Friday, September 9, 2011

Wednesday night was a rare fun evening at PNC Park for Yours Truly

I haven't had much luck going to Pirates games lately. The last time I truly enjoyed myself at the old ballpark was way back in September of '07 when I took in a game with my uncle. He won the seats at work, and they were right behind home plate. The food was free, and the Pirates beat-up on the Milwaukee Brewers; it doesn't get much better than that.

I didn't go to any games in 2008 because I made a promise to myself not to go to any more baseball games until MLB corrected the economics of their sport.

I had started dating my current girlfriend before the start of the '09 season and my self-imposed ban at MLB games only lasted that one season. When you have a girlfriend, she expects you to do stuff, and that even includes attending Pirates games.

I don't know if breaking my promise caused me bad karma or what, but I just couldn't have a good time at Pirates games with my girlfriend.

Our first game was "Buck Night" in April of '09. Ross Ohlendorf was pitching, and I came up with a clever "Dorf on Pitching" Tim Conway rip-off slogan for the occasion. I didn't make a sign or anything, but I did keep yelling it out. Dorf didn't pitch that well, it started to rain midway through, and we left by the 5th inning.

About a month later, my girlfriend surprised me by taking me to the park for my birthday. The Pirates managed to win this game, but it rained so much that we left well-before it was over.

Last season, we attended maybe the most boring game of the season on a Monday night in early August against the Reds. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure they only had one hit and were shut out by Cincinnati. On the way home from the game, I wound up in a lane I wasn't supposed to be in and somehow managed to find myself in the Rivers casino indoor parking garage (I wasn't drinking, by the way). I was pretty angry by the time we got home.

Needless to say, it was the only game we attended in 2010; pretty fitting for a 57-105 season.

Being an optimist, I decided to purchase tickets for the 2011 home-opener. Ah yes, the home-opener. A sure sign of spring. Hope was in the air. The Pirates lost, 7-1. On the way home, I was so angry about the traffic-jam I was in, I started pounding on my own car-door. I'm pretty sure I scared the crap out of my girlfriend.

At the end of May, I went to a Wednesday afternoon game with my girlfriend and my brother. The Pirates were playing the Braves, and even though they got off to their usual "Tony Defeo must be attending this game with his girlfriend" horrible start, the Pirates rebounded to tie the game and had the winning run on 3rd base in the bottom of the 9th inning. Steve Pearce was up--I believe the Braves intentionally walked the bases full in-order to get to Pearce--and I was feeling pretty good about the situation. My brother and I were standing up, waiting to raise the Jolly Roger. But just as we were about to raise it, Pearce grounded into a double-play, and the Braves went on to win, 4-2, in 11 innings. So in 29-innings dating back to '10, my girlfriend and I had witnessed the Pittsburgh Pirates score a grand-total of three runs.

On the way out of the stadium, the vocal Braves fans were annoying me, and on the drive home, traffic kicked my ass again. It was at that time that I vowed never to go to another game again.

But I still had a girlfriend and knew that I would break my promise, once again. Well, that time came this past Wednesday night. I was expecting the worst. I thought we were cursed.

I figured we would have a hard time finding a parking spot, but we found one just a few blocks away.

I figured we'd be late because my girlfriend was running behind, but we got to our seats in section 316 before the first pitch was thrown.

I figured the view wouldn't be great in section 316 and that we'd be cramped in our seats like the home-opener, but the view is great in section 316 ($16 tickets), and since football season has officially arrived, the park was pretty empty.

I figured the concession-lines would still be crowded, but they weren't and we walked right up and bought our hot dogs and popcorn with ease (you have to buy food when you go with your girlfriend. It's like the law or something).

I figured the game would suck after the Pirates fell-behind, 3-0, to the Astros in the top of the first inning thanks to back-to-back home runs, but Andrew Mccutchen answered with a home run of his own in the bottom of the first inning to make it 3-1.

I figured the Pirates would get blown-out when the Astros hit another homer to make it 4-1, but after a long-talk between the Astros pitcher and pitching coach in the bottom of the 5th inning (probably one of those "be careful with this guy" meetings)Andrew hit the first pitch he saw right down the left-field line for a three-run shot to make it 4-4.

I was kind of figuring (hoping) Cutch would hit his third home run later in the game and repeat what he did in 2009 against the Washington Nationals (right after that home run, I jumped off my couch because I couldn't beleive it, and when I sat back down, my girlfriend tickled me and I accidentally kneed her in the head and she hated me), but Cutch would not repeat his '09 performance on this night, even if my girlfriend did tickle me again (this time I was in-control of my reflexes and didn't knee her in the head).

I figured it was just a matter of time before the Pirates gave this game away, but I was pleasantly surprised when Jason Jaromillo drove in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 8th-inning, even if he did get caught in a run-down that eventually resulted in a double-play when both he and Doumit were tagged out (I certainly wasn't surprise when two-Pirates catchers managed to get caught in a run-down at the same time).

I figured Joel Hanrahan would make me sweat-out the top of the 9th-inning, but jumped up and down when he sent the Astros home, 1-2-3.

All-in-all, one of the most pleasant nights out at the ballpark in many years, and I'm really glad I didn't go tonight.

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