Monday, April 25, 2011

The Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club & The PNC Park Lexus Club

As excited as "Mikey Mo" was in slamming out his first home run of 2011 at PNC Park yesterday, our weekend visit to one of baseball's nicest and friendliest ballparks was just as exhilarating. Having visited Pittsburgh each of the past fours years to watch Our Washington Nationals take on the Bucco's, The African Queen and I chose premium seating at Pittsburgh's ballyard for Saturday & Easter Sunday.

The perfect decision.

First off all, it rained all weekend in Western Pennsylvania. Friday night's game was cancelled. Saturday evening's was delayed. On Sunday, the wetness never really let up until the final out was recorded.  With Mother Nature not cooperating, the comforts of The Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club and The Lexus Club provided two great retreats from the elements.

Second off all, both sections were OUTSTANDING!!

For Saturday evening's game, Sohna and I purchased Pirate Baseball Club Seats (similar to the Stars & Stripes Club at Nationals Park). PNC Park's features were impressive. Inside, there was plenty of room to stretch out, countless leather lounge seats and sofas, four pool tables. pinball and hockey games, three bars including the rather large Club 3000. Fans could sit down and order food from a waitress, or purchase some upscale offerings from one of the handful of vendors located throughout the club level concourse.

Walking past the BucsWok, it was easy to notice that all offerings were served up fresh and made to order. After finishing off our rather large servings of Teryiaki Beef and Sweet & Sour Chicken ($9 apiece)--we have to say that was one of the better meals we've ever had from a vendor at any ballpark, anywhere.

On display throughout the Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club Level are artifacts from the 124 year history of one of baseball's oldest franchises. For example: 1905 Fred Clarke style baseball bat, 1971 Nelson Briles World Series Glove, Doc Ellis No-Hitter Cleats, Hall Of Famer Paul Waner Glove, a replica Louisville Slugger Authentic Babe Ruth Bat and some very colorful sportcoats from longtime Pirate great play-by-play announcer Bob Prince.

Even the condiment stands featured autographed baseballs and Pirate memorabilia on the walls. Outside the Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club--but within the seating area--three verandas offer spectacular views of Pittsburgh's skyline. Not knowing what to expect upon showing up at PNC Park for Saturday's game, we came away impressed with PNC Park's Club Level.
Then came Sunday's game in the Lexus Club and things only got better.

Much like the Lexus Presidents Club at Nationals Park, PNC's version is roomier inside. Leather loungers and sofas--with a nearby fireplace--greet patrons as they enter the ballpark from a private street entrance. The Lexus Club Bar is located behind the lounge area.  The buffet meal set up along a walkway that separates the lounge & bar from the sit down food and waiter service.  Food and non-alcoholic drinks are part of the ticket price. Beer, wine and liquor are extra.

Just like at Nationals Park, Levy Restaurants runs the Lexus Club in Pittsburgh. The food offerings though were different.  On South Capitol Street, the Lexus Presidents Club always offers two carving stations, a cheese and antipasti bar and a host of cold and hot desserts at each game. That's not the case in Pittsburgh. The Pirates Lexus Club has just one carving station and Levy's changes every food offering for each home game.

Also in Pittsburgh, the sit down meal concludes shortly after the game begins and the restaurant shuts down. At Nationals Park, the buffet meal is served until the 4th inning and desserts until the 7th. In the Pirate Lexus Club seats, ballpark snacks, hot dogs and drinks are served. The seat menu in Pittsburgh not as extensive as the seat menu in Presidents Club at Nats Park.

The padded seats were very comfortable, but don't offer as much leg room as Washington's Presidents Club seats.  Still though, The PNC Park's Lexus Club was very, very nice.

But what made both premium level sections at PNC Park so inviting--was how the park's employees greeted every single fan. Every usher, waiter, waitress, server, hostess had a smile on their faces. These employees made us feel at home. Ushers in both the Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club and The Lexus Club welcomed us upon entering and explained all the features and what was included with our ticket. If we had any question, someone was always just a few steps away to answer. The employees at PNC Park could not have been nicer and that friendly, attentive, attitude stood out more than the actual comforts of both club levels.
We loved watching Our Washington Nationals take on The Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park this weekend--despite the rain--because The Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club level and The PNC Park Lexus Club added great value to the experience.

Game Notes & Highlights: 

We went very retro this weekend. Pittsburgh fans loved our Homestead Grays flannel jerseys worn on Saturday night. The number of people that stopped us to ask where we got them was quite remarkable. It was also surprising how many fans in Western Pennsylvania don't seem to realize the Negro League Heritage both Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania share as the home cities for The Homestead Grays. Some didn't understand what Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Cool Papa Bell, etc. meant to this Nation's Capital.

On Sunday, The African Queen and I returned to PNC Park wearing our 1970's Washington Senators Jerseys. Worn by Our Washington Nationals in Baltimore in 2010, these gray away script "Senators" were a big hit in Pittsburgh for a second year in a row.
When Washington wore their red alternate jerseys in an away game for the first time at Citi Field on April 8th and 9th, the team wore the home red Curly "W" cap. Thankfully, this weekend in Pittsburgh, they switched to the more appropriate two tone blue with red bill Curly "W" cap. It looks better with the gray pants and blue jackets.

We also got a kick out of seeing Joel Hanrahan's photo on a banner flying outside PNC Park. One of the nice subtle additions to Pittsburgh's ballpark are these photo banners.

And finally, PNC Park used the appropriate Washington team logos on their scoreboard this weekend. For the past few seasons during our visits, The Pirates have only used the original 2005 "DC" and Fuddrucker Style Washington Away logos. In 2011, it's all script "Washington" and Curly "W".

PS: By the way, what a mess getting home last night. I-70 east at Breezewood was virtually shutdown due to heavy traffic and a construction lane closure. We barely moved five miles in two hours. Then on I-270, south of Frederick at Urbana, a five car accident shut down the highway again. To add to this never ending road trip back to Alexandria, Virginia--lo and behold--we run into a Secret Service Motorcade coming around Democracy Blvd heading to the Capital Beltway.  Total time from Pittsburgh to Alexandria, Virginia--7 Hours and 30 Minutes. Normal running time: 4 Hours.

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