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Sports

November 14, 2013

EXTRA INNINGS: Pirates give fans early Christmas present

OPINION — FOR THE 24th consecutive off-season, the Pittsburgh Pirates will offer fans an off-season indoor baseball carnival, and for the third time, the event will take place in December.

This year’s two-day extravaganza will be from noon-7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec.14 and from noon-5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15. Season ticket holders may attend from 9 a.m.-noon on December 14.

The Pirates were one of the first major-league teams to offer the off-season baseball carnival, first held at the Monroeville ExpoMart in 1990. Modeled after a similar event when began in Chicago in 1985, PirateFest was more family friendly adding games of chance and children's activities. The event drew more than 10,000 fans and later moved to the Carnegie Science Center, then to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in 2003.

Huge crowds came, sometimes in bad weather and usually after bad seasons.

Last year’s total record attendance at PirateFest was 16,986, an increase of more than 400 fans from 2011.

Much of the offerings at PirateFest have remained the same over the years, especially having players interact with fans through autograph sessions, instructional clinics, and question-and-answer time.

The event has expanded over the years with more prizes and games, the Pirate Parrot, the ability to purchase tickets for the upcoming season, and much more.

The team calls the carnival, “the largest indoor celebration of its kind with participation from current Pirates players and coaches as well as alumni and executives.”

Scheduled for this year:

*free autograph sessions with current and former Pirates players and coaches.

*the opportunity to purchase 2014 season and individual game tickets.

*a 2014 Pirates wall calendar, 2014 pocket schedule, and PirateFest program given to everyone who attends the event.

*question-and-answer sessions with players, coaches, and Pirates executives.

*the chance for fans to team up with players in baseball versions of "Card Sharks" and "Let's Make A Deal," take on the Pirate Parrot in "Beat the Parrot," play "Deal Or No Deal," and take part in pierogie-eating contests.

*many activities for children in the Kids Fun Zone, including inflatable rides, batting cages and carnival-type games.

*the opportunity to buy game-used jerseys, bats, baseballs, and more memorabilia.

*a charity raffle with proceeds to benefit Pirates Charities.

*a Pirates Social Media VIP area.

*Information on 2014 season ticket packages, group outings, and the promotional schedule.

Fans are asked to donate a new toy at the Pirates Charities booth. Donors aged 14 and older will receive a Pirates Charities coffee mug (one per person, while supplies last).

Tickets for PirateFest are on sale now at www.pirates.com/piratefest for $12 for adults and $6 for fans ages 15 and younger or by calling 1-800-BUY-BUCS. Fans can avoid the mis-named “convenience fees” by buying tickets at the door.

Pirate-Fest follows a three-day area tour from Wednesday, Dec. 11 through Friday, December 13, when the 2013 Pirates CARE-a-van will take part in more than 25 community events as three buses with players, coaches, and broadcasters will take part in community events with area nonprofits and schools throughout western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, and West Virginia.

Specific sites and the names of those attending the charitable events, as well as names of players and times of events at PirateFest are still being compiled and are expected to be announced before the end of the month, team officials said. Fans can check the website listed above to discover that information, officials added.

THEY DON’T MAKE ‘EM LIKE THEY USED TO: The Atlanta Braves announced Sunday that they were moving to nearby Cobb County, an upscale Atlanta suburb.

''We have been working very hard with the Braves for a long time,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed responded to the announcement. “[But] there was simply no way the team was going to stay in downtown Atlanta without city taxpayers spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make that happen.’’

Can you blame the Braves for leaving? After all, Turner Field is 17 years old.

Jim Sankey is a baseball columnist for the Allied News.

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