Reporting Rick Dayton
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pitt basketball fans will tell you how the Oakland Zoo is the sixth man for their home games. The Steelers have long had a 12th man for games at Three Rivers and now at Heinz Field.
But rarely are baseball fans mentioned as a factor in their team’s performance on the field — until last night.
“It’s an amazing night. I always say I really think it started with the crowd. I really think it started with our atmosphere,” Andrew McCutchen said.
Hours before the game, the place was coming unglued and the seams nearly burst in the bottom of the second when the Pirates struck first.
Out of nowhere, fans chanted the Reds’ pitchers’ name. “Cueto, Cueto.” Then he dropped the ball — and Russell Martin dropped a bomb.
“I’ve never seen nothing like that. Dropping the ball and then first pitch homer. No, that’s what happens when you get the ‘Burgh into it,” A.J. Burnett said.
Before the players wiped the champagne from their eyes, they started to realize what they just saw.
“Looked like they did the job tonight. I don’t know if they frustrated Cueto because it was weird with them chanting his name, but it was amazing what they were doing tonight,” Marlon Byrd said.
Even those who’ve been around Pittsburgh for a while, like hitting coach Jay Bell who was here in the hay day of the 90s, tipped their caps.
“This is the first time in my career that I have seen a 10th man in the stadium. To see 44,000 strong plus the group of fans that were out there on Clemente Bridge, it certainly was extraordinary,” Bell said.
Newcomer Justin Morneau isn’t ready for it to end.
“Hopefully, it continues for the whole month of October and it’s a good run and we give these fans more to cheer about,” Morneau said.
“This is awesome. This is what we have been working so long for. This is a great group of guys here and this is obviously just the beginning, but it’s a great place to start,” Neil Walker said.
The next chapter begins with Game 1 against the St. Louis Cardinals at 5 p.m. Thursday.