Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Walk in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh sits 874 miles, two travel days and one waterpark overdose from the Minneapolis. It seems like a good place for a walk.

• And any good walk in Pittsburgh starts with a bridge, because the city is practically chained down by them to the surrounding area. And, as you might expect, they are old, big, manly bridges, decorated by rivets. They are made of testosterone in the form of pure steel and concrete and nothing else, because what else would need?

This walk starts on Roberto Clemente’s bridge, the one that goes to PNC Park from downtown, spanning the Allegheny river. It is closed down completely a few hours before game time, creating an impropmptu plaza for under-attended Pirates games. It ends at the cornere of the ballpark, in front of the gate where Clemente’s statue stands. It provides one of the most unique pregame approaches to a ballpark in MLB. I’d rank it even above the tailgating that happened at old Milwaukee County Stadium

• Does anyone else out ther feel the road calling to them as they make a big change in their life? I do. It seems to be th perfect way to embrace the change.

When I moved from Minneapolis to Philly to court this girl I had been dating long-distance, I moved my life in a Honda Prelude. When we married and moved back to Minneapolis, we abandoned our careers for 3 months to tour the U.S. When I left my job to start my own business, we road tripped to Cleveland for a wedding, just because we could

There is a shared spirituality about change and road trips. The rules are being rewritten, there is a sense of freedom and adventure in both. The Road Trip is a taste of a larger impending truth. It is a reminder to honor the Start of Things.

• After going to PNC Park yesterday, The Voice of Reason and I ranked our favorite ballparks. By the end of this trip, we will have been to 19 active parks and probably another ten deceased parks, so we’re not rookies.

PNC ranks in my top 3, and it’s near there for TVOR, too. It’s top three attributes are the primary attribute for all great real estate - location, location, location. It is just over the river, from downtown, on the river, at the end of a prototypical Pittsburgh bridge. It has it’s own neighborhood, but is close to downtown, and along a beautiful riverwalk. You would sit in that ballpark for hours - picnic there - just for the view.

And to the Pirates credit, they didn’t screw up that built-in advantage. (The guy I went with states both proudly and lamentably that PNC is the only thing the Pirates have done right in the last fifteen years.) They refrained from adding seating in center field and kept it low in the entire outfield. The background to the ballgame is a river, a bridge, and a sparking downtown skyline.
It’s a place lovers would go to be alone with each other. And, unfortunately for the Pirates that’s reinforced by the sparse attendance on weeknights.) The fans come to spend some time with their team, enjoying each other’s company, and escaping the harsher day-to-day realities.

But I suspect it would be nice if they won, occasionally. We saw the Pirates drop their ninth in a row.

• Even after 17 years of futility, I think I would like to be a Pirates fan. It’s a team with a ton of great history, a fantastic ballpark, and a dedicated fan base that is passionate. That city reminds me of Cleveland in the early 90s - just waiting to have someone to cheer for. They could use a movie like Major League for that team.

It is easy to forget how similar the Pirates were to the Twins through the 90s and up until 2001. Hell, the Twins were likely ranked lower in most people’s minds - it wasn’t Pittsburgh that was scheduled for contraction. I see a team like this, and I wonder how the Twins did it. We like to focus on a struggling team’s mistakes, and they’re valid, but it also tends to go overboard in blaming the victim. The truth seems to be that it isn’t about avoiding mistakes as it is about filling the gaps and having an awful lot go right all at once. And I don’t’ know how that happens.

• Because you asked, here are the list of top MLB ballparks. Load up the Honda Prelude with gas and get busy.

1. Wrigley - Because I feel like I’m back in time 70 years when I walk into that place. Get there 2 hours early for batting practice. Is it holy.

2 & 3. Camden Yards (BLT) and PNC Park - They’re both new, but they both feel older, and they both feel like ballparks and utilize their inherent location advantage. I rank Camden higher right now, but it’s been 10+ years since I’ve been there, so I might be wrong.

4. Fenway (BOS)
5. Dodger Stadium (LAD)
6. Kaufmann Stadium (KC)

I give Fenway the edge, both because of the sense of history and the neighborhood around it. Dodger Stadium is a beautiful place, and I love the 50s-60s Mad Men vibe about it. It might be the most underrated stadium in MLB. I can’t tell you what I love so much about Kaufmann, but it’s similar to Dodger - nice design, has heldup will to history and is valued by it’s team that doesn’t screw with it too much. I just wish the latter two weren’t in the middle of parking lots.

Target Field falls into this group, along with Petco (SD). Coors (COL) might, just because of it’s neighborhood. Possibly Jacobs (CLE), too.

Most overrated - Miller Park. I cannot be happier that Target Field stayed away from a retractable roof after seeing Miller. It feels like you’re watching baseball inside a mall.

Would be #2, but deceased - Tiger stadium. A GREAT old ballpark. I haven’t seen Comerica yet, but I plan on hating it. This is a stadium that should have been saved, ala Kaufmann.


Tomorrow night we’ll be in Philly to watch the Twins and tailgating beforehand. We’ll try and be in the upper left hand corner up of K-lot as early between 4:30 and 5:00. We’ll try to park against the bushes right across the street from the stadium. There's a pedestrian gate right there at the corner of 11th and Pattison. If you can make it, stop by. We’ll try to have a hot dog for you. Also, if you want to contact us, direct message me on my Twitter account.