Take Me Out To The Ball Game

MLB (Major League Baseball), National League, Central Division
Pittsburgh Pirates v Atlanta Braves
Tuesday, 19th August 2014, 7.05pm
PNC Park
Entrance $41, Programme $free
Distance 3732 miles, Attendance 27033
I could spend literally hours explaining the joy of watching a ball game (live of course – on TV it would be as dour as any other sport on the planet, professional or recreational) but I doubt many of my countrymen would understand.
140819 MLB Pirates v Braves (35)bDespite tales of baseball originating in England, almost three centuries ago – coincidentally not 20 miles from our front door – it’s really not our game; the major league version doesn’t even come close. There’s no doubt that the variety of stick and ball games all appear connected on some family tree but that ball park really is all-American.
Without much subjective effort, I could easily cast doubt at the alleged superiority of all other American sporting pastimes (and I can’t be alone in this). Most are just adaptations of their forefathers with extra padding – both protective and advertising– and a heavy dose of PR. Weighing up rounders and baseball however, is a real no brainer.
140819 MLB Pirates v Braves (17)bOnce one gets past the oddity of listing the away team before the hosts – with the careful use of an “at” – there is something for everyone. In Pittsburgh there’s also a wonderful building to house it all in.
140819 MLB Pirates v Braves (13)bOur day began in childlike fascination at the brilliance of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater; by nightfall, like our children – clad to the eyeballs in Pirates attire – we floated with delight back to the hotel (Residence Inn, suite room, $240 B&B – literally across the road from PNC Park – in case you’re wondering). The drive in between had been a little more disconcerting.
For many the idea of a rouge satnav taking guided detours through Pennsylvania’s hunting land – dodging severe potholes and the dear skipping across one’s path whilst looking for the “You should’ve bought a squirrel” signs; wondering whether the insurance covered this route or T-Cutting bullet holes in paintwork – then arriving out the other side to a scene of very prominent hand-crafted depictions of the Ten Commandments on beautifully manicured lawns… For me (and I think my wife, the children seemed totally oblivious) it seemed a tad parallel universe.
Anyway, with Foreigner blasting from the radio, we made it to industrial Heinz-town via lovely wife’s old house and school, squirrel hill tunnel and, Aunt Bees friendly truck stop with its fine array of pie.
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There was an age spent in the Pirates club shop and, a stroll in searing heat across the Sixth Street Bridge, before seeing sense and immediately heading back again, as scalpers offered unwanted tickets. Essential snacks were consumed, and then we joined the countless families filling the street, en route to the game.
A tour of the massive open-to-the-field concourse, with its impressive array of food outlets, only prolonged the agony of the children making a choice however, this was easily countered by the fantastic architecture of this giant iron monument with its beautiful view of the sun-kissed city skyline beyond the outfield, and the sights and smells and sense of collective being of this “the people’s game”, where novices, shouting sellers, endless statistical analysis, temporarily blocked views and disruptions seem not to affect anyone’s enjoyment. Of the nine ball parks we’ve visited, Pittsburgh’s really is the finest one in which to spend an evening.

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With the anthem observed and a spent moment commemorating the life of Elmer Gray (1923-2014), it was time to soak up the atmosphere, eat hotdogs and sit back and document the game score impertfectly… (on my phone)
top 1st – fc4.3,K,1b,bb,K – bot 1st fc5.3,f9,K – score 0-0
top 2nd – fc4.3,1b,K,1b 1rbi (with two out1b, steal, pitcher hit to centre), fc5.3 – bot 2nd (3up3down) f7, fc1.3,K – score 1-0
top 3rd – 1b, 1b, HR 3rbi, K, f8, fc6.3 – bot 3rd K,1b, sacbunt fc5.4, fc4.3 – score 4-0
top 4th – 2b, sacbunt fc5.4, 1b 1rbi, f9, bb (pitcher talk, not soon enough), u3 – bot 4th 2b,f9,fc5.3 1rbi,fc6.3 – score 5-1
top 5th – e6,1b,bb,1b 1rbi (new pitcher),k,1b 2rbi,k,bb,1b 2rbi (broken bat), fc1.3 – bot 5th 1b,f6, (steals 2nd) fc6.3,1b1rbi, fc6.4 – score 10-2
top 6th – f9, f9, fc4.3 – bot 6th u3,fc5.3 (McCutchen didn’t even run *groan*), f3 – score 10-2
top 7th – (all I’m off buying a coke) K,f7, fc6.3 – bot 7th 1b, f4,f5,f3 – score 10-2
top 8th – K, f3, fc5.3 – bot 8th K, e6,1b (pitcher chat), dp6.4.3 – score 10-2
top 9th – HR, 2b, f9, K, fc3.1 – bot 9th f8, 2b (big celebration for batter who then needs runner),1b,1b 1rbi, (pitcher rested after an excellent game) lob6-8, f6, fc1.3 – score 11-3

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Even in defeat the gallows humour seemed nonchalant. Afterwards, in the hotel, one visiting/groundhopping (or is it “ballparkhopping”) mother glanced toward her son, and uttered “Never mind, next time we’ll go and watch the Dodgers”. Though the game was determined by a superb Aaron Harang pitching performance, and his equally good at bats, for the visitors – like us they’d clearly all enjoyed their evening.
Granted I cannot keep track of the players, find Quaid’s Rookie puts me to sleep, and “World Series” is a complete misnomer – and it will never replace football in my heart (that’s soccer to those across the pond) – but boy do I love the laidback atmosphere of baseball, live.
Final score: Atlanta Braves (11) at Pittsburgh Pirates (3) or something like that

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