Josh Bell’s moment will be one to remember
As thousands of revelers from around the region descend upon Morristown for the annual Jamboree in the Hills, there is a common theme among the crowd.
It goes beyond their love of drinking alcohol and listening to country music.
Nearly everyone in attendance, or at least those within shouting distance of the stage, will have their cell phones up in the air recording the artists performing his or her hit songs.
The cell phone has replaced the cigarette lighter at concerts in recent years. Of course, the cell phone can do something a lighter is unable to do. A cell phone can preserve memories, while a lighter is just a gateway to a bad habit (or a demand for more music).
Cell phones have certainly taken over our daily lives. We really can’t live without them anymore.
We use them to listen to music, watch videos, post staus updates, map out a destination, catch Pokemon and even make calls.
As much as they seem to be a part of our bodies, it’s good to put them away and actually absorb what is going on around us.
That’s what I was trying to do last Saturday at PNC Park.
My wife and I were taking advantage of a Saturday night off from work. Instead of staying at home for the evening, we went to our home-away-from-home, which just so happens to be the most beautiful ballpark in America.
From our seats in Section 321, we had a beautiful view of the playing field and the many boats and watercraft floating along the Allegheny River against the majestic skyline of the Steel City.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, that same view from down the left field line would provide the perfect vantage point for a moment that I will never forget.
I just wish I had my cell phone out to capture it.
With Starling Marte, Matt Joyce and Eric Fryer on the bases, Pirates rookie Josh Bell stepped to the plate with a chance to break open the game.
Up until that point of the game, my cell phone was in my pocket. In choosing the old school over the new school, I was intently keeping score and hinging on every pitch of this crucial game against the Chicago Cubs. But when Bell stepped into the batters box, I had a feeling something special was going to happen.
As he took the first pitch for a ball, I brought out my cell phone with the intention of recording this, the second at bat of his major league career. The next pitch was a strike. I put my phone back in my pocket.
“He’s not going to hit a home run,” I whispered to my wife.
Bell called my bluff.
On the next pitch, he blasted a grand slam over the Clemente Wall in right field.
It was gone as soon as it left his bat.
He knew it. The sellout crowd knew it.
It was amazing.
I’ve seen hundreds of baseball games at PNC Park, including the recent postseason games and even meaningless games during the infamous losing streak. Nothing was like Saturday night.
Bell received a huge ovation as he stepped to the plate for that at bat. Pirate fans have been waiting for Bell to emerge as another offensive threat and in his short time with the big league club, he has proven he belongs.
Pittsburgh will be cheering him on, now, and for many years into the future as the Pirates look to continue to compete for a championship.
Obviously, I have yet to see a World Series in Pittsburgh. However, I have seen, in-person, several other keen home runs at PNC Park.
One such homer came in 2001, the first season of PNC Park. It just so happened to be hit by another Bell, one much less heralded than Josh.
Derek Bell was an offseason acquisition for the Pirates and was supposed to be a strong veteran presence for a team looking to get over the hump in their new ballpark.
Bell hit .173 in 2001 and went into his infamous “Operation Shutdown” before the 2002 campaign. However, his first home run for the Pirates came on a Saturday night in the summer, much like Josh Bell’s dinger. Derek Bell’s home run, that I was in attendance for, cleared the six-foot tall fence in left field.
Like Josh Bell some 15 years later, Derek Bell also received a curtain call for his first blast with the team. I was there cheering him on.
Later in that season, on a Sunday afternoon, Aramis Ramirez hit a walk off grand slam that clinked off the foul pole in left field.
On the radio, broadcaster Greg Brown called it a “Arama-lama ding dong.”
I was there. It was awesome.
After all that excitement, it’s kind of hard to believe that the Pirates lost 100 games in their inaugural season at PNC Park.
Much later, in 2013, the Pirates celebrated their first winning season since 1992. In the first playoff game at PNC Park, the blackout Wild Card Game against the Cincinnati Reds, former Pirates Marlon Byrd and Russell Martin each hit home runs off Johnny Cueto that will forever be embedded in my brain.
Both home runs cleared the left field fence and gave the Pirates an early advantage en route to a 6-2 victory.
As an encore to that historic season, the Pirates opened 2014 with another bang as Pittsburgh Kid Neil Walker hit a solo home run in the 10th inning to walk off the Cubs on Opening Day.
There’s been so many other memorable moments and iconic home runs that I can distinctly remember. However, just like Josh Bell’s recent blast, I do not have any personal video evidence of them happening.
My cell phone stayed in my pocket (or in my imagination, back in 2001). It’s obviously not necessary to document every waking moment of your life on a cell phone.
You’ll remember the most important parts in your personal memory bank.
(Peaslee is a sports writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)