PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Mother Nature couldn’t keep Pittsburgh Pirates fans from attending Monday’s home opener.
“I started skipping school about 43 years ago and haven’t missed [a home opener] yet,” said Pirates fan Rod Greczek.
Greczek has been counting down the days for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ home opener.
“We just love baseball and our buddies get together, 20 to 30 of us, and have a good time,” said Greczek.
It’s a good time, with good food and good friends.
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“We take off work. It’s worth it,” Pirates fan Rachel Richardson said. “For the love of the game and it’s tradition with all my best friends.”
The cold temperatures didn’t stop tailgaters from coming down to the North Shore to play cornhole or have a beer.
“This is only my second home opener and last year was actually colder,” said Pirates fan Sparky.
Pirates fans found creative ways to stay warm.
“I’m drinking hot tea this morning because I’m cold. It’s a little chilly this morning, but that’s okay. It will warm up,” said Pirates fan Denise Wisniewski.
Tailgaters even set up a portable fire pit and they say waking up to several inches of snow this morning was brutal.
Fans said it felt more like football season.
“That’s what I thought of, Steelers because I have season tickets for the Steelers. Pretty much what you go through when you go to a Steeler game,” said Sparky.
However, baseball is back regardless of the weather.
“We’ve had way worse than this. It’s rained here. It’s snowed here. It’s actually pretty good here today,” said Richardson.
While devoted fans did fill seats at PNC Park, the empty seats were unusual and obvious.
“I think that the team kind of let the city down with the lack of investment in the team this year,” Jason Norris, of Natrona Heights, said. “It’s frustrating.”
“There’s no excuse for what the Pirates have done, their organization and their ownership,” Bob Sabot, of Washington, said, “and I think the fans are gonna send a message and I think they’re gonna send it all year.”
Some fans at the game understood why others chose not to come, but others were critical.
“The seats are definitely empty because people are trying to boycott Bob Nutting, but in all reality, you’re just making our city look bad because you’re not supporting the team,” Brittany Klous, of Shaler, said. “You’re trying to boycott the owner, which just looks bad on us. We follow our team. We follow our players. They don’t make the decisions of what the ownership does. They’re still out on the field; we should still be in the stands cheering them on.”
Former Pirates manager Jim Leyland says the fans have it wrong.
“I think they did the right thing by getting players, and I think this team is much better than people think it is,” he said.
One of the players acquired in the off-season, Colin Moran, put a charge into the ballpark in the first inning with a Grand Slam.
Pirates players Steven Brault and Sean Rodriguez both say this Pirate team is determined to give fans a reason to come out.