Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day: The Fun Begins


Mar 31, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; The Pittsburgh Pirates stand for the national anthem before playing the Chicago Cubs in an opening day baseball game at PNC Park. The Pirates won 1-0 in ten innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Take me out to the ball game

Wait. Maybe the legendary Vince Lascheid can do this more justice.

Ah, yes, the Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day is here. The smell of the grass. The crack of the bat. The taste of pine tar.

Hey, get that out of your mouth.

Finally, nothing else matters. Every spring training essay, editorial, blog, status update, Tweet, opinion, statistical breakdown, and observation is as pointless as a desk fan in a windstorm, or a cooler at the North Pole, or seeking a willing trade partner for Jose Tabata.

Buster Olney predicted the Pittsburgh Pirates to win the World Series. So what? Albert Einstein predicted that nuclear energy would never be obtainable. The New York Times predicted that a rocket would never leave the Earth’s atmosphere. Variety Magazine predicted rock n’ roll would die in 1955.

Until April 6, every post on Rum Bunter may as well be written in the sand near the crashing waves. The Big Tuna thinks the Pirates’ starting rotation will be as strong as any in the National League. Jim Tufexis says that Starling Marte will be an MVP candidate. Jon Anderson likes Corey Hart’s projected power in PNC Park.

Okay. Great.

High tide comes Opening Day.

Take me out with the crowd

PNC Park comes alive on Opening Day.

If you press your fingers into the wrist of the bronze Roberto Clemente on Federal Street, you’ll swear you feel a pulse. Nearby, a larger-than-life Willie Stargell emerges from a cold hibernation to great fans as Pops again. Around the corner and down the street, maybe, just maybe, Maz won’t be the only Pirate rounding the bases as a winner in October.

An old fan prays for one last World Series winner before his time has passed. He thinks this might be the year –“dear god let this be the year.” A fathers point out Andrew McCutchen to his son. A young fan — daydreaming only of a scoop of ice cream in a plastic batting helmet and to see the Pirate Parrot up close — will someday point out the next Pirates great to his son, and pray for one last World Series before his time has passed.

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack

…and a $9 Miller Lite pounder, and an 18 pound container of nachos smothered in cheese, and a slab of beef off the grill puffing smoke beyond the left center field wall so Manny Sanguine will sign my baseball.

I don’t care if I never get back

Full disclosure: I do care if I get back. Imagine being locked inside a baseball park for the rest of your life. You’d have to live off discarded sunflower seeds from the dugout floor, and infield sprinkler water.

But in the moment, man…

In the moment, a Neil Walker Opening Day walk-off home run in the 10th inning to break a 0-0 tie…

You might forget yourself until the fireworks stop exploding. You might high-five a stranger you’d otherwise curse if he cut you off in traffic. You might not realize there’s a great big world outside of PNC Park.

You might lose yourself in a timeless moment, of a jubilation so fleeting.

Let me root, root, root for the home team

At PNC Park, rooting for the home team is merely a matter of degree. Most fans fit into one of the following categories.

The Whatevers — Just there for the vintage Bob Walk bobblehead, or the AGH beach towel, or a bachelorette party, or the Fan Jam Train concert, or, you know, whatever. A dying breed since The Streak ended.

The Common (foot-long hotdog) Feeder — Wears a Pirates tee-shirt, or Pirates cap, or both, and cheers appropriately. Causes little or no disturbance to surrounding fans. Likely to take part in the wave, but never start it.

The Buc’n Arsehole — Typically either drunk, or too drunk. Gets wildly overexcited about the most insignificant on-field achievement, or obnoxiously criticizes every booted ball. Shouts things like “Jordy Mercer is a bum,” or “woo” in the late innings of a Tuesday night blowout. There ain’t no party like a tailgate party ’cause a tailgate party don’t stop.

The Mascot — A mascot for the fellow fans in his section. Cameramen seek him out for a pre-commercial break fade out. Sometimes granted his own segment on the Titon-Tron — usually involving him dancing alone in the aisle — during inning breaks. Popular during rain delays. Totally sober — a controlled crazy. Most likely to start the wave.

The “What the WTF?” Fan — Name derived from what another fan –typically a Common Feeder — quietly utters to himself upon seeing this fan. For example: When taking a bathroom break, a grown man — dressed head-to-toe in a pirate outfit which looks like it may have been robbed from the corpse of Blackbeard himself — suddenly steps to the urinal next door…”What the WTF?”

Still, these fans are totally dope.

If they don’t win it’s a shame

Winning, yes, that’s why I pay attention. Anything else — bar perhaps the frenzied scene of Randall Simon bolting out of the crowd and chop blocking Oliver Onion during the Great Pierogi Race — would be a shame.

Wait, there IS one aspect of Opening Day that rivals the intensity of the game…the fighter jet flyover — that stadium-shaking money shot of awesome timed to coincide with the climax of The National Anthem.

Suddenly, four fighter jets appear above the grandstands like mighty baby phoenixes exploding out of the birth canal of the gods. The roar of twin internal combustion turbojet engines shake your bladder dreadfully near, and possibly a bit beyond, the point of incontinence. Your soul is rendered impotent to its core. You impulsively let go of your chair, and your child, thrusting two fists into the air, pumping them as though you’re beating a hole in the heavens. Every molecule of which your physical body consists screams “SCREW EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE!

This is the point where your life would flash before your eyes, but you haven’t truly lived until this moment.

— from my piece Fighter Jet Flyovers: The Messy Money Shot of Awesome, originally published by Crooked Lullabies & Defenestration Literary Magazine

For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out

Duh! This is just Baseball 101.

Specifically, it’s rule 6.05 (b) in the Major League Baseball Official Rules, 2014 Edition.

At the ooold…

Opening Day.

Every team is tied for first place. Every team is tied for last place.

Andrew McCutchen has the same batting average as Matt Dominguez. Jeff Locke has as many wins as Clayton Kershaw. Clint Hurdle has chewed zero pieces of gum.


Predestination is a myth. Manifest Destiny is a hoax. Fate is void.

Off-season bold predictions begin a slow death.


Baseball lives again.


(and, Let’s Go Bucs!!!)

Next: Who gets the last bullpen spot?