Pirates Raise Ticket Prices; People Freak Out

For the first time since 2002, the Pittsburgh Pirates are raising ticket prices. Here is the new seating chart for 2012.

My thoughts?

It’s not too bad. A lot of people are complaining, although they may have a point given that the Pirates are 15-30 since the all-star break. There are still of plenty of affordable tickets to be had though. The “Upper Grandstand” make the final seven rows of 22 upper deck sections for just $10. The kids pricing will help families out as well. A family of four can attend a ball game for $32. That has to be among the lowest in all of the MLB.

Their division of pricing is confusing. Take the regular grandstand for example. The view from section 333 row R is horrible compared to behind the plate in section 316 row A. However, both seats will run you $16. My seat in 329 row B ran me $140 for a 20 game plan in 2011. In 2012 it will run me $300. That’s a pretty steep increase.

The Pirates did the right thing by keeping the dent on full season ticket holders as little as possible. Those value plans with all 81 games for as low as $399 will be available to those who renew. Good move there by rewarding their most loyal of fans by keeping their prices ridiculously low.

While I won’t complain about the $40 increase for my 20 game plan in 2012 (I will be relocating), there will still be many who do.

For those who don’t understand, I suggest taking a look at the prices of teams in similar to the Pirates (Cincinnati, Washington, Baltimore to name a few). Theirs are still more expensive than the Pirates.

So before you curse out the team for what they did, think for a second. The same people that don’t like the increases probably are the same ones that willingly shell out $8 for a 16-ounce beer at a game or $5 for a cotton candy as if that makes any more sense. I’m willing to bet the Pirates will still offer discounts (Advantage Card days, PNC check card nights) to keep the prices lower and giving fans more bang for their buck.

I suggest you save your anger for something else, such as if/when the teams signs the next Matt Diaz over the winter or if they were to discontinue Free Shirt Fridays.

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My thoughts on the “bandwagon”

With the Pittsburgh Pirates’ success in 2011 coming out of nowhere, the inevitable fact of so called “bandwagon” baseball fans coming out of the woodwork came true. Crowds of 10,000 or so in the opening months of the season turned into capacity crowds that have the Pirates pushing 2,000,000 fans in attendance for the fourth time in team history.

With all of the bucco fever that has come about this summer, I get asked frequently: “Hey Steve, you’ve been a Pirate fan forever. How do you feel about all of these bandwagon fans?”

Well, at first I was quite upset. I liked coming to a a quarter-filled ballpark without having to worry about crowds, lines, and traffic. I think the turning point of how I felt came on July 8, a game against the Chicago Cubs.

We all know that the Bucs pulled out a resilient victory thanks to a clutch home run from Michael McKenry. But what I did take out of the game as much of that emotional win was the crotchety older gentleman seated next to me who spent most of the game complaining about all of these “bandwagon hoppers”.

After saying aloud his displeasure for seeing all of these people “who have never been to a game in their lives nor care what goes on” for the fifth time, it finally hit me. It’s absolutely stupid to not like more fans discovering a team, and even more stupid to let it affect your enjoyment of your team’s first pennant race in your lifetime.

Yes, I might have to wait in line for food a bit longer or spend some extra time in a garage when the game is over, but do you hear the crowds and the enthusiasm they have for the team? Heck, on a Monday night, fans were on their feet in the first inning trying to give their support to Charlie Morton as he tried to get out of a jam (after over two hours of rain delays no less!). Games have become exponentially more fun to go to since fans started turning out in droves. It certainly is much better than the sea of blue empty seats that became commonplace over the past decade. It can use some work (here’s looking at you Saturday night drunks and wave starters) but in time, PNC Park could be a very tough place for opposing teams to play. Just ask anyone at the game this past Friday against the Cardinals how loud it got before the bottom of the 9th.

With that said, it is quite amazing how many young people I see around the park now. This so called “lost generation” is turning out in force and showing that the past 18 years haven’t completely turned off Pittsburghers to the game of baseball. Not all have been going to games since they were three years old like me, but they aren’t stupid. They have played baseball and softball and know the game. Here’s hoping this “new generation” can keep the momentum going.

The old folks that said they would never be back, now are starting to return. Many realized the errors of their ways and admitted it. After all, like religion, there are always opportunities for redemption and coming back to the light.

So next time you scowl at the lines to get your Primanti’s sandwich or get a ticket, just remember the options: Crappy, irrelevant baseball that is more convenient or a pennant race with fans flocking to see the Buccos.

I’ll take the latter every time.

 

 

 

 

Four Games in Four Days: Pirates-Mets series

After turing in the dreaded Precision Language final early Thursday morning, I was free for the summer. After packing up and heading home, it was time to start enjoying my summer.

Lucky for me, the Pirates were wrapping up a season-long home stand with a four game series against the New York Mets. I have attended all games in a three game set before, but had never completed a four-game series. Here is a recap.

Friday

Back in the friendly confines of PNC Park for the first time in nearly 50 days (that’s a long time for a season ticket holder). It felt good to be back at my summer home. There was no one that I would rather have pitching my first game back than Charlie Morton.

He has been dynamite in 2011 for the Pirates, and he is always fun to watch. This night, however, the luck wouldn’t be on his side. The Mets took control early, and scored five runs in the fourth where every ball seemed to either drop in for a hit, or cause the Pirates to make an error. The offense that is suffering from many injuries couldn’t get anything started, and the Mets cruised to an easy 8-1 victory.

Despite that, it was a great night for a game

This guy, however, was put to sleep by the Pirates offensive woes.

Saturday

The next day’s game would be much more event-filled. I hadn’t gotten to see much batting practice so far in 2011, but today I got my chance. The gates opened at 4:30 for season ticket holders, and unlike other days, STHs get access to the whole bowl rather than just the bleachers. Since many had their sights focused on getting home run balls in left field, I picked the deserted seats down the third base line to get some snags.

I got my first ball shortly from pitching coach Ray Searage. Since the ball was close to where I was standing, and there was nobody else around, he had no choice but to throw it to me. At the same time, Jeff Karstents was trying to chuck some balls up to a kid with his mom in a suite in the upper deck. Since he came up short, the ball made it’s way down to me. I was able to throw it up to them. unbeknowst to me, there were some other kids up there too who also wanted balls. This is a nightmare for a ballhawk. Since I didn’t have any emotional attachment to the Searage ball I had a minute ago, I sent that one up. Pedro Ciriaco hit a ball into the 100 level seats down the line. A usher directed me to it, and it was ball number two on the day.

The Pirates ended practice shortly after, and the Mets came out to hit. I was still the only person down the baseline. Jose Reyes was the first to hit, and sent one of the first pitches he saw just over my head down the line. It landed in a seat a few rows back and I was able to pluck it up for ball number 3. Since the Mets players were ignoring the kids up above me, they began to call on me to throw yet another one up. Thinking on my feet, and not wanting to look like a jerk, I reached into my bag and threw up the Ciriaco ball. I didn’t want to get rid of the Reyes one I just got, he’s one of the best players that I’ve snagged a ball from. Jason Pridie of the Mets saw my act of goodwill and hooked me up shortly after.

With four balls on the day snagged, I got closer to the hitters to get better shots of them hitting.

After a little while, sluggers Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran were due up. I went out to the outfield seats to attempt to tie my career high of five baseballs. I played the less crowded right center field seats and waited for Beltran to hit one my way. He crushed a ball that I began to break back on toward the Riverwalk. I had overrun it and it was dropping short of me. A man with a glove dropped it into a handicapped seat at the top of the section. Another guy grabbing it pushed it to the seat where it rolled out. I got down and trapped it with my glove. A crazy fumblerooski to get my 5th ball.

I went to the bullpen to watch the pitchers warm up. The game featured an intriguing pitching match-up with the hard throwing James McDonald of the Pirates going against Met knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

I went to my seats to watch the game. It would be the first that Jason Bay had played in Pittsburgh since being traded in 2009. I could not understand for the life of me why Pirate “fans” booed him. He was always a class act and an all-star here. He never really did anything that ticked me off.

Later in the game I moved to seats closer to my parents who were attending the game. The third largest crowd in PNC Park history was on hand, primarily to see the post-game Skyblast show featuring the band Huey Lewis and the News.

The Pirates were able to get just enough offense. A two-run double by Andrew McCutchen was the difference. Despite getting hit hard, and struggling with his control at times, McDonald was able to keep the Mets in check.

Since all of the 39,000+ were sticking around, the atmosphere was really electric as Joel Hanrahan mowed down the Mets in the 9th to preserve the 3-2 victory.

The show after the game didn’t disappoint either. If you have never been to a Skyblast show before, I highly suggest you check one out. It is a big pyrotechnic extravaganza featuring fireworks and live music.

There were fireworks from every place you could imagine including the field, the barges on the river, the Roberto Clemente bridge, and the scoreboard.

Some were even fired off of the skyscrapers across the river.

Huey Lewis had a good show, though I wouldn’t rank it at the top of the ones I have seen. I must say I am really looking forward to when Train comes in August. There aren’t many better ways to spend seven dollars.

Here is my pull. I noticed how the balls the Mets used had the logos way off center and crooked.

Sunday

Yeah it was another forgettable game after a very good one the night before. Kevin Correia pitched very well, but came unglued in the 8th inning when the Mets blew the game open. The only excitement for the Pirates on offense came when Lyle Overbay flew out to deep center field. The firework controller thought it was a homer but it wasn’t even close. He launched them by mistake. Clint Hurdle was ejected after arguing that the center fielder Angel Pagan trapped the ball against the wall. It was yet another great day for baseball so it wasn’t a complete waste.

Monday

I could see the finish line. Attending four games in four days is quite a grind, and Monday’s would be the last one needed to complete the task. I wasn’t feeling batting practice, so I headed to the stadium for first pitch. It was a cool night that was dominated by another great outing from Pirate pitcher Paul Maholm who mowed down the Mets. I was also very impressed by the play of new catcher Mike McKenry who was acquired from the Red Sox just hours before the game. There were a couple of crazy plays including fielder interference that led to the first Pirate run, a home run by Brandon Wood, and a near triple play. Hanny shut it down for the 17th time in 17 chances. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorites. The game went very quick as it wasn’t even dark yet when the game was in it’s late stages. The city had a weird orange tint as the sun set.

I saw some good and saw some bad in my first game back, and I am looking forward to spending many more summer days and nights at the ballpark.

Lemonade Man passes away

Every stadium has its characters that make it unique.

For the past few decades, the venues in Pittsburgh have been brightened up by the personality of Kenny Geibel, better known as the Lemonade/Cotton Candy man.

I first remember hearing his loud, shrill calls of “Coke ‘ere” and his trademark phrase “take it easy,” at Three Rivers Stadium when I was young. After the move to PNC Park, he traded in his Coke bottles for lemonade. Once the YouTube age began, videos of him spread like wildfire across the city, making him a cult celebrity.

He was a father of three and a grandfather of two.

Perhaps Pirate blogger Matt Peaslee said it best on Twitter today: “Take it easy up there, buddy”