I was recently in Pittsburgh to see my hometown Nationals take on the Pirates. A lot of people think that PNC Park is the best baseball stadium anywhere from sea to shining sea. One of the reasons people think the Steel City is home to America’s best ballpark is because of the grand views of downtown Pittsburgh and the Allegheny River from the stadium, and the recognizable 6th Street (Roberto Clemente) Bridge, which is closed off during games so people can easily walk across the bridge.
However, the Pirates’ stadium, just like any other thing, has its downsides. During my visit, I took notes about what I did and didn’t like about it compared to my hometown ballpark, Nationals Park.
Washington is a city with lots of sights to see, and they could have built the ballpark with a great view of the Capitol and monuments. The problem is, you can’t see any of the monuments unless you are on the left side in the 400 level. The views from the Nationals’ stadium view is definitely worse than PNC Park’s. You basically look out at the parking garages and the Booz Allen Hamilton building. But at PNC Park, the views are amazing. All across center field and right field, you have a clean view of the 6th Street Bridge, the Allegheny River, and downtown Pittsburgh. If you ever go, you should always sit on the 3rd base line to get that amazing city view, and it’s even better from the upper deck. So which ballpark gives fans the prettier view? It’s no question.
WINNER- PNC PARK
Pittsburgh is most definitely an eaters paradise. Primanti Bros. in the strip district puts fries and coleslaw right on your sandwich. And have you ever tried a pierogi? You can find a Primanti Bros. stand at PNC Park too, and they also sell pierogis in Section 129, but it’s not convenient unless you are sitting in the lower deck. If you sit in the upper deck, there are barely any food choices. It seems like they just have hot dogs, nachos, hamburgers and chicken fingers at every stand. At Nats Park, you actually have lots of food choices, not just typical ballpark food. You can get Shake Shack or Ben’s Chili Bowl, BBQ, crab, pizza and even sushi. Taste of the Majors is a nice mix of flavors from around the country. I think the many food choices at Nats Park edges out PNC Park on this one. Nats Park gets the win because the different food choices are available all over the ballpark, not just the lower level.
WINNER- NATS PARK
At Nationals Park, there is a lot of entertainment going on before the game and in between innings. The Nationals have an in-game host (this year it’s Michael). The Pirates also have an in-game host, who is also on before the game and in scheduled innings. I liked some of the contests and games the Pirates did between innings. For instance, the Pirates had a trivia contest in the 4th inning to give away a Pirates jacket. If you got it wrong, you would get a cap or go fishing in the “Mystery Box.” The contestant lost, so she chose the Mystery Box and actually won a Gerrit Cole autographed picture inside.
The Pirates are also famous for their a Pierogi Race, which is actually the same thing as the Nationals’ Presidents Race. When the Nationals go to Pittsburgh, the Presidents go too to race the Pierogis. I actually spotted the NatMobile while we were walking around. For some people, the races are big events.
The point of going to a baseball game is to be entertained by the game, not the contests and events between innings. Some of them are fun, though, but there really isn’t any difference between the games they play in Pittsburgh and the games they play in Washington.
Nats Park always has fun music between innings and especially as the players’ walk up music. The new controversy is about what song to play in the 7th inning stretch after God Bless America and Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Michael Morse used Take On Me as his walkup song in 2012, and the fans got in to singing along “I’ll be gone in a day or twooooooooooo!” Michael Morse became a Mariner, then an Oriole and now a Giant, and finally the Nationals just canceled playing Take On Me. In recent games, they have been playing Pharell’s Happy and now Martha and the Vandellas’ Dancing in the Streets during the 7th inning stretch, but I don’t think they have made a final decision on what the song will be.
The walkup music at Nats park is very interactive. Fans say “woo” when Jayson Werth steps up to Warehouse by Dave Mathews Band or howl when he walks out to Warren Zevon’s Werewolves Of London. I also came up with a crazy dance for El Chuape’s Ponme to Eso Palante, Gloria Estefan’s Wepa, and Rafy’s Pata Boom, when Wilson Ramos and Jhonatan Solano came to bat last season. This season, Ramos walks up to Wilson by Phish, and the fans shout “WILSON!” Also, Zach Walters used to walk up to Let It Go by Idina Menzel and Do You Want To Build A Snowman, both from the movie Frozen. A lot of people loved that. The fact that the Nationals use great interactive music makes going to a game very fun.
In Pittsburgh, they say that the players pick their songs, but I don’t believe them. The only one that made sense that they picked was Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones for 1st baseman Ike Davis and Let It Go for Tony Sanchez. They also play a clever song after the Pirates win, called Let’s Go Bucs. Everyone in the stands yells “LET’S GO BUCS!” during the hysterically long chorus. It is very different from the Nats clapping out a win to P!nk’s Raise Your Glass.
WINNER- NATS PARK
I love both ballparks for different reasons. PNC has a great view and it is very convenient to stay at one of the hotels around ballpark if you are visiting from out of town. The area around the stadium is definitely better than Southeast Washington around Nats Park (but that may change soon). I liked the classic old time ballpark feel of PNC Park. One thing we did not like is that there were no cupholders on our seats in the upper deck, and I also really did not like that you didn’t have a view of the field from the concourse. If you get up to get food, you can’t see the game while you’re walking around or waiting on line.
Maybe because it is newer and I am more used to it, but in my opinion Nats Park easily beats PNC in my battle of the ballparks. When we made the list, there were definitely more things I had that I didn’t like about it than that I did like about it. Still, my favorites are Oriole Park at Camden Yards and AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.
I have a few more baseball road trips coming up throughout the summer: Wrigley Field in June, and Petco Park and Angel Stadium in July and August. Stay tuned as I embark on more baseball journeys throughout the summer.
Below are a few pictures from Pittsburgh and PNC Park!