On the dawn of my first night as a Pittsburgh Pirates column writer, the omens were anything but good. It was raining, I was exhausted from finals, and the stadium was bound to be empty with the Penguins playing game 7 of their playoff series the same night.
Around 5:45 p.m., while doing everything I could do to prepare for my Spanish final the next day, the clouds broke and the rained stopped and things took a turn for the better.
As I left my house, I went to Oakland’s best new restaurant – Black Bean – grabbed a Cuban sandwich, ate in Mike’s car on the way down to the stadium, and blasted Ground Up for the entire trip. I was in a great mood and the night was getting pretty gorgeous. It was just the beginning.
After taking a great walk across the Roberto Clemente Bridge to the Pirates stadium, I immediately needed to accept my rookie status and start asking questions. “Where is the press door?” was my first. After talking to a couple security guards, I found the very private and very guarded entrance for the media members in the back of the stadium.
After running into my first walking-talkie-bearing security guard, I had to give my name. He turned to a table that was holding three press passes left (I was a little late for media, arriving around 6:30). My name was there, and my pass was sweet.
“Where are you trying to go?”
“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “Never covered a game at this ballpark, so I was going to ask you the same thing.” He took at look at my pass, smiled, and said “well you have clubhouse access, press box access, and field access. You can go anywhere you want.”
My first reaction? “Hell yeah.”
Realizing I had some time, I told him I’d go down to the clubhouse first to check things out – this is where I’d be getting my postgame quotes. After heading through some double doors, I ran into the second line of security. Glancing at my press pass, I was redundantly told I could go anywhere I want. This time, though, it was indicated I could even go to the visiting clubhouse.
The Pirates opponent tonight? The defending champs, the San Francisco Giants. So, no offense Pirates fans, I headed in their direction first. As I came down the tunnel, before getting to the clubhouse, out came the champs.
First in line, and in the batting order, was Aaron Rowand.
“How you doin Aaron?” I said, as casually as I could.
“Good, thanks,” he gave me with a head nod.
Next was Pat the Bat Burrell, who everyone knows will always be a Phillie.
“Good luck tonight, Pat,” I said calmly. “Thanks,” he answered.
Well, that was cool. Now I figured I’d wander as far as I could go. After walking through the tunnel, I saw a door that said field entrance. Well, they said I could go anywhere.
Pushing through the double doors, I came out to a set of bleachers that essentially lies right on the left field dirt. It was cool, great view, but it wasn’t the field access I thought the sign implied and with the opening pitch coming I was ready to head up to the press box. After heading back, walking through the tunnel, I came to a set of doors that I harmlessly entered beforehand just minutes ago. Locked.
This is the kind of thing you run into when you’re in an arena you’ve never been to and have a curiosity that can hurt you. After roaming around for about 10 minutes, trying different doors and different stairs, I finally realized I was locked out and caved by asking for help.
After showing my pass and explaining I was new to the park, I was swiped through and let back into the tunnel. Now, I retraced my steps and headed back to the media entrance, up the ushered elevator, and onto the press level.
When you come off the elevator, the first thing you see is a big sign that in bright red letters reads:
THIS IS AN ACTIVE PRESS BOX. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE APPROPRIATE PASS YOU ARE PROHIBITED FROM THIS AREA.
As I strode through the hallway, pretending I knew exactly what I was doing, I turned the corner to an absolutely beautiful site.
Five rows of tables, outlets, TVs (big, flat-screen, HD TVs), comfy chairs, all facing a huge glass wall looking out onto the PNC Park field and looking over the Pittsburgh skyline. The windows were open, letting in a perfect breeze. I’m handed packets of statistics, standings, player profiles, and of course a sheet explaining how to acquire internet access. I sit down at one of the long, marble tables, plug in my computer, log onto the internet, and soak up the view.
Now, of course, I’m hungry. So, once again, I decide I’ll roam around a bit (about 15 minutes until game-time) and get to know my surroundings.
As I come around behind the tables, I see a guy dressed in a suit with an earpiece and walkie-talkie. He looks like he knows what he’s doing. “Where is the nearest place to get a drink?” I ask. “Down the hall to your left,” he tells me.
As I turn the corner, I follow a hallway – glass windows on my right, closed doors to mysterious rooms facing the field on my left. As I begin reading the signs on the door, I start to realize how “in” I really am.
“Visiting Radio,” “Scoreboard Control,” “Scoreboard Video,” “Visiting GM,” – wait, what? Visiting GM??? I stand at the door, momentarily, actually considering if it’s a good idea to walk in or not. Probably not. I keep going. Behind the “Spanish Radio” door you can hear the booming thick accents of the Spanish commentators. The last door reads “104.7 FM,” home of Pittsburgh Pirates radio.
When I get to the end of the hallway, I find what I’m looking for: Free drinks and free food. It’s a beautiful place, this press box. I grab as much as I can carry and head back to my seat. As I sit down, the national anthem begins. I stand up, soak up the view one more time, and then hear a voice come over speakers I couldn’t find in the press box.
“Game time temperature: 71 degrees. Game time start: 7pm.”
As things kick off, the Pirates come out strong. Before I knew it, the sun had set and the beautiful city lights of Pittsburgh were shining and the Pirates were winning!
With some good defense and some smart small ball, they went up on the board first with an RBI single and basically cruised from there to a 2-0 win. In fact, Pedro Alvarez even made an outstanding over the dugout catch in the 4th inning that ended up on Sportscenter’s top plays.
Late in the game, though, there was a moment of “uh oh, here comes a Pirates collapse.”
In the top of the 9th, the Pirates reliever let two men on and almost blew the lead before forcing a ground out to 2nd that lead to a double play. It was a good night, and I’d like to think of myself as a good omen for the Pirates win over the defending champs. Hopefully, they keep it up.
After the game, I followed the media crowd back down to the club house and listened to the first few minutes of the post-game press conferences. However, in typical Pittsburgh fashion, everyone was up and leaving after one reporter mentioned the Penguins being down in the 3rd period of game seven against Tampa Bay.
Being intrigued myself, I took off early and headed for the car. By the time I got home, a rare Pittsburgh event had taken place: the Pirates won on the same night the Penguins lost.