We all have hobbies, interests, passions or activities that allow us to escape the “hustle and bustle” of daily life; bills, work and anything else that causes us stress and anxiety. For me the one constant “escape” in my life has been Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball. However, I never really looked at it that way because I always took people along with me on the journey and met many others along the way. It always brought me closer to people, especially my family and friends; probably due to where the roots of my passion grew from.
I have spoken of and written about this part of my Pittsburgh Pirates journey before, but I will mention it again because it is so special to me. Growing up I spent a lot of time with my Grandma and Pap; at their house, at their camp (Coal Miner’s Castle) in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest and in my own home when they came by to visit or help my parents with a project around the house. It seems as if every time I time I was with them, baseball was somehow involved and with my Grandma it was all about the Pirates. The sounds of Lanny Frattare, Steve Blass and Jim Rooker, later joined by Greg Brown, Bob Walk and John Wehner filled the air around my Grandparents porch, inside the comfy confines of our camp and amidst the crackling wood of many fires. I was as familiar with their voices as I would be with any members of my immediate family or circle of friends. My Grandma talked to them through the radio waves and about the players like they were life long friends.
My Pap on the other hand was an equal opportunity “fan”; he just loved the game. A pitcher in the old coal mining baseball leagues of Western Pennsylvania, he would talk about all of the players he took the field with while we watched the Pirates on KBL, the Braves on TBS and the Cubs and White Sox on WGN or listened to the game if their wasn’t one on TV. Afterward my cousins, my sister, the rest of the family and I would take to the backyard for a friendly Wiffle ball game or or out in the empty lot by our camp to play a game of “21”, where you received a different number of points for fielding a grounder, off of a bounce/hop or on the fly. This was my life growing up and I loved it. Baseball brought my family together.
As I started to get a little older and I was playing Little League Baseball, my friends and I would get together and play home run derby anywhere we could. Most of the time the game took place in my yard between the garden and the house, where the weeds/field and the porch on the house set up “natural” markers for each dinger we hit. We were Barry Bonds, Andy Van Slyke, Jose Canseco, Cecil Fielder as we held the bat waiting for a pitch from a friend that was pretending to be any of the famous hurlers from the present day, all the way back to Sandy Koufax. Then one by one we started to get our drivers license and were able to drive down to Three Rivers Stadium for the afternoon or evening to catch a ball game, feeling like we we were on top of the world. During the summer in between my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college I went to what felt like a game a week. Every summer when I came back home from Erie I would spend as much time as I could at the ball park and of course with my Grandparents listening to games as the sun set over the trees in front of their house.
After college graduation it was time to enter the workforce and luckily for me I found a group of friends that were as big of Pittsburgh Pirates Fans as I am. We bought bobble-head packages and went to other games in between, now at PNC Park instead of Three Rivers. We tailgated before games, we went out for drinks afterward and enjoyed every second in between; even though during that time the Pirates teams we were going to see were not the best. I went to games when I was happy, when I was sad and after 9/11 I went to the three games in a row once baseball resumed with my uncle, one of my cousins and a group of friends as a way to find some regularity in a crazy world.
Then came kids. I didn’t think going to ballgames could get any better, but believe me it did. Seeing the sheer excitement on my kid’s faces as Andrew McCutchen hit a home run (each of them have passed down a shersey with his name and number on it) and now as my son or daughter holds a bat or ball signed by one their favorite players, I realize how much joy baseball and especially the Pittsburgh Pirates have brought to my life.
It was been a long and winding journey thus far, filled with laughter and tears, but I am happy when I say it is far from over. I now talk baseball on weekly basis with my good friend Chris on Bucs in the Basement, I write for this amazing site with my Brother from another Mother, Gary and I am anxious to get back to the ballpark(s) when baseball resumes again; with my family and with my friends new and old because for me the Pittsburgh Pirates have always been my “escape”, but lucky for me I never have to do it alone.