We've all been asked it at some point. That hypothetical question about what job we'd be doing if money was no object. Mine is easy: I'd be one of those people that sit on the field in foul territory to fetch foul balls during professional games. Getting to watch professional baseball games on the field? Sure. Occasionally getting to show off my hand-eye coordination? Why not. Getting to delight young children and adults alike by handing them foul balls? Heck yes to it all. But, alas, by the time I've amassed my fortune from my real job (which is, admittedly, pretty cool), I won't be young and spry and I think most major league teams don't want to risk having some lady die on the field because she can't react to a foul ball in time. So while I still occasionally daydream about being a ballgirl, I've shifted a bit to thinking more about what I could actually do when I retire and through our travels settled on giving stadium tours, preferably at Fenway. I know this is the holy grail for retired people who want to give stadium tours, and living in Boston upon retirement will require quite the savings account (which is not helped by our love of travelling to cool stadiums) but hey, a girl can dream.
Joel and I have been on plenty of tours lead by older men, but we'd never been on one lead by an older woman until PNC Park in Pittsburgh. In truth, she co-lead with a gentleman, but that was maybe even better! Now I'm pulling Joel into my tour guide fantasy. We would crush the grandma and grandpa jokes and fun repartee. We'd leave those tour-ees begging for more!
Which is exactly what Jim and Joyce did, at least for me. They started us off in a room with some replica lockers to talk about the history of the ball club. The first tidbit I learned was that they'd played in several ballparks over the years, most of which weren't a great fit, according to our duo leading us. Most recently, they'd shared Three Rivers Stadium with the Steelers. Jim, a teacher at the time, had been one of the people who would go down and help remove the paint off the field after a football game to prepare for baseball. Thankfully, they got away from that and built their own stadium, which is now called PNC Park (although naming rights are coming up soon, if anyone has a few million dollars lying around). Joyce also talked about some Pirates greats, with the most notable one being Roberto Clemente. You could hear the emotion in her voice when she talked about his untimely death, which made me genuinely sad. But then the focus shifted to their current star, Andrew McCutchen, who was the new darling of Pittsburgh. Ahh, Joyce. You knew not then what was coming.
We then wandered outside to the stadium, and the first thing I noticed was how small it is. It's one of the smallest in the MLB, and intentionally so. Pittsburgh is technically a small market, and why have tons of seats that never get filled? Instead, they opted to give the stadium a more intimate feel, which I really appreciated. Another thing I noticed was that all the chairs and metal beams in the stadium are all dark blue, which is odd considering the Pirates are black and yellow. However, it's apparently a tribute to Forbes Field, one of the first places they played and the former home with the fondest memories.
We made all the regular stops, including the locker room (which was pretty cool- usually they don't let you in the home team's locker room) and batting cages that the players use. We also went to the press box, which was pretty average (once you've seen one, you've really seen them all. They're literally all the same). But while we were up there, they also took us to the seats just below the press box where I took the above picture. I've experienced a wide range of emotions at baseball fields before, but I think this is the first time I've literally had my breath taken away. Joel and I just sat for several minutes taking it all in. Eventually, once she'd taken pictures of several others in the group, Joyce came and talked to us and shared that she is also an usher for the Penguins. She's my hero.
Last stop was on the field and in the dugouts, which is always cool, but paled in comparison to those seats. Someday, when the Red Sox have a summer series with the Pirates, Joel and I will go back and we will be getting those seats for at least one game. Hopefully we'll run into Jim and Joyce again and get some tips on how to someday land our dream jobs!
Just a couple of sports fans touring the world, one stadium at a time.