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On the Road with Eli(zondo) and Adric...in Pittsburgh

The Guide explores PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Adric and the Pittsburgh skyline. June 8, 2021.
Michael Elizondo

On the Road with Eli(zondo) and Adric at PNC Park

So you’ve decided to heed the call to adventure. Good for you. If you need to refer back to what the Guide actually is or who I actually am, please refer to the included links.


The Best Ballpark in the Major Leagues*

*That I have been to so far (sixteen out of thirty).

Introduction

Adric looks out upon PNC Park. June 8, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

The Guide says the following about PNC Park:

It is the best ballpark in the Major Leagues. [The rest of the entry is condensed from a thirty-two page love letter to the city of Pittsburgh.] I edited the letter for clarity and length.

PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The crown jewel of Major League Baseball. Before I went to Pittsburgh, I was initially skeptical about how people were raving about how great PNC Park is. That train of thought is not a slight against the city of Pittsburgh, but rather a state of disbelief regarding the hype. But then I saw the park for myself and frankly, PNC Park lives up to the hype.

It also helps that Dodgers/Pirates tickets tend to be extremely affordable given the picturesque views and the lack of overall interest caused by Bob Nutting treating the Pirates like his own personal ATM to the detriment of Pittsburghers/Pirates fans.

The Five Questions of the Guide regarding Pittsburgh:

1. Is it worth going here?

Absolutely!

Here is the best way I can summarize how amazing PNC Park is. Look at a ranking list of the best stadiums in Major League Baseball. Is PNC Park number one? If the answer is no, you can say WRONG! and put that list aside, because you have a bad list, which can be safely ignored. Yes, this mindset applies if Dodger Stadium or Oracle Park, or Wrigley Field is listed as the best ballpark in the league.

And before anyone goes, “Um, actually...” and ignores all the free content I am generating, I have a basis for my subjective view. Let me also say that there is no perfect ballpark, while PNC does come darn close. Other ballparks have things that are not perfect or could be improved. For example, at Dodger Stadium, getting to and from the ballpark is an absolute pain and the tickets cost practically a literal arm and a leg if you want to see a rivalry game. The goal of the Guide is not to tear the stadium experience down unless there is a very good reason. In a lot of ways, PNC Park is catered to tick every box that matters to me as a traveling Dodgers fan. Great views? - Check.

Cody Bellinger up to bat. June 9, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

Great food? - Check. If you are looking for criticisms, here is what I have. If you are looking for ethnic, non-Caucasian food, like tacos, poke, etc. or vegan options, you will be disappointed. But, if you live with standard ballpark chow like burgers, brats, and beer - you’ll be fine.

I do have one final word of advice regarding food. You will likely see options for Primanti Brothers in the stadium, which are essentially meals stuffed inside a sandwich. The two varieties that were available were Capicolla and the Pittsburgh-er (think of a steak smashed into the consistency of Salisbury steak). Both sandwiches come with coleslaw and fries already in the sandwich, as shown below.

The Pittsburgh-er, easily the best sandwich I have had at a ballpark in my travels. June 10, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

The advice is not to spare the optional hot sauce as the sauce cuts through the mayo and adds a zing to the coleslaw. The sandwiches are not bad by any means if you skip the hot sauce; I am merely pointing out how the sandwiches can go from “good” to “great.”

Friendly staff? - Check.

Remember the story of Kevin.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

Because the new commenting system is so terrible, I cannot access my old anecdote regarding Kevin, so here is the Cliffs’ notes version. Kevin was the usher in my section during my first game. He was professional, polite, and friendly as we chatted prior to the game on June 8, 2021. He gave me recommendations on where to eat, and what to see, and he even gave me a game-used foul ball at the end of the game when I told him the story of my travels up to this point. People working at PNC Park were going out of their way to be friendly while performing their duties.

I’m not saying that you’ll end up with a game-used ball, too. But it currently sits on my shelf.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

Great prices? - Check (See below). Easy to get to? - Check (See below). Are the Dodgers likely to win? - Yeah, check. I could and will go on. PNC Park is the best ballpark in the Major Leagues for a Dodgers fan to visit, because the worst part about PNC Park is that the Pittsburgh Pirates call it home. So as a Dodgers fan, thanks to the ongoing incompetence of the Nutting ownership, you should have a grand time watching the Dodgers annihilate a once-proud baseball club.

While about as perfect as currently possible, it is this Guide’s view that if you, as a Dodger fan, are able to go to a Dodgers game at PNC Park, you would do yourself a great disservice to not do everything reasonably possible in order to make that trip happen.

2. How should I get there?

Unless you have some Sheldon Cooper-esque love for trains, or you have some Jack Kerouac-like need to go on a road trip, I cannot think of any plausible reason that you should not fly into Pittsburgh. From there, you can either rideshare into Pittsburgh proper to get yourself to the area of the ballpark. Moreover, getting to the actual game at PNC Park is fall out of your chair easy if you follow my advice, as you don’t need a car.* If you stay elsewhere, this Guide will not be of any service to you as to this question.

The exterior of PNC Park.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

* I do have something to recommend if you decide to ignore me and rent a car anyway, please refer to the end.

3. Where should I stay?

Honestly, I rarely recommend specific hotels, but I am going to show you a map of the area immediately by PNC Park. Normally, finding a hotel for the purposes of this Guide ranges from ridiculously easy (example: Pittsburgh, Anaheim) to ludicrously annoying (example: Atlanta, Los Angeles - why was I made to suffer?!?!)

Finding a decent hotel by PNC Park is “fall off a log” easy.
Courtesy of Google Maps

Imagine walking out of your hotel and turning to see the following view:

I literally had to walk half a block to the curb to get to my preferred entrance to the ballpark.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

When the heavens opened up on me at various points of the three-game series I went to in 2021, I did not mind, because it was warm rain, so it felt kind of nice. More importantly, my hotel was literally across the street. I was initially concerned but after a while, I realized that warm rain is no big deal, whereas cold rain is a huge deal, but that issue is addressed in the guide entry for Minneapolis. Remember, “warm rain” = is not a big deal; “cold rain” = is how you end up with a dead president.

As long as you pick a hotel that I indicate, you can probably find yourself a reasonable rate and enjoy the proximity to both PNC Park, and Pittsburgh’s downtown by way of a short walk across the many bridges to be featured in Christopher Nolan movies.

On Roberto Clemente Bridge prior to the game on June 9, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

Now if you wish to take a moment to re-enact Tom Hardy’s version of Bane while on said bridge, go for it. Just a bit warning - the locals are kind of sick of that joke, but if you are convincing enough, they will stare at you.

Also to be fair, the downtown of Pittsburgh is underwhelming in that there’s not a ton to do if you are not looking to spend time at the ballpark. There is the Andy Warhol Museum but is on the PNC Park side of the Alleghany River. For comparison’s sake, at Oracle Park in San Francisco, you would have to go out of your way to find nothing to do.

4. Where should I sit?

As I indicated earlier, the ticket prices for a game at PNC Park are extremely reasonable. We are not talking “oh look, Albert Pujols is coming back to St. Louis for the first time in years, let’s have seats in the rafters be $5.55” or “it’s April in Minneapolis - let’s have a flash sale on tickets with upper deck tickets at $4 and lower deck tickets at $25 for Monday through Thursday games.” I am talking about normal pricing for tickets bought directly from the team.

While preparing this entry of the Guide, I had a thought - how much would an equivalent ticket be at Dodger Stadium for a Pirates/Dodgers game compared to that same general seat at PNC Park. I literally came across examples where sitting at Dodger Stadium was ten times more expensive for a single ticket. In an upcoming essay, I am going to dismantle the argument that ticket prices have anything to do with payroll, but that topic can lie in wait for today. As such, here are my recommendations for where to sit at PNC Park.

  • If you’re on a budget / If you want to sit somewhere for the most value for your dollar:
Seating Map of the PBC.
Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Pirates / Illustration by Michael Elizondo/TrueBlueLA

I cannot think of another example where I literally can combine categories, but in this regard, PNC Park stands supreme in baseball. Granted, you can get front-row outfield bleacher seats for less than $30, which is fine, but considering the untapped value I am about to show you, at PNC Park, you can do so much better for so much less compared to other ballparks.

From just prior to the start of the June 8, 2021 game.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

If you want the most value for your traveling dollar or if you are on a budget, I can only wholeheartedly recommend sitting in the Pittsburgh Baseball Club - the 200 series of seats, specifically sections 212 through 220. Normally, you would have to pay hundreds of dollars for seats this good that has access to a climate-controlled bar and restaurant area that is private, but not a suite. (For instance in Chicago, at Wrigley, you would likely pay $200-300 per ticket). Do you want to know how much I paid directly to the Pirates for this view?

Around $70, including fees.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

No joke, I paid about $70 for what is probably a $200-300 view and said evaluation does not even consider the exclusivity of the 200-level. At PNC Park, you traverse a spiral stairway to get into the only entrance to the Pittsburgh Baseball Club seats. From there you can look at memorabilia and have access to several food kiosks in a climate-controlled environment. Accordingly, the level of value for a seat in this section is absolutely absurd, especially when you consider how much you would have to pay at other ballparks for these amenities. At some Bob Nutting will likely realize he is actually giving away a bargain at PNC Park, and then raise prices accordingly like the miser I believe he is. Until that sad day comes, I would strongly recommend that all Dodgers fans take advantage of these deals.

  • If you want to sit somewhere fun:

Normally, I would have something more insightful to say than sit by the Dodgers’ dugout. Not in this instance though. If you want to have a ball, and you are indifferent to amenities, then sit in Section 9 or 10, and get as close to the Dodgers’ dugout as you are able to.

You find me a better skyline in baseball. I’ll wait. June 10, 2021.
Michael Elizondo

Earlier in this essay, I alluded to tickets at Dodger Stadium being ten times as expensive as at PNC Park. The most notable example was sitting by the Dodgers dugout, as the cheapest equivalent ticket as to distance from the field and dugout was literally ten times as much - $750 compared to $75. Full disclosure - these were the face value of the tickets when bought directly from the team. I literally swore when I saw that figure.

For example, in 2021, I paid around $75 for a seat that was practically right by the Dodgers dugout. I checked for 2022 and the prices were about the same. This seat was the spot where I had the great Mookie Betts story and where I became a Tony “Catman” Gonsolin fan for life. I will admit that he does need to get more economical with his pitches though. Prior to the rain that fell during this game, I remember having a ball with other Dodgers fans who were sitting in the section. It’s worth noting that sitting in this section, you will be close to audibly interact with the Dodgers themselves, while they are working.

Tony Gonsolin - a man who appreciates a good chant, unlike AJ Pollock or Trevor Bauer. June 10, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

This distance/intimacy comes with a responsibility to not be a jackass. I use the following adage to keep myself in check: would I get mad if a client yelled the following at me, without warning, at work? If the answer is yes, I don’t say it or say it in the most generous way possible.

Wherever you sit, make sure you make your way to Guest Services as they will give out a free, small poster with a view of the field from the Press Box in honor of your first game at PNC Park.

5. After your trip, is it worth going back?

In the disclaimer to the Guide, I described the informal range of subjective outcomes after visiting a location. So far, I have been to three games at PNC Park, of which the Dodgers won all three where I was soaked all three times.

That fact said, I had fun, and going to PNC Park should be a yearly trip!

Sticking Adric into a clean cup amuses me.
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

Based on the overall value, the only reason I did not go back this year was the fact that I had other destinations to research. Once I have visited every stadium in the Major Leagues, I will make the annual pilgrimage to PNC Park for as long as this situation continues and for as long as I am physically able to travel to Pittsburgh.

With that statement said, I do heartily recommend going to PNC Park to watch the Dodgers annihilate the Pirates. You will certainly be glad that you did if you do decide to go.

Adric: See you next time!
Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

*BONUS: Michael, I rented a car!

Okay, I told you that you did not have to rent a car to fully enjoy PNC Park. But if you did, there is one place you should make the effort to go if the mood hits you.

Is it Hershey? Or is it Scranton?

What? No - those spots are on the other side of Pennsylvania, closer to Philadelphia. You’ll have to wait if you want to reenact the U.S. version of The Office. That’s about three hours one way from Pittsburgh. If you want to go to either Hershey or Scranton, do so when you go to Philadelphia.

What I have in mind only makes sense if you are a professional American football fan, which I am not, or you are willing to read about my adoration of George Motz. You will technically have to drive through three states (and as a native Californian, there is something inherently wrong with that sentence), and the detour will take you about 90-100 minutes one way.

If you go to Pittsburgh, you have an excellent opportunity to go to Canton, Ohio. The hall of fame for the National Football League is in Canton, Ohio. If you are so inclined to go, you should. I have no particular affection for American football, so I am going to focus on George Motz.

George Motz is arguably America’s pre-eminent hamburger historian. The preceding sentence is an actual sentence. I have studied Mr. Motz’s work and tried several places that he has recommended. If you decide to rent a car for PNC Park, you would be wise to drive 90-100 minutes to Canton, Ohio to visit the local Swenson’s, which is the second-best burger I have ever had, the Galley Boy.

The above video documents the burger in its glory - it is a double Smashburger that has cheese, tartar sauce, barbecue sauce, and pimento-stuffed olive. It sounds like too much is going on. It totally works. Enjoy the drive, which will literally take you through West Virginia and into Ohio, and buy like six of them. Whatever you don’t eat, save for the next day - once those flavors have overnight to get to know each other and upon reheating, it’s just as amazing as when you have them fresh.