The last time I watched a baseball game at PNC Park it was 2019, I was a young (experience wise) writer for SI being told a press pass was headed my way.
I sat there with my youngest son honestly thinking more about what I would write that night than what the game meant to me. I seethed over the lack of depth Huntington had provided for that pitching staff and the damage he had done to an already thin system by trying to force the club into contention.
Have to imagine if I knew it would be my last time there, perhaps I’d have focused more on saying a temporary goodbye to the sights and sounds of baseball. Maybe I’d have even appreciated the Mets fans all around us, ok maybe not.
Pirates Fest in 2020 Craig and I both attended and I had a bored to tears but supportive wife walking around with me. Craig had a supportive wife and excitable kids. I remember one of his boys being so excited about meeting his favorite player Jared Oliva.
I remember it because if I’m being honest, I envied his enthusiasm. I didn’t appreciate sitting in the dugout, I didn’t appreciate walking on the field. In fact the last half hour I was there I spent more time figuring out the best place to park when we met up later at the 412 Tap House in the North Shore.
Craig was prepping to go to Spring Training, I was making plans to get down to opening day, and then COVID struck and all of those things I took for granted or walked through the motions with were taken away in the blink of an eye.
It’s hard to say anything good came from COVID without people thinking you’re a monster, and the fact I had the virus doesn’t really give me permission to ignore it was a global catastrophe. I learned something though through all this, I’ve been just going through the motions in a ton of aspects of my life.
I haven’t appreciated bowling nights with friends. Family gatherings at holidays. Meeting up with friends at the bar to watch a game and to bring it all full circle, going to games.
Yesterday, I finally was able to get back to PNC Park, and this time I wasn’t just there.
I stood on the corner of Federal and General Robinson waiting for my Son to arrive and waiting for our seat to open at the North Shore Tavern. I’d driven past this building probably 100 times since I was last inside and this felt no different. This time though, knowing I’d be inside in under an hour I was pretty singularly focused.
We started out at the North Shore Tavern and while I had a great time there, even met up with a couple readers who happened by, I was staring directly across the street at where I really wanted to get to.
The process to get inside was easy and everyone seemed to comply with all the rules which was nice. Nobody ruining the event for others, just doing what they were supposed to in order to take in a game under the conditions we live with. Well done by everyone.
It was great to just get to the seats. We took a minute and just looked around. What a gorgeous place.
I mean look at that. Aside from that abomination of a sign in foul territory in right field, it’s just beautiful.
I’d have been happy with a well played ballgame, even if they fell short, but instead I was treated to a performance that quickly quieted the number of Cubs fans in attendance, which was beautiful in and of itself.
It was hard to get cheers going with limited attendance, but we got it ramped up at times. Possibly none louder than when David Bednar came in with his totally Yinzer entrance.
I loved it. I loved the day. More importantly, I’ve learned all over again how to appreciate something that had become too commonplace to me. I didn’t grow up going to a ton of games, and in my adult life I absolutely have. This entire event in our lives has given me a bit of a reality check on my own ambivalence toward things I held dear.
I’m grateful to be in a position in life where the only thing stopping me from doing things like this was a Global Pandemic, but I’ve learned that no matter how many times I go to the ballpark, I’m going to take a moment and really allow myself to soak it in and enjoy it for more than I have in the past.