What I hate about PNC Park…and other baseball nonsense.

I’ve now been to 9 different major league stadiums and I can honestly say that I think PNC park is the most ascetically pleasing. The walk across the bridge, the proximity to downtown Pittsburgh, the riverwalk and the skyline beyond center field work together to create a surreal experience. That being said it took me 11 games this year to find something about the experience that I hate. I said it, hate. Believe it or not, I’m not talking about the on the field product, the fact that the promotions draw bigger crowds than the team, that there has been a rain delay in almost every game or even how the fans that do show often are more into trying to organize a “wave” than rewardsing Pedro Avarez’s slick glove.

There are plenty of unwritten rules in baseball. You don’t try to bunt to break up a no-hitter, you don’t rub your arm after getting hit by a pitch, you don’t steal when you’re up ten runs, and as A-rod found out last year you don’t walk across the pitchers mound to go back to first base after a foul ball. There’s one pretty simple rule that someone within the organization has broken every game that I have been to. Cue the 4th inning intermission. Cue the goofy music. Cue the title “Baseball Bloopers.” I’ve watched 11 different montages of baseball bloopers on the big screen at PNC Park and not one of them had Jose Canseco’s “head homerun.” Really PNC? Like Andruw Jones having onion rings dumped on him is funnier? Comeooon. The homerun off of Canceco’s head was God’s gift to comedy. If the 10 commandments were rewritten number 11 would be “thou shall not not show that video during baseball bloopers.” It’s golden. Anyway, get it together PNC Park.

Prior to the game last Wednesday I was walking around the concourse in an empty stadium and got to see a side of the players that most never do. They were blaring a ridiculously random warmup CD and being…normal. Some were having catches with their kids and others were working on their “Dougies”. As the music went from Lil Wayne to Zack Brown and they were dancing in the outfield while stretching it couldn’t have been anymore nostalgic. Take away their millions of dollars and it was no different than hanging out prior to an Ephrata Mounts Highschool baseball game, except we were more of a “Counting Crows” and “Young Dublin” kind of team.

Last Thursday I was “working” -the quotes are to signify that not only don’t I know what I’m actually supposed to do at work but there’s also no way I can call it work when I get dressed up and walk into an MLB Front office everyday. I should pay them- and while roaming around in a tunnel under the stadium I ran into Andrew McCutchen 5 hours before that night’s game. We exchanged pleasantries. It was awesome haha. Let me first say that I’m pretty sure every single pro athlete has a pair of the huge headphones by Dr. Dre and that the fact that Cutch is only 5’10” really frustrates me that I’m not still playing baseball buuut thats a rant for a different day. Drew, as I like to call him quietly behind his back and obnoxiously loudly at games where he can’t see me, was going to take bating practice under the stadium. I’ve hit in a million different batting cages so that wasn’t what caught my eye but when I noticed that at the end of the cage was a projection of Matt Cain, Thursday night’s starter, I was very intrigued. I knew that technology existed because I remember Louis Gonzolas attributed his game winning heroics in 2001 to practicing against Mariano Rivera in a cage for weeks, but it was cool to see in action.

Speaking of Drew, as I watch Jose Bautista mash on my fantasy team I can’t help but piece together the line up that the Pirates could be putting out had they not traded certain hitters away. That being said, what’s done is done but stories broke this morning of contract extension talks between McCutchen and the Pirates. That’s a great sign. Another great sign is that the Pirates are only 2 games under .500 and are 9-7 on the road this season. They only had 17 road wins last season and they now play back to back series against the Padres and the Astros which means they are in a good position to still be relevant in mid May. If you would’ve told me that prior to the season I’d be pretty happy. Needless to say, I’m pretty happy.

412inaldi

Anthony Rinaldi

4/12/11 Postponed

4/12/11 Postponed

4 Games in 4 Days (Rockies Series)

.    To put an experience in perspective I like to try to think of the best 5-10 minute span of time and compare to others to see where it ranks. For instance when someone starts telling me about their night out or vacation or any other story that I don’t care about, instead of pretending to be interested I just ask them to tell me one story to quantify the best 10 minutes. It usually takes a few minutes for them to come up with it but I think it’s a nice representation of the time. Now I don’t know if this was the best 10 minutes of my weekend but I can tell you it was without a doubt the funniest. Saturday night after the Pirates comeback ended early my friend and I went up to the hall of fame club to watch the fireworks show and to get a few drinks. Adult beverages during the game at PNC Park go for a minimum of 7.50 and in the HOF club for an hour after the game they’re only 2.50 not to mention it’s a great place to talk about what ifs with other Pirates fans after a loss. “What if Steve Pearce hadn’t grounded into that game ending double play?”. “What if we just played without a shortstop, would it be better than starting Ronnie Cedeno?”. Anyway, my friend and I, let’s call him Strandon Brenko, were sitting at the bar and the attractive bartender says “all drinks are 2.50” to which Strandon asks what kind they have and she pointed at a rack of about 25 different bottles. A smile took over his face and he looked less decisive than a kid in a toy store. “I think I’m going to try something knew” Strandon said. “What will it be?” the bartender asked. “Can I have an O’doul’s”. That’s funny, I don’t care who you are. While I’m on the topic of adult beverages, let me take a minute to talk about the “Bottoms Up” Bud Light kisok. There’s a kiosk set up on the stadium where they put your cup on the counter and it fills from the bottom of your cup and when you pick it up…there isn’t a whole in it? I don’t get it. I don’t understand how it works and frankly I don’t want to know how it works, to me it’s magic.
.    Did I mention how awesome my job is? Well actually my job itself is pretty monotonous but the idea of it is awesome. It’s the Tim Tebow’s of jobs, it’s alright but the intangibles are incredible and it’s amazing looking. I love baseball and I love dressing up and I get to deal with both. I thought that opening day at the Cubs was the best day of work ever because it was a day game and during work ROOT Sports threw us a viewing party and oh by the way I was getting paid. But then opening day at PNC Park came and BOOM new best day of work.
.    It was gorgeous out and the opening day festivities were pretty surreal, from unavailing the Chuck Tanner jersey in centerfield to the air force flyover and the national anthem. It finally felt like baseball season. Seeing PNC Park full and a team with an average age of 27.6 (skewed upward by Lyle Overbay) that wasn’t in last was optimistic and encouraging. A first inning error by the hometown Neil Walker and an opportunistic dinger from CarGo tool the air out of the stadium quickly though. The early lead would prove too much for the bucs to overcome. However I did see Chester the yellow pierogi run away with the 5th inning race and is my favorite for the year.


.    One of the most annoying things in sports media is when they overreact with a lack of historical perspective. For example, after the Steelers - Cardinals Superbowl “That was the best catch in Superbowl history!!!!!”. Helloooooo? David Tyree? Lynn Swann? “This Phillies rotation is the best EVER!!”….90s Braves?…They hadn’t even pitched yet. Or how bout “the Heat are going to be the best team EVER.” I’m not going to bring up any contradictions to this because no body cares about the NBA. Anyway where I was going with this was Friday night’s Pirates game. My initial reaction, albeit in the moment, was “That was the best game EVERRRR!!!”. Then I remembered how wrong that was and I reworded it to “That was the best game I’ve ever seen…in person…at PNC Park…probably!!!!!”. The bottom line is, it was awesome. The Rockies scored in the first inning, as they did in every game of the series, and eventually took a 3-0 lead. Ross Olendorph left the game in the 3rd with a case if the sucks and eventually went to the DL with what looks like a bruised labia majora and this was the best thing that could happen. The Pirates chipped away at the lead tying it in the 6th (after my boy Chester got robbed in the pierogi race, damn you sauerkraut Saul) and the bullpen went on to throw 11.1 scoreless innings stranding 14 Rockies with the help of 3 top play nominees along the way. The majority of MLB managers make less money than the average NCAA football coach. That being said over the course of a season many people don’t think that managers affect the outcome of games. Players play. That being said, Pirate manager Clint Hurdle won Friday night’s game and former Pirate manager Jim Tracey lost it for the Rockies. With two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the 14th inning the hottest hitter (Jose Tabata) was up and due to a double switch earlier and no position players able to pinch hit and nobody up in the bullpen, the pitcher was up next. Smart money says to walk Tabata to get to the pitcher. Instead, Clint Hurdle sent Andrew McCutchen to the on deck circle to scare and confuse Jim Tracey and it worked. Jose Tabata crushed a pitch off the top of the right field wall scoring Josh Rodriguez from first setting off fireworks. It was awesome.


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.    Saturday was a lot nicer out and Strandon and I got there early enough to watch Colorado take batting practice from the right field bleachers. They say pitchers are often some of the best outfielders in baseball because they have rocket arms, are athletic and 4 days a week they shag fly balls. Fun fact, Mariano Rivera came up as a center fielder. Sometimes watching pitchers in the outfield on their off days during BP is almost as fun watching the bombs…almost. We had the pleasure of watching 2010 breakout pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, who might possibly be on the DL for the least many reason in sports (a cut cuticle). Why he was long tossing with a cut cuticle I’ll never know, but it was fun to watch. Saturday night was a fireworks night so for the 3rd straight game, though mainly for the wrong reasons, there was a nice crowd. To my and many other’s approval Ronnie Cedeno finally got the day off and one of the previous night’s heroes, JRod, was getting a shot. Unfortunately he didn’t do anything to help his cause. The Pirates overcame another 3 run deficit late in the ball game but a two out bases loaded double by Ty Wiggington in 7th proved to be too much for the Pirates. There aren’t many baseball rules I disagree with but 3 games into this series I found one. All 3 games Garret Jones was due up late against a tough lefty and all 3 times they pinch hit righty Matt Diaz. To the Pirates chagrin the Rockies countered by bringing in a right handed reliever. I know it’s strategy but come on. If I were to redo the rules I’d give another homegirls advantage and say in instances like this the home team gets to move last. That being said, contrary to popular belief, I cannot redo the rules. Though they lost they did put the tying runs on base with 1 out in the bottom of the 9th and thanks to the fireworks crowd sticking around it was a pretty exciting loss.


.    I play fantasy baseball, and you should too. I was going to the game Sunday afternoon regardless but being that it was the final day of week one in fantasy baseball I picked up Pirates starter James McDonald for an additional rooting interest. All I needed was 7 innings out if him and closer Joel Hanrahan. Jmac not only let up 4 first inning runs, but it also took him 39 pitches. I felt like throwing up, especially seeing FA Brandon McCarthy throw a gem on the out of town scoreboard in right field. JMac got booed leaving the mound in the first. If you were to tell ms at that time that he would get a standing ovation when he left the mound with a lead 2 outs into the 6th inning I would have probably punched you in the face, but that’s exactly what happened. Baseball is funny like that. The Pirates clawed back again and blew it again. (You know who didn’t blow it? Chester the yellow pierogi, who improved to lead 2-1-1-0) Anyway, it was exciting that for the 3rd straight night they had a chance to win it in their last at bat, but if they keep falling short so will the attendance. Which brings me to my final thought of the series. The attendance was awesome, the atmosphere was awesome and so was the city as a whole. Pittsburgh has a rich baseball history, better than almost all other teams. It’s arguably a baseball town but many of us wouldn’t know it because of how putrid they’ve been lately. It was weird when I first came to Pitt and I realized that the city went; football, hockey, college sports and baseball in that order. I said that to say this, when the team starts winning (whenever that may be) it is going to be awesome. Walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge before and after a game listening to the saxophone man and ignoring homeless people with a packed crowd is surreal. The penguins turned around relatively quickly recently and the city loves them again and the same thing is bound to happen with the Pirates sooner or later and I can’t wait.


.    Ok one last completely unrelated rant. During early innings of Pirates games they allow fans to vote on a sing to be played in the middle of the 6th inning. Rebecca Black’s Friday has won all 4 games. This is an atrocity. If you haven’t heard it yet and want to make your ears and eyes bleed, YouTube it. Not only are the lyrics terrible and the beat annoyingly catchy but the video is horrendous. As Dave Chappelle said “we don’t hate the song because it’s famous, it’s famous because we hate it.” I don’t care if people are voting as a joke but I’m starting to hate the 6th inning.

412inaldi

Anthony Rinaldi

Pirates Home Opener (4/7/11)

Pirates Home Opener (4/7/11)

Opening Day 2010 at PNC Park

Opening Day 2010 at PNC Park

Salisbury Steaks and Ryan Doumit

One day in high school a good friend (Kyle) and I coincidently got the same thing for lunch that had never been offered before. They called it salisbury steak but in reality it was yesterday’s unsold hamburger patty with gravy and it tasted like an uncooked shoe with toilet water. I knew it tasted like an uncooked shoe with toilet water and Kyle knew it tasted like an uncooked shoe with toilet water but that was about it and without saying anything to each other we agreed to keep that to ourselves. With every terrible bite we kept smiles on our faces and loudly exclaimed how good it was.

“Wow this is the best thing I’ve ever eaten!”…”MMMMmmm I am SOO glad I got this!”…”I’d be furious if I missed out on this, they might not ever offer it again, MMMM.”…”You got POPCORN CHICKEN over STEAK?! Do you want a hardcopy of The Notebook with that?”

The reasons we did this were probably split 50-50 between how stubborn we are and how funny we thought it’d be if we could talk somebody else into buying it. Like clockwork another friend of ours (Ian), after already eating a double popcorn chicken lunch, went up for a serving of salisbury steak. It was hilarious and worth it, he couldn’t have been more upset and Kyle and I could finally stop pretending like it was good and more importantly we could stop eating it.

Ryan Doumit is the salisbury steak. When I’m watching ESPN or any broadcast of Pirates games they talk about Doumit like he’s elite. I felt like I was taking crazy pills. He can’t catch, he can’t hit, he has even blown games playing first base! Casual baseball fans think Ryan Doumit is a good, or even an elite, catcher! I thought this was ridiculous until I thought back to the trade talks over the offseason and maybe, just maybe they have just been trying to pump up his trade value for like 3 years. Maybe they’re just pulling a salisbury steak. Cross your fingers.

Anthony Rinaldi
412inaldi

View from the top of the W. General Robinson parking garage!

View from the top of the W. General Robinson parking garage!

(9/19/10)

     I said I was going to use this to recap all of the games that I go to this upcoming season, but I’m already throwing out that script.  Opening day is officially this week and frankly, I cannot wait.  I’ll use this post as a blueprint for things to come and hopefully you’ll like what you read enough to stick around for the ride.

Preface.

    I am finishing up my junior year at the University of Pittsburgh and this upcoming summer will be the first that I’m spending in the city aka the unofficial start to adulthood, but I think Winston Churchill put it best when he said “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”  I’m pretty sure he was either talking about spending the summer in Pittsburgh, or the second battle of El Alamein…Anyway I told you that to tell you this, being that the school year ends in late April/early May and begins in late August/early September there are only a handful of games one can go to.  I’ve tried to go to as many games as possible but with work and classes it was less than ideal.  Even less practical was the idea of my dad having a weekend off of work when the Pirates were at home and he was able to make the 4 hour drive from good old Lancaster county.  It took two and a half years but we finally planned a weekend that would work.  It started off like every good trip to Pittsburgh does, with Primanti’s and Pamela’s.  “As American as baseball and apple pie.”  Cliche?  Of course, but when you throw in the father-son element I really don’t know if it can be beat.  Fathers are the reason sons everywhere get into baseball, if it weren’t for him I’d probably be stuck playing…soccer…ew.  Fathers are like drug dealers and baseball, to some, just so happens to be the worlds best drug.  Proffessionally, my dad and I had been to both the Old and New Yankee Stadium and Citizens Bank Park together, but until this game he only had my descriptions to go off of when it came to how beautiful PNC Park is.

On to the game…

    The game was awesome.  It was, however, one of the first few Sundays of the football season and thus bittersweet.  That being said, since Pittsburgh as a whole tends to put baseball on the back burner I was able to hop on StubHub and get tickets 4 rows off of the third base dugout for $15 a pop.  Obviously I was ecstatic, because if there’s anything I love more than baseball it might be money.  Believe it or not the Pirate bats were quite early and the game was a pitchers duel early, 2-1 Dbacks through 7.  Zach Duke, who happens to be a Dback now, had a real strong start but got knocked around in the 8th as Arizona took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the inning.   The Bucco bats awoke to an RBI double for 2011 ROY Tabata and BOOOOOOOOOOOM a 2 run blast from Pittsburgh’s own Niel Walker.  A perfect inning by Evan Meek later and…RAISE THE JOLLY RODGER.

Unique to this game?

Leadoff BOMB from Andrew McCutchen, and Mark Reynolds’ 200th Strikeout of the season.  A once impressively awful feat that is now expected out of the guy…but as Merrill from M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs said “Felt wrong not to swing.”

Andrew McCutchen

Mark Reynolds’ 200th Strikeout of the season

Me and my dad

Anthony Rinaldi

412inaldi

12 days until opening day!
Let’s go Bucs

12 days until opening day! Let’s go Bucs