just me or does the vendor look like Tobias Onyango Fünke? Guess this is what happens when you fail to make the Blue Man group and the Fantastic Four remake gets shut down by silly lawyers. At least he’s still as gay (happy) as ever!

  15. heyblueyoustink - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    GACK! You look like Russ Wheeler in that selfie there:

    ” Son of a B@$%*# !!”

  16. northstarsmitty - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    I would love to visit more ball parks one day. This is a thread where I imagine every fan of thier hometown will defend why their home stadium is best. Understandable. I most recently visited Coors Field. It was spectacular, having a fresh coors knowing it traveled probably 10 minutes to get to your hand from where it was made, is awesome. The view is neat, the walk around is open and spacious, the sunset during a game is a plus to see. With that, I live in Minneosta and despite how terrible they are, I and other fans often go to games anyways. If you appreciate detail, heritage, and damn good creativity, you NEEd to visit Target Field. After being to both, I still think Target Field is far better and more beautiful than Coors, not to take anything away from how awesome it is though. Majority of thier food and beer sold is from local companies that make the product. Sure, upgrading from traufs and dollar dome dog night is like upgrading your car from a geo metro to porsche, making anything new for us awesome, but it still deserves credit. The budweiser roof is a great idea for groups, the pay homage to former greats, you can’t walk more than a few hundred feet w/o something catching your eye or learning something about the teams history. The fact it looks over the river and connects with the skyway, adds to the experience of enjoying yourself outside of the stadium before or after the game. I suggest giving it a go if you can. Any suggestions for a midwest stadium to go visit? Kauffman & Cinci are high on my list thus far

    • jcmeyer10 - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:50 PM

      I LOVED Target Field.

    • stlouis1baseball - Aug 19, 2013 at 5:35 PM

      I have friends who just returned from Target field. They loved it.
      I suggest you take in Busch in between Kaufman and The Great American Smallpark.
      You will like Cincinnati’s park. Nice park. Not a bad view in the house. Not much larger than a little league diamond. But a damn fine park nonetheless. I am really looking forward to the homerun derby in 2015. Balls are going to flying out of that place at record pace.

  17. stlouis1baseball - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    Damn C.C! 5th row…behind home plate no less. Great seats…you owe your friend a serious favor.

  18. APBA Guy - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    Interesting comment on the garlic fries at AT&T. I’ve never had them. There’s so much good stuff outside the stadium I’m either stuffed already or anticipating a stuffing shortly after I leave.

    Although, when it’s really cold, I will do the clam chowder in a sourdough bowl.

    Probably the best stadium food I’ve had was Camden. I was raised on Memorial Stadium food, I mean you can’t beat crab cakes, beer and baseball, especially the played the Oriole Way, but Camden Yards upped the ante for sure.

  19. yahmule - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    My girlfriend and I hope to see games in every stadium. We’ve been to seven and plan to check off at least four more next season.

  20. thebadguyswon - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    PNC looks gorgeous.

    Also, I am suddenly very hungry.

  21. Michael - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    I forgot about the Parrot drug scandal.

    And looking at that All-Scandal Team, I had one thought: if John Rocker were playing today, all he’d have to do after his idiotic comments is add that he’s for a wall at the border and unrestricted gun sales and he’d be an untouchable Tea Party hero.

  22. navyeoddavee9 - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    PNC = # 1

  23. stlouis1baseball - Aug 19, 2013 at 4:59 PM

    “When I was up there I saw no less then five people smoking and observed another five being told by stadium personnel to put out cigarettes. PNC Park had the most scofflaw smokers I’ve ever seen in a ballpark, actually.”

    It’s been my experience this tends to happen most often when teams (cities) don’t allow pass-outs.
    I was at the Great American Smallpark a few weeks ago and I saw no one smoking in the stadium (be it ramps or the bathrooms). One thing that changed this year is they have a pass-out gate.
    From what I understand…they are going to add a second pass-out gate next year on the other side of the park.

    Just curious…does anyone know if PNC allows pass-outs?

    • mattjg - Aug 19, 2013 at 6:01 PM

      They do not. I no longer smoke so it’s not a big deal for me, but they should really either allow pass-outs or designate some out-of-the-way stairwell as a smoking section. It’s an open air stadium so the dangers of second-hand smoke are minimal and the smell is no more obnoxious than the B.O. of many who walk by.

  24. indaburg - Aug 19, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    Great post. It’s still on my list of Parks I’d Like to Visit Someday. It photographs so purty.

  25. mattjg - Aug 19, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    I moved to Pittsburgh five years ago and adopted the Pirates as my second team. I’ve probably been to PNC Park over 100 times and I love the place, but it’s far from perfect. The view is unbeatable but I’ll take Citizens Bank Park over PNC for a few reasons.

    First, the food. While PNC Park has one location with a bunch of good foods, almost everything else is generic ballpark food. Good luck getting anything besides burgers, dogs or Quaker Steak wings if you’re sitting upstairs. Citizens Bank Park has good food distributed throughout the stadium. The beer selection at CBP is also better.

    My other gripe with PNC Park is the concourses. They’re fairly narrow for a new stadium, and even more unforgivingly, the upper level concourses do not have an open view of the stadium. This means that people with standing room tickets or who want to get different views of the action all congregate in the lower concourse, often four or five deep so you can’t see the action. Also unlike CBP, the lower concourse at PNC Park does not have ledges at the back of the seating section for people standing to rest their food and drink on. The Pirates do provide a few small tables, but these are almost always full when there’s a crowd of any size at the stadium.

    These are admittedly small complaints, and I love PNC Park, but the food-selection and the concourses (as well as Ashburn Alley) put Citizens Bank Park ahead of PNC Park in my book.

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