A group of passionate, swashbuckling fans can be found at the top of the Rotunda at PNC Park during just about every Pittsburgh Pirates home game. This rowdy group, decked out in literal Pirate gear, is known as the Renegades of the Rotunda. Whether they are shown on your television screen or heard singing and cheering while you’re at the ballgame, the Renegades do not go unnoticed.
If you would happen to notice these guys at a Pittsburgh Pirates game, you might think they are a bunch of drunk, crazy, weird dudes who are wearing Halloween costumes to a baseball game. Although that may very well be true, these guys embrace it and make the game day experience so much better. Also, the act doesn’t just include yelling from the rotunda. These guys do so much for the community and they all love giving back.
While the baseball world is still on hold, it’s time to shift the focus towards a different group of Pirates for a change. In an interview with Chris Miller, leader of the Renegades, we talked about all sorts of things that will make you realize just how awesome this group of Pittsburgh Pirates fans are.
First of all, can you tell me how this group of “Renegades” came together? How did it get started?
“The Renegades, as a group, started in 2014. I had been going to games in my pirate stuff for a while, and people really responded well to it. It was a mid-September game when I asked a group of friends if they’d be interested in joining me on a Sunday afternoon- and a shockingly large amount of people said yes. The joke was always that the Renegades were my best bad idea ever. The rest, as they say, is history.”
How long has this been going on? Can you explain what your first game was like as member of the Renegades?
“Since starting in 2014, we’ve added and lost a few members, but almost a dozen people showed up to the first game. The most we ever had at game was 15, and I gotta tell you, that’s a LOT of beer-drinking pirates on the rotunda. The first game included a tailgate, and we had quite a few people on their way into the game stop and say hello. This was during the Pittsburgh Pirates postseason stretch, so they had much more energetic crowds- people were coming up to party the whole time.”
Who is the coolest person that you got to meet throughout this journey and why?
“Dallas Braden. Hands down. He was working with ESPN doing their Monday Night Baseball broadcasts, and he made it a point to spend half an inning with us. He signed autographs, took a ton of photos with everyone, and I don’t remember why it happened, but I have a photo of him dancing with my mother. Great dude, great ambassador for the game, and, probably because of me, he got laid off the day after he did the broadcast with us. (Sorry, 209!) I still keep in touch with him- he’s a real one.”
What is your favorite memory not related to a game itself?
“I mean, it was AT a game, but not part of the game itself. I won the 2016 MLB Fan of the Year Award and they had the Pirate Parrot hand me a Louisville Slugger between innings. I have wanted my very own bat since I was 6 years old, and I finally got one when I was 30.
Aside from that, we hosted a fundraiser for our buddy Jason Rollison who was diagnosed with cancer mid-season. Unfortunately, Jason lost that battle six days before the event, but his wife, friends, coworkers, and I agreed that Jason would have wanted the show to go on- so we collected all of the money for his widow. We had a DJ, a ton of food, people donated so much stuff for raffles and giveaways- it was a blast. I miss Jason terribly, especially in times like this. I feel sorry for the people that will never get the opportunity to meet him, because he was just that special. Constantly going out of his way to help people, no matter what. Great, great dude.”
What is the best game you have ever been in attendance for?
“My personal favorite was the come-from-behind walk-off Josh Bell double to seal the five-game sweep of the Brewers. Not the best season, but that game was WILD. It started to rain, but there was a runner on and the game was in extras, so the umps weren’t gonna call it. When Bell hit that ball, lightning struck over the batter’s eye. It was like something out of a movie. I went to four of those five and they were all fun.
I wasn’t in my Renegade stuff, but the best game has to be the 2013 Wild Card Game. In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t mean a whole lot, but MAN what a night that was. People were jumping off of the Clemente Bridge, climbing telephone poles, it was like Mardi Gras. We partied in the street until 3 AM. People were buying cases of beer from the bars and just handing them out. God, that was fun.”
What is your funniest story as a member of the Renegades?
“Some guy called 911 in the Pirates-Cubs Wild Card game because we were cheering too loud. I have never seen a police officer look more confused in my life.”
What are the interactions you’ve had with some Bucco’s players like?
“Honestly? They’ve all been great. Every single guy has responded to it and had a laugh with us. We don’t take ourselves very seriously, and they all dig that. We’ve helped some of the guys with their charity stuff, so it’s always cool that they wanted us to give them a hand. Also, it’s weird when a ballplayer asks if it’s cool to take a selfie.
We’re also fairly popular with the players’ families, especially the out of towners. Richard Williams, Trevor’s father, is the nicest dude in the entire world and he has one hell of a pirate growl. During the games, I’ve got a few drinking buddies from the wives and girlfriends.
You’ve also got to remember that I’m a bartender in a restaurant that’s pretty close to the ballpark- so I’ve been able to get to know these guys on a pretty personal level.”
In your opinion, who is one current player that would fit right in as a member of the Renegades?
“You mean now that John Jaso retired?
That’s a tough question. Colin Moran definitely has the look. He’s a large dude with a large beard. I think Steven Brault would make a great Renegade, we usually sing drinking songs, and he’s got the pipes for it. Honestly, if any of them decide to stop playing baseball and start watching it, I’ll save them a spot on the rail.”
It definitely does not go unnoticed that you do a lot of good things for the community, can you tell me a little bit about those things?
“We’ve done some events with Best Buddies local chapter at Duquesne, and they are always a blast. Best Buddies is a program that helps pair developmentally disabled young men and women with a volunteer “buddy”. In fact, the young man that introduced us to the program is now the Duquesne ambassador.
We’ve done appearances for Project 34, Trevor Williams organization that he started with his former ASU teammate Cory Hahn, who was paralyzed in a game when he slid head-first into 2nd base. We got to hang out with some of the recipients of the grants that they provide to young adults who suffered catastrophic spinal cord injuries- really inspiring young people, every single one of them. That includes Trevor and his wife, Jackie, who couldn’t have been more appreciative.
Last year, we hosted a blood drive with the American Red Cross and collected enough donations to save 105 lives. A friend of the Renegades, and now an official member, Charles “Boot” Jetter has championed blood donation (his newborn children required transfusions as infants and he has been passionate about it ever since) and he actually sponsored one the week of every 2016 Steelers road game in each city that they visited. I think I’m most proud of the blood drives because I have a crippling fear of needles, and I have yet to pass out when I donate. Oh, and I ran the Yinzer 5k for Light of Life in 2017 in all of my pirate stuff and I totally cheated. Listen, I was wearing 20 pounds of clothes and boots AND I’m a pirate- no way was I playing by the rules. Also, I know how it takes it to regrow a toenail after one falls off while you run a 5k in knee-high leather boots, so I got that goin’ for me.”
Lastly, what is the one thing you miss the most about Pittsburgh Pirates baseball?
“You know what I miss the most? And it’s gonna sound weird to people who don’t go to a lot of games, but I miss the smell. Baseball games have a unique smell, and I miss it. And it smells different during day games, because the concrete is hot. I haven’t missed a Sunday afternoon baseball game since 2011, so this is especially weird for me.
I also miss peanuts, but that seems less poetic.”
I would like to conclude this fun piece with another shout out to these guys, and Chris in particular. Baseball needs people like this. Everyone needs people like this.
Thank you Chris and thank you to the rest of the Renegades for making baseball fun and making the world a much happier place.
Follow the Renegades on social media!
Facebook: Renegades of the Rotunda