My Boy’s First Pirate Game.


I had waited a long time to take my boy to his first baseball game.   I wish my father and I would have been able to attend a game together.    I remember how much he enjoyed listening to the games on the radio.  He would put the radio on our back porch, crank the volume and we would play in the yard.  It is hard to even imagine how great it would have been to take my Dad along with us today.

Our family packed up and headed to Pittsburgh this morning.  Our son, Brody, is not very keen on professional baseball.  Times have certainly changed since when I was his age.  I was just starting to get interested in the Bucs when I was five.  My first game at Three Rivers didn’t happen until I was a teenager.  Same as with my wife Lori, but we thought we would get him started early.

We should have known better.

His knowledge of Pirates baseball consists of only a few things.  He enjoyed Piratefest.  He thinks the Parrot is cool.  He knew today was a Webkinz giveaway (he was amazed that they were free.)  He knows many cool things are sold at ball fields.  And least importantly, to him, is that the Pirates have not done very well in recent years.

I shared with him that this team seems different.  They have been playing well.  He looked at me like he could care less.  But he understands losing and he hates to be a part of it.   His photo at the bottom of the page will be your proof.

Our first stop was to board the Gateway Clipper fleet.  And in a sign of things to come, we just missed Duchess.  Not to worry, we were able to snap a few pictures and talk about our day while we waited for the boat to return.  Little did we know that the boat ride would be his highlight of the day.

As we eventually began to board the boat, my wife and most people in line could certainly hear the not so welcoming sound of, “tickets on the right!”  This man who was on the left of the plank had a counter in his hand.  He didn’t move his other hand when Brody attempted to give him the tickets, he simply said louder, ”tickets on the right!”  Perhaps he suffered from a condition we were not privy too…either way we had a good laugh about it.

As we took in the sights on our boat ride to the park, Brody looked at my wife Lori and said, ‘this is the best day of my life!’   We were off to a great start.

As we got closer to the park,  I attempted to explain to him where I watched my first game, but in all the excitement it was lost on him.  This,after all, was HIS day.

We walked around the outside of the park and at the gate met with one of the finest human beings on the planet.  Pops.  We thanked him for the tickets, he gave us a quick pep talk and we were off to see the game.  As we walked through the turnstile, smiling PNC Park staff greeted us.  I swear nobody in professional baseball has a better trained staff than PNC Park.  Perhaps the Pirates could assist the Gateway Clipper staff?

The Pirate Webkinz was a big hit, but even it couldn’t compare to the grandeur of the best ballpark in the world. Or so I thought.  Brody began to run.  I glanced to see the stand that sold scorecards, but I would have to pass as the boy was pumped and on the move!   The art of scorekeeping will be taught soon enough.

Well, I thought he was running to see the field, but no.  It was just to ride the escaltor.  We have ridden on escalators before, I promise you, but not one as cool as this.  This was the Pirates elevator!

His eyes lit up as he saw the field, but then distraction hit.  The smells of the concession stands, the bright stores filled with delight, the shrill of the vendor screaming…LEMONADE HEREEEE!  (God I love that guy!)  Brody’s head was turning to catch everything.  He smiled from ear to ear.   “Dad, I need a foam finger!”  Ahh, my boy.  He is a Pirates fan.

Soon we were in our seats eating fries, enjoying our first inning together.  Waving the foam finger for the world to see!

That’s when the baseball fun ceased.  Zach Duke didn’t have his best stuff on this day.  He was hit hard and even the outs were hit hard to all parts of the park.  Pirates fans are quick to grumble.  I can’t blame them and there was plenty to grumble about on this day. 

The first inning was not what I had imagined.  This was supposed to be a domination by our new Pirates.  A carefully selected game by my wife and I against the struggling Braves who had lost five in a row.  A win and the Buccos would be two games over .500 for the first time since we opened with three wins against Houston in 2007.   But, it was not to be.  Perhaps, the curtain call after Craig Monroe’s second homerun yesterday had disgraced the Braves?  Perhaps, the Pirates were just, well…who knows.

The 30 pitches it took Duke and the Pirates to escape the first inning was difficult to watch.  He was hit hard.  The next few innings were also not pretty.  Missed cutoffs, errant throws on basic plays, the recurring them of pitchers issuing walks, runners left on base, and lackluster performance all around had us restless.  Brody had completely turned around to watch the wonders of a professional game.  No, not toward the field but back toward the crowd.  Then the words I knew were coming were uttered, “Dad, can I…”

Who am I to say no to my boy?  He needed a break.

It was easy to walk away from the product on the field today.  We began to jog up the stairs toward the concession stands.  We longed for all they had to offer… But for some reason, as the crowd began to collectively murmur, I turned back to take a quick peek at the action.  Brody looked too.  We shouldn’t have bothered.

Brody and I watched as the ball was thrown into centerfield by Duke.  A man who looked old enough to be my father, began to curse.  It looked like he had been doing it for a long time.   I can’t blame him.  I cursed too, on the inside.

We did stop back at the seats to catch a couple more innings as the rain began to fall.  Those lingering clouds just wouldn’t go away on this day.  The ones overhead and also those of the past 16 years.  It was ugly.

The Pirate Parrot made us laugh when he stopped to say hello.  He gave us something to cheer about as we witnessed him borrow some popcorn and start throwing it at the Braves fans (shown in the picture above to the left of the cotton candy) that seemed to take over the park today.

My wife and I  then committed a sin.  We took him to the playground located just inside the right field gate.  There were quite a few parents with children committing the same sinful act.  I wondered if they were all enjoying their first game?  Maybe it wasn’t so sinful after all?  Perhaps this is what happens when the ball club has been so bad for so long?

But you know what?    This wasn’t much different than when I grew up.  I could hear the Pirates over the speaker system.  But now, just as my Dad had watched me play all those years ago in the coal mine town of Osceola Mills as the Pirates game blared, I was watching my boy play.  

And, well, he is pretty good at walking up the slide.

Brody won’t remember the Pirates lost.  Maybe we should just forget the outcome of this game too.

And on this day, I know my Dad would have enjoyed watching Brody play too.  Even more so than his beloved Pirates.  It just wasn’t their day, it was Brody’s day.  And he had a great one.