The Almost-Official Guide: Pittsburgh Pirates 22nd Annual PirateFest


We are a fan

of the new PirateFest dates the Pittsburgh Pirates selected this year.  Some of you hate it and your reasons make perfect sense.   Change always sucks.

The event will be Saturday from 10am to 7pm  and noon to 5pm on Sunday.  The season ticket holders exclusive event will be held on Friday night.

We simply think the tie in with the holiday season makes total sense.  Having an event in January with people getting that first credit card bill in the mail was suicide.   Sure people showed up for all the Pirates merch, but how much were they truly spending?  Let’s never forget Bob Nutting is running a business from the Federal Street headquarters.  (Can we ever forget that fact?)

Tickets are $12 for adults and $4 for kids under 14.  You can grab them at the Pirates site, or get them at the Convention Center.

It does make the selling window for tickets a bit longer, but we think the trade off will be benefical.

DO: Be certain to see some of your favorite players like Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Joel Hanrahan, Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez, James McDonald, Daniel McCutchen, Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens, Chris Resop, Brad Lincoln, Alex Presley, Michael McKenry, Clint Barmes, and Rod Barajas.

DON’T: Forget to pay attention to 93.7 The Fan, the new radio home of the Pirates.  It will be rather easy to determine who will be doing the coverage of the team this year.

DO:  Make sure your phone is charged up.  Follow the event on twitter to see if the Pirates do anything cool like giveaways.  And it’s a great way to catch up with your twitter friends too.

DON’T:  Park near the Convention Center.  Cheaper alternatives are available a few blocks away.  Follow the ParkPgh link for some suggestions

DO:  Be certain you bring something to do while standing in line, especially if your kids are with you.

DON’T:  Miss out on the ‘Lost Treasures’ section which will have game used merchandise section.  Don’t forget to stop by and see Tim Williams who will be selling his new Pirates Prospects Guide.

DO:  Dress the kids for action.  There will be the KDKA Field where Pirates coaches give some very good instruction.  Seven Springs will also have a rock climbing wall and other activities for the monsters.

DON’T:  Drink like a madman the night before you go.  The Central Blood Bank will be there and the holidays are a great time to donate blood.

DO:  Dig around for some old Pirates memorabila this week.  The Pirates veterans on hand are quite impressive including Doug Drabek, Kent Tekulve, Chico Lind, and Spanky Lavalliere.  If you forget or can’t find it, there is a table that sells pictures, but often they run out so be sure to grab them up quick.

DON’T:  Eat anything inside the Convention Center.  Here is a link to a map with tons of great alternatives within a ten minute walk from PirateFest.  Unfortunately, the event doesn’t even have a cool place to just relax. (Unless youre a season ticket holder)  So if you want to eat some real food or catch sports you’re out of luck.  What you will have to do is plan an escape downtown.  Be sure you pick a good break time and go check out some of our favorite establishments.  (If you have any other places to check out that might be a bit closer, be sure to leave it in the comments for others)

6 Penn Kitchen (Sixth and Pennsylvania, 412-566-PENN) has an open kitchen, cocktails and craft beer.  Caribbean Fusion and veggie delights.  Here is their link.

Brillobox (4104 Penn Avenue, 412-621-4900) is not in the Strip, but it’s rather easy to get over there.  Brillobox has absolutely great beer selection, cocktails, and of course a very cool scene.

Eleven is with the bigburrito company.  I’ve never been inside, but have heard great things.  Here is their link.

DON’T:  Forget your iPod, earplugs, or Sony Walkman.  The Bucs are holding a singing contest this year for an opportunity to sing the National Anthem.  All I can picture is SKARYaraoke night.

DO: Pay close attention to the schedule.  If you manage your time wisely, it’s impossible not to see everybody you want to see.  It might be necessary to prioritize, but it can be done.

DON’T:  Forget to bring a bag to take home all of the merch you will accumulate.  This is especially true if you don’t park inside the Convention Center.  Walking back and forth to your vehicle a few blocks away will get tiresome.

DO:  Make certain that you read these comments from last year after PirateFest.  Look, most everyone loves PirateFest.  Are there things that could better?  Sure there is.  Be sure to document it as I know for a fact that the Pirates organization reads this garbage we write.  Your comments last year were tremendous…here are two favorites:


This was our first Piratefest, so I really have nothing to compare it to… all in all, we had a nice time and will definitely go back next year.

Here are some random thoughts/observations:

1. I’m really glad we went to three Caravans earlier in the week for autographs… because we didn’t even consider standing in that ridiculous line at Piratefest! Just didn’t seem worth the time, when there was a huge chance you’d miss the Pirate you most wanted to meet anyway. Surely there’s a better way to handle the “Autograph Party!”

2. Was a little disappointed with the games, for a few different reasons. First of all, the lines were ridiculously long. Second of all, the prizes were lame. We left Piratefest with three bags full of stuff that we already had at home (from attending the games last season)… how many Andrew McCutchen photo wraps and Pirates water bottles does one family need?? I think it would’ve been nice to have a few “new” and different things available. Also, after paying almost $50 for my family of four to get in to Piratefest, it kind of irked me that we then had to shell out $1 or $2 for each silly game (only to win stuff we already had). Seriously… they should’ve just given that crap away!!

3. By far, my favorite part of Piratefest was the Q&A sessions and the games that were held on the Stage. My husband commented that next year we could just hang out at the Stage all day, and not waste our time (and money) wandering around the rest of the room.

I don’t think Piratefest was a total disappointment, but I do think there’s definitely room for improvement

LethalShine had this to say

This was my first Piratefest so I do not have any past experience to judge this one. I am kind of embarrassed to say I drove 7 hours from NC to go to this. I was expecting more. I would agree it needs more space. When the team starts winning, the crowd will only get larger. They do need more tables. My 11 year old had to sit on the floor to eat his pizza. They need to rearrange the main stage as you mentioned and add more seating. I also think it would be nice to have more food vendors and activities to do. Waiting in line for 30 minutes to spin a wheel to win a leftover gameday give away isn’t the greatest thing in the world to do.

I also think they need to make the players more available. It would also be nice to get more players involved, whether it be off the MLB roster, 40 man, or recent draft picks. It is the one time a year to meet the players and to do so you have to wait in line two hours to meet two current players and one past player. I think they should at least have two seperate autograph areas with several players at each area to split the crowd up and limit to one autograph. Seems like a lot of people had several items to be signed. You want more than one thing signed?  You had to get back in line.

Just to me the overall feel seemed like just a random company get together where the office people put together some cheap games to play to distract us from how hard it was to meet an actual player.

I do have some positives. I did like both the player and management Q and A. No one was pre screened and anyone was able to ask any question they wanted. It was nice to see the Q & A live instead of reading it online. I also liked the game shows that went on with the players being the host. It gave a small look at there playful side.

Just listening to Clint Hurdle talk was well worth the trip and the 11 year old had a great time and wants to go back. I think it was just the overload on beach towels that won him over though, lol.

Flashback to last year:

Here is what we had to say along with some thoughts for this year.

* The 2011 PirateFest had its best attendance ever.  Cool.   We predict the event this weekend will set new records.  So the best advice you will get is to arrive early.

**Renegotiate the contract with David L. Lawrence.  Make them cough up more meeting space on a complimentary basis.  Seriously….what convention is coming to the Burgh the third week in January.  This weekend, the rooms next to the space used for PirateFest were empty.  Why not call them up and add those in for 2012?

Obviously the event won’t be held in January, but the bottom line is that more space is needed.  We trust the Pirates took our advice. The additional space has several uses:

1.   Expanded seating.  You might remember our tweets of tons of people sitting on the floor to eat.  It was stupid.

2.  More space will improve the navigation of PirateFest, as the lines can be outrageous.  More space will widen those aisles up.

3.  More vendors could attend.

**  The owners of the minor league clubs should spice up their booth.  Perhaps have merchandise, uniforms or here is a crazy idea, video of the ballpark!

**  Is it against the rules to have minor league players at the minor league booths?

**  Drop a rope when it’s apparent that people in the back of the line aren’t going to make it for the autograph…or designate a number of autographs…..reading some of the Tweets and facebook posts about fans being stood up for autographs sucked.

**  Why couldn’t Pirates fans attend PiratesFest virtually?  We still think getting all of the quality content–the interviews, the player interaction, and the dynamics of PirateFest to the fanbase via a medium that can be viewed on cell phones is crucial.  Everyone is on the move.  TV, radio, print doesn’t do it.  Drive it to new media.

** We believe the location of the main stage is strange.  It’s in the corner which from a sheer location standpoint creates inherent problems.  Move that stage front and center.  It would allow people standing in line something to enjoy rather than staring at the back of an Ian Snell jersey for 90 minutes.

**  If changes are made with the attendees in mind, PirateFest can continue to grow behind anyone’s wildest dreams.  But if it’s kept status quo such as people sitting on the floor to eat while adjacent meeting space lies empty, someone needs their head examined.