Citizen’s Bank Ballpark/PNC Park – September 2007
When I asked Ted if he was interested in driving from Philly to Pittsburgh, his only question was “When?”
It was an early flight out of Seattle, and an even earlier wake-up call for me to get over to the airport. I don’t sleep well on flights, so it’s one of those flights that you’re excited for, but dread at the same time. We knew we’d be going pretty much straight to the park when we got there, so I was hoping the adrenaline rush I’d get from the new park would bring a second wind of energy. (The nice thing, is that 9 times out of 10, it does!)
Grabbing the car when we got in and making our way to the park was pretty easy. Unlike some of the other parks around the Major Leagues, Citizens Bank Park is surrounded by a giant parking lot. I reminded Ted we were standing where the old Veterans Stadium was, where they’d relocated old statues to the four corners of the property, which was pretty cool.
After hitting Will Call, we stepped into, which to date, is the best smelling park in baseball. The minute we walked in my stomach growled, and Ted and I looked at each other. It literally smelled like the entire park was ‘fried’. We walked the park and I made sure to touch the brick – I could feel the heat of the afternoon. The entire park is red brick inside and out. It must have cost a fortune, because Seattle only bricked part of Safeco field. (New Busch is another ‘brick hog’.) I’m weird about touching the parks I’m in. If I don’t touch it, it’s almost like I wasn’t really there. I’m the same way with water. I don’t know how it started, but I do it everywhere I go, which Amy likes to mock (nicely).
Pat Burrell made up for a costly error with a 3 run home run, but it wasn’t enough. It was funny how quick Philly fans were to boo everything. One minute they love you, the next minute Booooooooooooo. Everyone likes to say that Philly is the town that booed Santa Claus. I remember it as the city that cheered when Michael Irvin got hurt.
The food at Citizen’s Bank was great – A total gut bomb! Ted and I ate some of everything. We split a cheesesteak w/Whiz and a roasted pork w/Provolone, snagged a big cup of ‘Crab Fries’ (that don’t have crab in them, they’re just spicy seasoned fired with a really awful white cheese sauce,) and last but not least – The Schmitter.
The Schmitter? Beef, salami, provolone, loads of special sauce, and a tomato. Ah yeah. A total gut bomb, but I don’t regret a bite of it!
Getting out of the park is a real cluster. Note to self, park closer to the exit next time. I’ve never seen so many random drivers turning in mass and cutting off entire rows of cars. It’s like entire sections of cars just say “screw it” at once and all pull out without a care. Crazy.
The next day was one of those glass half full or half empty days. Sometimes I need to be better at half full.
It was an easy enough morning. We set out to historic Philadelphia around 8am and took a quick walk through the streets before settling into an open window seat at the Metropolitan Bakery. The old buildings were great to look at, and seeing Washington Park and the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier were both impactful. The park used to be a burial ground for vagrants, criminals, and slaves until the late 1700s when it was used for soldiers. It was eerie thinking about the thousands of buried dead beneath my feet. Independence Hall was really cool. The room were still striking and repainted to match their original colors (a dark tan and green in one room, baby blue in another).
We left plenty of time for the 5hr drive to Pittsburgh, or at least we thought so at the time. Ted had one requirement for our trip to Pennsylvania. He wanted to see some Amish in Lancaster County. Evidently, Lancaster County is a ‘hot bed’ for the Amish, and while we didn’t see any Amish cafes or shops, we did see 2 horse and buggies and I was able to grab a few treats from an Amish roadside stand – Or were they? She used a calculator! (For the record, the treats were really bland, which was a bummer.)
It was smooth sailing until 397W, 15 miles out of Pittsburgh, when we hit a 2 hour, 3 exit detour. Ugh. Talk about complete maddening chaos. The detour took us through countless residential neighborhoods, along with what looked like a true ghetto. I don’t use that word lightly. It was 3 miles of boarded up, broken windows, along with lines of closed and long dead shops. On three different walls, there were the letters RIP with a different name on them.
When we left Philly we’d planned for 5pm. It was 5:25pm when we hit traffic. Then 6pm, 6:30pm, 7pm (Game Time), and beyond. We didn’t arrive at the hotel until almost 8pm, and still had a half mile walk. It’s hard to say I kept my cool. I managed to keep it down to just a few fits of cursing and hand waving, and really did OK considering we were over an hour late for the game at a park I’d been so excited to see. But… Like I said, half full, or half empty.
We stepped into PNC Park at the end of the 3rd inning. Walking across the Roberto Clemente bridge in the dark was cool. All of the lights were reflecting off of the river, and the blue hue of the bridge lights complimented the deep yellow of the bridge. (And oh yeah, I got my Clemente statue giveaway too! They hadn’t run out yet. See? Half full!)
The park itself wasn’t completely what I was expecting. The infield seats were separated from the outfield sections by stairs and escalators, so unlike most of today’s parks, you can’t walk on one level from end to end. The food selection was OK, but compared to Citizen’s Bank the night before, it fell short. I had a Manny’s BBQ. The pork was good with a little zing. I planned on grabbing a Primanti Bros and a few pierogies the next day. (Funny moment. I asked two different vendors where the pierogies were and both of them told me when the race was. No, the ones you eat!)
While the food choices in the park were slim, the outside of the park was an easy rival for Seattle. There were loads of choices and a ton of variety. It seemed like the hub of downtown is a lot closer to the park, which was great.
It was funny walking back to our hotel. Football season was set to start the next day, so all of the vendors on the bridge were selling Steelers gear. There’s no doubt that Pittsburgh is a football city. Maybe next time I’ll hit a Steeler game too. (And root for whoever is playing them. Suck it Steelers.)
It was long night, followed what what be a short sleep, where I wondered if I would ‘live to regret’ the day. But I had to survive it first.