One of the feel good stories in baseball has been the Pittsburgh Pirates, who returned to the playoffs Tuesday for the first time since 1992. As I watched both the Pirates and Mets seasons unfold this year, I kept thinking back to our trip to Pittsburgh, June 3 and June 4, 2009. Do you remember Pittsburgh?
Love Pittsburgh! Great town, great stadium. We got awesome seats — cheap! — because nobody was there.
In what has become an unfortunate trend for us on our trips, the game was rained out on June 3rd. The Pirates were in the news that day, though, as they traded their starting center fielder, Nate McLouth, to the Braves for three prospects. The next day we got to the park early, and we talked to many distraught Pittsburgh fans, it had already been many years since they had a winning team. It was hard to see when that cycle would finally be broken. On the other hand, collapses aside, the Mets were coming off three winning seasons, including an NLCS appearance. PNC was dead and empty, and when we discussed it we felt fortunate, as we couldn’t imagine their situation befalling us. PNC was basically a new park, it had opened in 2001, and having just moved into shiny new Citi Field it seemed incredible that the Pirates had not been able to leverage anything useful out of their new park. We had seats on the field level, behind third base, and the concession stand was not open right behind us, as they had many of them closed. I couldn’t get over that.
I remember being hungry, with money in my pocket, and having a hard time finding somewhere to trade it for food. The concessions were closed and the few that were open had ridiculous lines. It was bizarre. And, we thought, awfully bad business.
Well, here we are in 2013, and it is a grainy photo from my phone, but I sat in the field level behind third in August of this year at Citi Field, and what did I see? A shuttered concession stand, one of many throughout the empty ballpark that day.
A few days later, the moribund Mets traded Marlon Byrd to the playoff-bound Pirates for prospects. And it all hit me, am I just Louis Winthorpe III? That would explain it all would it not? Maybe Fred Wilpon has a $1 bet with Bud Selig that he could destroy a New York franchise and trade places with the Pirates. Because I have to say, in June 2009 this reversal of fortunes seemed impossible.
So, wait. We’re Dan Aykroyd? Does that mean we get to date a young Jamie Lee Curtis? Or is that not part of the deal?
Let’s be honest. We couldn’t land the current Jamie Lee Curtis. So no, that is not the takeaway. I think the lesson here is, wow, things can change a lot, and fast.
Considering the state of the Mets right now, that is actually comforting.
And one game into their playoff journey, congratulations to the Pirates and Marlon Byrd (who started the scoring with a solo home run) on a big win.