PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — In more ways than one, the resurgence of the Pittsburgh Pirates has energized Western Pennsylvania.
With PNC Park filling up, sports-talk shows flooded with callers and media outlets concentrated on the Buccos across the country, this town is experiencing what competitive baseball creates for the first time in over a decade.
What does it create?
In a word: excitement.
And that excitment is apparent everywhere.
On Monday night, after a 55-minute rain delay to start the game, PNC Park was still roughly two-thirds full. A good helping of fans even lasted through the second rain delay, nearly 90 minutes long, and stayed until the final out at 11:57 p.m.
They likely stayed because they had to work to get tickets, which have all of a sudden become harder to come by. If nothing else, you have to plan ahead to ensure your seat at a Pirates game, rather than have the ability to waltz up to the box office just minutes before the first pitch.
“We originally planned to just come out to the ballpark before the game and buy tickets, but when we got here today and saw all the people, we decided to order them so we didn’t miss out,” a fan told the Tribune Review Monday night.
Home attendance is up 17 percent from last year at this time with over 1 million people coming out to PNC Park.
More and more people are watching the Pirates on TV as well. Ratings at Root Sports are up 36 percent from last year and 46 percent so far in the month of July.
“The Pirates’ success on the field has translated to a significant increase in the TV game ratings on Root Sports this season,” said Shawn McClintock, senior vice president and general manager of the DirecTV Inc. subsidiary. “The Pirates’ game against the Cubs (on July 9) was the highest rated MLB game of the day and that kind of ratings spike can be directly linked to the play on the field and the flourishing fan support.”
And just as important, local businesses are looking to stock up on Pirates merchandise, as sales this summer have risen dramatically. The Tribune Review sites a 40-45 percent increase in sales at Hometowne Sports, which has three stores throughout the region.
All told, this season has been special. From the experience at PNC Park and the crowds this team draws to the team apparel we buy and how often we watch them play … things are changing.
And for the better.
As a 24-year-old Pittsburgher who was five years old the last time this team was a winner, it sure has been special. I have no conscious recollections of the Pirates ever being good.
I have stories from my father about the glory days in the 1970s. He parked me in front of the TV when I was too young to realize how devastating Sid Bream’s game-winning run was.
I’ve had to slowly and painfully understand what that moment meant over the past 18 years.
This 19th year is different, and I’m loving every minute of it.
Clearly, the rest of you are, too.
Chris Gates | Bucs Blog