(Sunday Paper, Volume I, Issue 8)
I expected to enjoy my trip to Pittsburgh last weekend for many reasons, including:
The trip was centered around baseball at PNC Park, and having been there 11 years ago I knew how amazing it was and I was sure I wouldn't be disappointed.
My favorite color is yellow, and that color dominates the city.
The waterfronts are beautiful. I love the bridges. (They're so yellow!) It's a city that's easy on the eyes...my eyes, anyway. (Just look at that bridge there. Beautiful. That's the Roberto Clemente Bridge right outside of PNC Park.)
But I didn't expect to LOVE Pittsburgh as much as I did.
This week we'll depart a little from our typical Sunday Paper format and go a little more photo album-y as I take you inside just why, if only for one weekend, Pittsburgh became "The City Where Dreams Come True".
Quick background: my friend Kevin (I've mentioned him before - he's my friend with the photoshopping skills that created graphics for my old blog and will be working on new ones for this one) lives in South Carolina. We were going to visit him this summer as a family, but since my wife was doing so much work traveling this summer (and turning one of those trips into a mini-vacation) we instead settled on a ballpark trip for Kevin and I. So we kind of slapped together a last-minute Pittsburgh trip. And I'm pretty sure karma was telling us we made the right choice. One good thing after another happened to us pretty much immediately after our planes touched down.
Turned out my gate was right next to Kevin's, so we met at the airport and took a taxi to the hotel together. On the way there were street closures and we could tell something big was happening. We asked around and found out Pittsburgh was celebrating its bicentennial, and there was a big parade. (I liked the bicentennial logo, too, which you see there at the left. Sharp, no?) So after early check-in (this worked out well, too, though I am hesitant to chalk it up to more good luck), we went out to explore the parade. Through a series of "let's go this way and check this out" random decisions we found ourselves face-to-face with the zamboni from the Penguins' arena...which thrilled us. Until we got closer and saw that behind the zamboni was the Stanley Cup!!!! It was a no-doubter that between the two of us Kevin was going to snap the selfie, so we quickly moved in and took a picture.
I only have a couple of regrets here - everyone was so relaxed around the Cup (98% of the parade crowd had no idea it was there) that I probably could have picked it up. At the very least I could have touched it. But I don't know - there's a certain reverence I have for it that I didn't feel like I earned it. (They might let you handle it at the Hockey Hall of Fame...not sure. I'll find out one day.) Also, I should have just kept my glasses on for the picture. Or put my contacts in before we explored. I don't like the way my eyes look in this picture.
A bunch of guys were standing around behind the Cup, indicating to people who came over that it was OK to take pictures and such. There was a police car, so I assumed some of them were police officers...but a couple of them had to be members of the Penguins. But I have no idea. Should've probably taken a picture of some of them to try to identify later.
We couldn't really top seeing the Stanley Cup so we called it a parade and spent the rest of the day hanging out near the ballpark. (But the float that caused us to head in the direction of the Stanley Cup, because I couldn't resist the replica bridge, ended up spending the rest of the weekend right outside our hotel. So I got to take a picture with a replica of one of my favorite Pittsburgh locations!)
I like to explore these newer ballparks so I usually get there when the gates open. Luckily Kevin is like-minded in this department. We were feeling so good about our lucky streak that we actually stated "Let's go watch batting practice and get ourselves a home run ball." I think you know what happened next.
And I only had to push past three little kids! (Just kidding. There was no one else around. Also, I did not catch the ball on the fly. It bounced right into a garbage pail and I picked it up...amazingly, back when I visited Pittsburgh in 2005, almost the exact same thing happened to my brother-in-law. I remembered when I went through the archives of my old baseball blog to see my thoughts on Pittsburgh then. Still pretty appropriate 11 years later, if you're interested in reading those thoughts. Also, what I like about that link - it was one of my ballpark reviews from before I had digital picture abilities...and the biggest difference is that this time around I ate a delicious hot dog at the ballpark. Two, actually. And I fell in love with the local beer - Iron City Light.)
I hope I haven't bored you yet with my shot-by-shot account of my mini vacation (all that's missing is one of those round projectors with the slides) - I'll finish in quick-hitter bullet point style:
*On Sunday morning when we went to get a coffee we walked past Cubs manager Joe Maddon in Market Square. I don't like pestering people for pictures, especially in a quiet moment before a big game for his team (the Cubs were slumping big-time before winning Sunday's game), so we were satisfied to stare at him as he walked past....on his way into Dunkin' Donuts. I like that guy a lot. (Also worth noting - ate dinner Sunday night at Primanti Brothers in Market Square. Grilled pastrami. Delicious.)
*On Monday morning before leaving town we did a PNC Park tour. It was great. Clubhouse, field, press box, luxury box...made me realize I definitely have to do a Citi Field tour at some point with the girls.
*We stayed in a hotel in Point State Park, which is right at the confluence of the three rivers that made Pittsburgh such an important city. (I think? We didn't spend much time on the history other than to know it became a city 200 years go.) A really beautiful spot. I kind of went a little panorama-crazy on my phone because the city is so picturesque...so below I put one of the confluence site (you can see Heinz Field, the Science Center, and PNC Park if you look hard enough) and one of PNC Park, which I think, with the bridge backdrop, is the most beautiful park in the game.
*Last note about Pittsburgh - I had such a good time I'm already thinking about going back...turns out the Jets are playing the Steelers at Heinz Field on Columbus Day weekend.
*We'll get back to the regular Sunday Paper format next week. I really love that I'm back to writing something like this regularly - Thanks for reading and giving me a reason to write it.