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One, two, three strikes you're out

April 8, 2012
By CRAIG HOWELL , Weirton Daily Times

For a lot of us, the start of spring also means the start of baseball.

All of our favorite Major League Baseball teams began their season this past week, ready to compete in the march toward October and the World Series.

No matter what team you might cheer for, or even if you're not that big of a baseball fan at all, there's just nothing like taking in a game.

We have many opportunities in our area to watch a game of baseball, whether it be one of our many youth leagues, high school or American Legion, some college or pro.

In Washington, Pa. there are the Wild Things, which is supposed to provide a nice time out, and of course we have the Pittsburgh Pirates playing at PNC Park, less than an hour's drive from here. If you felt like driving the distance to Cleveland, there's that option too, but I personally prefer Pittsburgh.

I never played the game myself, outside of some catch in the backyard and a little bit during middle school gym class, but my dad and brother both played at one point or another in their lives. My sister even played some tee ball and softball.

I always enjoyed taking in a game when I got the opportunity though.

Growing up, it was a treat to be able to go to a Pirates game. It was a special family trip or maybe an outing for Cub Scouts usually, and it wasn't even something we necessarily were able to do once a year.

Whenever we would go, we made it into a memorable experience. As a kid, going to Pittsburgh was like an adventure. Going through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and across the bridges was like going into another world.

All those tall buildings reaching into the sky, the boats of the Gateway Clipper, it was great to see as a youth.

The entire family would usually go, piling into the car, maybe with a couple snacks in case we got a little peckish while trying to find a parking spot and making our way to the stadium.

As I said, I never played the game, and I've never had the mind for statistics and other information like some, so going to a game was always more about the experience.

It was the smell of the popcorn and hot dogs, the sounds of the cheering (or sometimes booing) fans, the sights of those crowds and the players running around the field.

Three Rivers Stadium was the only professional field I ever really knew until it was torn down and they built PNC Park.

Three Rivers held a lot of memories for me. Seeing some of the great players of the 1980s and 90s.

It wasn't about whether the Pirates won or lost, although it was more fun when they won, it was just about spending time together and sharing an experience.

If we were good, we might even have been allowed to get a little souvenir, usually a cap, a pin or maybe some trading cards.

Then, we would cap off the experience by stopping somewhere for dinner.

In college, my dad and I were able to go to a few games together, just the two of us. We would drive up to South Hills and ride the T into downtown before walking over.

A few years ago, I was able to make a new memory at PNC. It's one I wish my dad had been around to see, especially since it was Father's Day weekend.

Thanks to my job, I was able to actually walk out onto the field as part of the newspapers' coverage of one of our Community Nights. It was interesting walking around down there, near some of the players and looking up into the stands.

I've gotten to sit behind home plate a few times, which is really nice if anyone has the chance to do so. You're close enough to throw stuff at the players, although I certainly don't recommend doing so as you'll get thrown out and miss the experience.

There was even one game on the suite level, although not in the Cambria Club, of which I've only heard stories. Honestly though, I think I prefer sitting down there with everyone else.

It's just not a real baseball game for me without the smell of the food from the vendors, hearing the shouts of the salespeople and knowing at any moment you could wind up with a line drive heading straight for you.

Spring training games are even more exciting if you like to be close to the action.

You're practically right on top of the players and I definitely recommend taking a glove with you. My one spring training experience, I saw a ball fly right over my head and, unfortunately, hit a man in the face.

I have a friend who works at a television station in Orlando, and he spends much of the spring training time going to games and even going into the locker rooms.

That's definitely an experience I wouldn't mind having, even though I would have to work to do so.

Yes, springtime is a time or color, rebirth, warmth and baseball.

So, if you have the chance this year, try to get out to the ballpark and enjoy a game. I know I will.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at

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