The 2011 is getting close, as my Season Tickets have arrived.
This year I will only hold season tickets to the Pirates. Last year, I was a 20 game Cleveland Indians season ticket holder, and a 13 game Cincinnati Reds season ticket holder. I decided not to renew either of those plans. I’ve also decreased my Pittsburgh Pirates season ticket account from three tickets per game to two tickets per game.
Here is the booklet cover design for the 2011 season:
The 2011 season tickets feature four players: Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Jose Tabata – the core four young players. I like the design. Last year’s featured Zach Duke, Charlie Morton, Andy LaRoche, Garrett Jones, Andrew McCutchen, and Ross Ohlendorf. Each player took up one ticket on an uncut sheet of six. The tickets looked good, but Andrew McCutchen was the only player that had a decent season of the six. Now, a look at the tickets:
Also, in the package was my 2011 Pirates season ticket card:
The card is key for me, as it allows for me to get in early for batting practice. I’ll need it, since I want to trade in many of my season tickets for give away games and use the free tickets that my girlfriend gets each game from the Pirates as my game entry tickets.
Also included was a letter from Frank Coonelly. Previous letters focused on all of the improvements that the team had made during the off-season. They often predicted a return to glory, etc. Well, coming off of a 105 loss season, this letter basically stated that we play the Orioles in Interleague play, and thank you for coming back.
Dear Erik Jabs,
Enclosed you will find your season tickets for the 2011 season. Opening Day is almost upon us and we are anxious to get the 2011 season started.
On behalf of the Pirates organization, I want to express our sincere thanks for your support. Your loyalty to and faith in the organization make every member of the Club even more determined to perform at a very high level, both on the field and in every other aspect of our relationship to you. You deserve nothing less from us.
As you know, we have an outstanding home schedule this season, including Interleague series against the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers. In addition, we have many terrific promotions on the schedule in 2011, highlighted by the 40th anniversary celebration of the 1971 World Series Championship when we host another exciting Interleague series against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday June 21st.
As always, if you have any questions about your tickets, your account or anything as it related to the Pirates, please do not hesitate to contact your account representative.
Again, thank you for choosing to get on board for the 2011 season of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball, and I look forward to seeing you at PNC Park on Thursday April 7th at 1:35 pm for the Home Opener against the Colorado Rockies.
The letter barely makes me excited for the outlook of the team for the 2011 season. I am very excited though, as I am planning on attending many games at PNC Park again this year, as well as making road trips to Washington, Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee, with possibly a few more cities.
Spring Training coming up soon for me…
Valentine’s Day brought the first workout for many Major League Baseball Teams. The Pirates first workout was today in Pirate City.
The Pirates have made some changes from their 2010 105-loss team. Gone are manager John Russell and under performers Zach Duke, Adam LaRoche, Lastings Milledge, and Delwyn Young. In are new faces such as Kevin Correia, Matt Diaz, Scott Olsen, Joe Beimel, and Lyle Overbay.
One interesting thing that the Pirates are featuring this year are the Spring Training Jerseys, which will also be used during batting practice.
Pedro Ciriaco gets ready to take some cuts:
Ryan Doumit runs through some catching drills:
Unfortunately, I didn’t take these pictures, they were posted by Pirates Tribune Review beat writer Rob Biertempfel.
I will be headed down to spring training in early March though – so keep an eye out for that!
In the meantime, on Sunday Feb 13th, when the Pirates were checking in at Pirate City, we were taking advantage of the 45 degree temperatures, exploring a trail along the Monongahela River.
What began as dinner by the river, ended in a hunt for a beaver dam, as we encountered at least 40 trees that beavers had chopped down and dragged away.
A look at a tree that was just too much for a beaver to take down.
We spent about an hour on this little ‘adventure,’ but failed to find any dams, despite looking all along the river.
The next day, while the Pirates were working out in Florida, I was enjoying Valentine’s Day.
I decorated a table and served breakfast:
Went to work, came home, and went on a dinner and dancing cruise on the Gateway Clipper.
A view of downtown from the Gateway Clipper as we approached from the Allegheny:
Passing PNC Park:
I also took a video of us passing PNC Park.
It was like 25 degrees with 30 mph wind, so I was quite frozen after taking that video – you’re welcome.
I’m looking forward to the 2011 season so I have some more baseball related stuff to report on.
It’s a custom made baseball case in the shape of home plate that displays 30 baseballs. Each shelf has tiny divots for the balls to be placed in.
There’s nothing more that I am looking forward right now than spring. We decided to be there in Punxsutawney to see what Phil had to say on Groundhog Day.
We got up at 4AM, and after a shower and packing lunches, made it to Punxsutawney by 6AM. It is a small town about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Every year on February 2nd, a groundhog, known as Phil, emerges from his slumber and prognosticates the weather. If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, there will be an early spring. This was the 125th Groundhog day, and the weather wasn’t cooperating. We faced freezing rain on the drive there.
The first thing we did upon arriving was park at WalMart and buy shuttle tickets to Gobbler’s Knob.
There’s no parking there, so the only way to get there are on buses – unless you want to walk 1.5 miles.
Upon our arrival at Gobbler’s Knob,
we were greeted by pre-dawn fireworks from Zambelli. They were decent. The grand finale was pretty nice, but of course I didn’t record it. Here’s a brief video of what I got:
Yeah, not the greatest video. I was dealing with freezing rain, mud, and ice everywhere. It was pretty messy. We made our way over to a fire for where we stood and warmed up for a few minutes, before heading over to the hill where a large crowd had gathered.
Unfortunately, my camera’s batteries died, and I didn’t have any backups, so the rest of the pictures had to be taken on my mini video recorder.
The man with the goatee in the top hat was rather entertaining to watch. He was doing his best to be cool. Anyway, after 7AM, dawn was just around the corner, and it was time for the National Anthem:
Afterwards, members of the exclusive inner circle made their way through the crowd with a police escort and onto the stage.
The president of the inner circle then explained to the crowd what was about to happen.
Two handlers knocked on the stump, and pulled Phil out, holding him in the air for all to see. They then placed him on top of the stump platform and gathered around. After some tension filled seconds, a verdict was reached.
You can watch the video here:
Phil did not see his shadow, which meant spring is just around the corner! It was the 16th time in the past 125 years that he didn’t see his shadow.
I was happy.
Afterwards, there was an opportunity to go down to the stage and have pictures taken with Phil and the inner circle, but it was freezing. So we left.
And got into large lines to board a bus to take us back into town.
It was pretty muddy and cold,
so we were looking forward to hopping back on the bus and doing some exploring in town.
but religious activists who were seemingly on every street corner passing out pamphlets.
There’s not much to downtown Punxsutawney,
but there are Groundhogs everywhere. Literally everywhere. There are thirty of them hidden around the town. We posed with some of them.
We also put out faces in groundhog cutouts. There were groundhogs everywhere.
Up until this time, the weather had cooperated. There was some freezing rain early this morning, but other than that, it had just been cold and damp. Until the skies opened up with a hail storm:
Luckily, we found shelter underneath a store awning until it passed.
We visited my dad in the hospital on the way back.
He had some invasive surgery that will knock him out of action for Spring Training, but it went smoothly and he’s recovering there. He’s gone with me the last four years.
We were back at Piratefest on Sunday for the third and final day of the three day weekend baseball event. The Pirates had sent me six tickets, so I sold two, used two on Friday, and saved the last two for today.
Before heading to Piratefest, I was treated to breakfast at a restaurant named DeLuca’s in the Strip District.
I had never been to DeLuca’s let alone the strip district, so this was a nice little adventure for me. DeLuca’s proclaims to have the ‘Best Breakfast in Town,’ and the large line that was waiting outside in the cold drizzle.
We waited for about twenty minutes before getting into the small, packed restaurant. One of the restaurant’s claim to fame is being featured on the Man vs Food series.
We had pancakes…
Chocolate strawberry pancakes for her:
And blueberry pancakes for me:
I also had a side of sweet sausage, which tasted much better than it looked.
The food was great, and it filled me up until 5 PM. I wasn’t crazy about the interior Steeler decorating, especially after being hassled at every corner by street vendors selling Steeler pennants and buttons. I’m looking forward to the Super Bowl being over so this town settles down.
When we got to the David L Lawrence Convention Center around 11:40, twenty minutes before the doors were to open, we were greeted by a monstrous line that snaked around and to the back of the convention center.
It took us about 10 minutes after the gates opened to finally get into Piratefest.
When we entered, we headed over to the MVP Zone to get autographs from Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf.
I had Ross sign my calendar since he signed a ball for me yesterday. Paul Maholm also signed a ball. Interestingly, he dropped the number 28 from his signature (the other 3 signatures on balls I have from Paul have a 28) – perhaps he expects to be traded in the coming months. He is in the final year of a contract, although the Pirates hold an option for 2012, which most certainly will be turned down since its for $9.75 million.
Later in the MVP Zone (which is for Season Ticket Holders only) we had Jose Tabata sign a baseball,
along with 1991 National League Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek.
Drabek was probably my second favorite Pirate of the 1990-1992 teams, with Andy Van Slyke being the first.
The MVP Zone is one of the nice perks of being a season ticket holder. Season Ticket Holders can get autographs there without waiting an average of 90 minutes on the other side of the Convention Center. The same players come over to the MVP Zone throughout the day either before or after they are done signing for the general public.
Good (Season Ticket Holder autograph lines):
Bad (everyone else):
The other autograph that I got today was Andrew McCutchen. We were allowed two autographs per person, so I had him sign a baseball and a Canvas Photo Wrap that I had won earlier in the day.
We didn’t play many games because the lines were ridiculously long. I didn’t really see the point of standing in line for 30 minutes to spin a wheel and win some give away stuff that I already have at home.
We caught some of the entertainment at the Piratefest stage:
There was Deal or No Deal:
More Minute to Win It, this time with Paul Maholm:
and Family Feud with the “Maholm Family” pitted against the “Morton Family.”
It was Paul Maholm vs Charlie Morton, and each player had 3 other fans assigned to his ‘family.’ The questions were related to the Pirates or Pittsburgh, and season ticket holders were those surveyed to provide the results for the game.
Here’s a video of a round of it:
That was basically it for the day. Got a few autographs, walked around, played a couple games at the beginning of the day before the crowd swelled, and watched some games at the Piratefest stage.
The Pirates set an all time record for the Piratefest weekend, drawing 16,839 fans, which was an increase of 1,400 over last year. The thing is, this is my fifth year as a season ticket holder, and every other year, I only received two free tickets to Piratefest. This year, I was given six. I saw some fans giving away their passes at the door. Therefore, I believe that the numbers are ‘juiced’ by the flood of free tickets that were distributed to the fan base. Yes, there’s some reason to be excited, but a 105 loss team doesn’t just draw an all time record to its Fanfest. Does anyone expect the Pirates to even approach their 2001 attendance home figure of 33,000 per game? No.
The real test of how excited this town really is about Pirates baseball will be the home attendance. We’ll see how many folks show up. By the way, the Pirates raised ticket prices for the first time in nine years this week. Season Ticket and advance purchased tickets will stay the same, but tickets purchased on the day of the game will be about an average of $3 more.
I’m hoping that attendance stays low, at least for batting practice, so it makes collecting baseballs easier, but we’ll see.
Spring Training is just around the corner. Get ready.
Today was the first day of a weekend long event at the David L Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh known as ‘Piratefest.’
Piratefest has been going on since the late 1980’s, as I remember going to a Piratefest in Monroeville and getting a baseball signed by Jim Leyland, Bill Landrum, Mike LaVailliere, Randy Kramer, Bobby Bonilla, Jeff King, etc.
The Pirates dedicated this first day to season ticket holders only. Earlier this month, I received four tickets to this day, plus 2 additional passes that could be used for any of the three days this weekend. In essence, I was given six tickets. So, I sold two of the for $25 earlier in the week. Leaving me two for today, and two that I would use on Sunday.
I asked Garrett Jones to sign one of the balls from my decoy collection (which is slowly dwindling away.) Decoy balls are balls I take to games to give away on occasion.
I didn’t ask Correia to sign anything, that was probably a jerk move, and in retrospect, I should’ve had him sign the Pirates 2011 Calendar that was given away.
Speaking of that Calendar, it was the highlight of Piratefest for me. The Pirates passed out a bag that included the Piratefest schedule and program along with a full 12 month 12 page Color calendar.
Here’s the front:
It included coupons, which are pretty useless to me.
The $5 off at the Pirates Clubhouse store is only valid on non game days. Also, the buy one get one free ticket offer doesn’t really help me out since I’m a season ticket holder.
Pedro Alvarez, April,
Jose Tabata, August
Andrew McCutchen, October
Pirate Parrot, December
After getting Jones to sign, we headed over to the Piratefest stage and watched ‘Minute to Win It’ Pirates Edition.
The game was hosted by PNC Park ballpark host Joe Klimchak and featured contestants trying to complete tasks in less than 60 seconds with every day household items. For each challenge that a contestant successfully completed in less than 60 seconds, they were awarded a prize and given the option to continue to the next ‘level’ or accept their prize and walk away.
The first two contestants were duds. The first was a young boy who was about 7 years old and was outmatched by the first game, known as Vacuum.
The boy had to transport five M&M’s from one side of the stage to the other using only a straw and his lung capacity to suck an M&M onto the end of the straw and keep it there until dropping it into a bucket at the other side of the stage. He couldn’t manage to get one M&M to even stay on his straw.
The second contestant we dubbed as ‘Perfume Lady’ because she had so much perfume on that it was overpowering. We could smell her from four rows away.
She managed to transport one M&M, which Joe Klimchak decided was ‘good enough,’ then failed miserably at the next task, which was blowing 20 cups off of a table using only a balloon that they could blow up multiple times.
The most successful contestant a fan named Bob, who went through all of the Minute to Win it tasks, before failing to keep three balloons in the air for a minute.
I recorded several of his challenges.
‘Bucket Head’ with Garrett Jones
There are four other videos that I’ll link instead of embedding in this blog of the fan’s other Minute to Win It Challenges. Click the links below to go to see them on youtube:
Defying Gravity (keeping three balloons in the air)
Junk In the Trunk (dancing around to empty 8 ping pong balls from a Kleenex box on one’s hips)
Quick Draw (empty a box of Kleenex using only one hand)
Cup Blow? (blow 20 cups off of a table using a balloon – not sure of the name here)
The other entertainment at the Piratefest stage included an ask the Pirates management session:
It featured Manager Clint Hurdle, General Manager Neal Huntington, and President Frank Coonelly.
We really didn’t hang around to watch because it was rather packed.
On the other side of the convention center, Garrett Jones was challenging fans at Guitar Hero. Yawn. No interest here.
Nearby were the Pirates promotional items for 2011. There aren’t as many as in years past, but here’s what you can expect in the coming year at PNC Park:
The most useful giveaway, and the only one that I ever keep will be Pirates T-Shirts, given away every Friday. Here are several of the shirts that you can look forward to in 2011:
There will be a 1971 Pirates World Series Celebration Canvas Photo Wrap:
A Neil Walker bobblehead (the only one of 2011) and a Pirates Stars and Stripes Floppy Hat:
An Andrew McCutchen Action Figurine and a Pirates hat:
And several of the kids Sunday giveaways:
The Friday session of Piratefest ended at 10PM, but we ended up leaving around 8, having seen enough.
Before taking off, I did the strike zone challenge, and threw two balls from about 15 feet away towards a 1 foot by 1 foot strike zone. One ball in the zone won a PNC Park photo wrap, while two out of two through the zone would win a Pirates T-Shirt.
We’ll be back at Piratefest on Sunday. An entry will be forthcoming.
The Pirates’ Winter Caravan, which is a series of stops leading up the Piratefest, rolled into Dick’s Sporting Good in Tarentum PA on Tuesday.
Andrew McCutchen, Evan Meek and Ross Ohlendorf were the Pirates’ players in this Caravan Group.
We arrived at 6:05 and got into the already lengthy line.
The players sat down around 6:15 and began signing player cards to give away to fans.
Around 6:25 or so, Pirates color commentator Bob Walk addressed the crowd. It was rather bush league that he wasn’t even given a microphone. This Dick’s Sporting Goods was very under prepared. Last year at the Dick’s Sporting Goods in Washington, the Pirates were welcomed with music and a video board which was dedicated the Pirates behind the players. This Dick’s couldn’t even provide a mic.
Here’s some of Bob Walk’s speech from my vantage point in line:
After about an hour or so in line, we finally got up to the table.
Evan Meek recognized me immediately from ballhawking and asked me how many baseballs I ended the season with and if I had won the ballhawking league. He brought Ross Ohlendorf into the conversation also. Ross asked me who the most graceful shagger during BP was. I told him that he definitely gives the most effort. Ross goes all out in BP making full out running catches.
I didn’t talk to Andrew McCutchen. I had him sign a baseball but that was it. He seemed like he didn’t really want to be there. If you watch the below video at 39 seconds, you’ll see him blatantly and impatiently rolling his eyes as he waits for a fan to move from Ohlendorf to him.
That was pretty much it. We each got three balls signed and then headed off into the mall to walk around for a bit. The highlight of the rest of the night was watching dogs try to figure out a way around their barrier in the pet store:
and playing with a little dog.
We were tempted to get him, but didn’t.
This would be the only stop for me on the Pirates Winter Caravan. I’ve been kind of out of the loop about stuff going on this winter and actually went to Uniontown to see the Pirates, but went on the WRONG DAY! So, we drove for about an hour for nothing. I got confused because I looked at the schedule about a week before. It was so embarrassing. It wasn’t a wasted trip though.
Of course, much to the dismay of others, I just had to go down to the bottom of the falls, thereby risking falling just to take a couple videos of the falls.
We checked out a couple other parts of the park before calling it a day.
My next baseball related event will be at Piratefest this weekend. Check back for that.
This weekend, I went to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY.
Cooperstown is a little over 7 hours from Pittsburgh, so we drove most of the way on Saturday afternoon and stayed overnight in Binghamton NY.
The next day, we braved the 8 degree weather and snow and made our way to Cooperstown. There were lots of baseball shops lining Main Street on the way to Cooperstown. Unfortunately, since it was Sunday, most of them were closed. The Hall of Fame is open 9AM-5PM daily though.
Here I am outside of the Hall of Fame. (I know, Where’s my coat?!)
From Ebbets Field:
There was a large portion on this floor for Hank Aaron
And another section of the third floor was dedicated to Statistics. It featured all major statistical categories with the all time career record holder and active leaders:
Here’s a short video of that section of the Hall.
Also nearby was a display case of a ball from every No-Hitter thrown in the major leagues since 1940.
Another brief video:
The next exhibit was a display of World Series rings dating back to the early 1900’s.
It was pretty cool.
Here are two short videos of the rings:
Near the exit of the third floor was a large display of baseball cards that included all different kinds of cards from baseball’s history. There was another Honus Wagner 1909 card in there.
Another brief video:
We finished our trip by heading over to the library on the first floor which we missed the first time through.
There was a small area devoted to movies:
that had old baseball movie posters
The library section was a ghost town, everything was closed there. The Giamatti research center, the museum, the bullpen theater. All of it.
After several hours it was time to go. We left a bit before 3PM and got back home around 10.
It was well worth the trip. I wouldn’t buy a membership and go all the time, but it’s a must for any baseball fan that has never been there. I’d say there’s pretty much something for every hardcore baseball fan there.
Coming up next: Pirates Winter Caravan and Piratefest entries.