Although the Steelers preseason is in full swing, the only games in this city that matter right now are being played by Pirates.
On a recent trip to PNC Park, I took my customary trip up to my seats, but this time it was different. For the first time, I had a press pass — a golden ticket to infiltrate what I always romantically viewed as an enclave of stodgy, cigar-smoking men in suits drinking whiskey and pounding away on typewriters. The stodgy old men are still there, but there’s no smoking in PNC Park, they’re writing on laptops and tablets, and they’re drinking bottled water.
In my excitement, I arrived two-and-half hours before the first pitch. Manny Sanguillen’s barbecue grill wasn’t even hot yet, and the rich folks who sit in the Lexus seats behind home plate had not even begun to arrive. These are the “good seats.” People in these seats are thrown peanuts and Cracker Jacks without even asking someone to buy it for them. Rich people are always looking for a handout. A fine-mustachioed gentleman in a vintage Pirates uniform, who looks like he comes from the bare-knuckles era of boxing, when pugilists struck intimidating poses with both arms outstretched and their fists curled up at the end, just throws free food to the corporate set.
Ballpark fare for me consists of getting my niece or nephew to hook me up with $1 food from the Buckaroos food stand for kids. Or burying a $3 hot dog in nacho cheese and jalapenos intended for the slightly more well-to-do nacho eaters. But this day featured free eats — the press box offers unlimited potato chips and pretzels. Advantage: Me.
Watching the game from the press box is quite an adjustment. When Gregory Polanco picked a Bryce Harper smash off the wall and fired a dart to Neil Walker to throw the smug superstar out at second, I had to fight my instinct to cheer. It’s like watching a game in a library. But in a library, the chances of sitting right behind Kent Tekulve are pretty slim.
Good ole Teke! The man who threw the final out the last time the Pirates won it all, 36 long summers ago. We’re darn lucky to still have him around. Some towns don’t have a treasure like Teke. For instance, if the Cubs’ postgame broadcast wanted the guy who threw the last pitch the last time they won a championship, they’d be screwed. That guy probably died of typhoid fever in 1938.
Fortunately, in Pittsburgh we don’t have that problem. Nor do we have to endure endless summers losing in the best stadium in baseball. The Pirates beat the Nationals on this night and remain firmly entrenched in a playoff race. I’d write about what Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle said about that big win at his postgame press conference but, not knowing media protocol, I didn’t get my recorder close enough to tape him. I did my best to remember what he said. But needless to say, I could not remember what he said.
And I know what you’re thinking, here we are in the second week of this column and the guy from the cheap seats is already leaving the nosebleeds and moving on to a better location in the ballpark. But the way I look at it, I sat up high and mooched free snacks. I think technically, they were still the cheap seats.
Mike Wysocki is a standup comedian and member of Jim Krenn’s Q Morning Show each weekday morning on Q92.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @ItsMikeWysocki