Generally this column addresses things that need changing. In the name, of fairness good happens in the state of Pennsylvania, a lot of good. Today I am going to talk about two perfect nights, one each in our two largest cities. I am not a go to the game baseball fan – whole gubernatorial terms go by between my visits to a ballpark. So for me, to go to two major league games, in two cities, in four nights, is unprecedented.
I live in the Philadelphia suburbs, the same place I grew up. I am an unabashed Phillies fan, please stop groaning, so I can continue. Last Saturday night I went to the Phillies v Nationals game at Citizens Bank Park. It could not have been a better night for a game. Late September, the Phillies are leading their division; perfect weather what more can one ask for. Citizens Park is a fair reflection of Philadelphia a lot going on, on the big side for intimate ballparks, and plenty of different kinds of beer and food. Citizens Park is right where it should be in South Philly where the stadiums have been since the early 70’s, looking towards center city, and the Delaware River. I know the modern ideal is a downtown stadium but center city Philadelphia is a perfect grid. I think, but can not say for sure, the term grid locked was coined in Philly. Several attempts failed, so the stadium ended up in South Philly, and I for one could not think of a better place.
I took the the famed Broad Street line which runs an express to the stadium for games. The train filled with fans of every type buzzing with anticipation. A person can not help but get into the spirit. My tickets for the night were standing room only, tickets one would have had to pay me to take in a game at the old Vet, but I was willing to try at the “new” six year old stadium. We found a spot that no one who had been to the old Vet stadium could call nose bleed – even though we were as far away as it gets. The fans were friendly and polite (it happens) by the end of the night everybody knew a very energetic two year old and best of all the Phils won.
Wednesday night found me in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park (both stadiums named for banks hmmmm). Why Pittsburgh four nights later? I went for a rare experience that’s why. Rock the Capital’s guru of making all things happen, Brian Hamilton’s younger brother Mark got called up to the show by the St. Louis Cardinals this weekend and was going to be playing the Pirates. Who could resist being two degrees of separation from seeing a brother making it to the big league? As a rule, I do not usually feel sorry for professional athletes, but I do for Mark. He is a heavy hitting first baseman, unfortunately, the St Louis Cardinals have the best first baseman on the planet, Albert Pujols. Mark has a granite wall in between him and the majors. However, the Cardinals decided to start the arbitration clock and call Mark up.
We got to PNC Park at 3:30 and Mark in his St. Louis uniform just finished with batting practice was waiting for us by the service entrance. In Mark’s hand, his 34 oz bat sticky with pine tar autographed to his brother; thanking him for all the backyard games that helped got him here. It was a true privilege to see the Brothers Hamilton share the moment.
Mark went back to the clubhouse, and we went across the street to a stadium bar where the waitress was feisty but friendly, the beer cold and the wings hot. After a quick but vicious thunderstorm that had us fearing of a rainout a beautiful, clear, night under a full moon broke out in the Steel City. We went to PNC Park early to check it out. PNC Park is also a clear reflection of the town. It is small, awkward to get around if you are unfamiliar with it and filled with incredibly nice people that make you feel at home. When we first walked in, we headed over to the empty bleachers in left field.. The attendant could not have been nicer talking about the park, her city and the Pirates, the owner should give her a raise. PNC Park is a beautiful field, and at night, the views of Pittsburgh and her bridges are amazing. Thanks to Mark we had great seats on the first- base side. The Pirates blew the Cardinals out. But that’s OK, I am a Pennsylvanian rooting for the Pirates, and for one Cardinal. Mark got into the game but went 0 for two at the plate. It was his major league debut, and it was great to see – as well as watch his proud older brother.
So there it is two near perfect nights in our two largest cities. It is good to know all does not have to be fixed in the Keystone state, but a lot sure does, and I will get back on the job next column. Until then be radical, be practical and most of all…Rock the Capital.
TRP, C5, September 2010
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