FOR most of us, the last several days of buckets of snow and single-digit temperatures have reminded us just what winter is just about.
This Saturday’s baseball festival at PNC Park will remind us that spring is just around the corner and that summer won’t be far behind.
With the opening of spring training less than a month away, PiratesFest will lead into vans of baseball equipment leaving the Northside ballpark for the warmth of Bradenton next month.
For the second year, this year’s event will take place at the ballpark, and this year more of the events have been moved from out-in-the-open areas to more protected sections of the stadium. And again, season ticket holders will exclusively be admitted from 9 a.m.-noon, at which time the general public will be permitted to enter. PiratesFest runs until 5 p.m.
All player autograph sessions will take place in the lounge (the former hall of fame club) located behind the left field bleacher sections.
Each session is limited to 125 fans for each 90-minute session. Tickets for the sessions are $20, with all the money being donated to the City of Pittsburgh’s Fraternal Order of Police “Injured Officers Fund” and the recently-formed “Public Safety Support Trust Fund,” implemented in response to the attacks inside the Jewish synagogue last fall.
Fans who bring in an unwrapped toy or who donate $10 or more to the Funds will get a pair of Pirates Charities fuzzy socks.
The five groups include the following: 9:30-11 a.m.: Corey Dickerson, Steven Brault, and Bill Mazeroski (season ticket holders only); 11 a.m.-noon: Kyle Crick, Jung Ho Kang, and Jordan Lyles; 12:30-2 p.m.: Josh Bell, Clay Holmes, and Kevin Newman; 2-3:30 p.m.: Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham, and J.T. Brubaker; and 3:30-5 p.m.: Starling Marte, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Cole Tucker. Each $20 donation guarantees fans a chance to meet and receive autographs from up to three Pirates celebrities.
All sessions have been sold out, with all tickets gone within a few days.
Kids-only (through age 14) will be able to get autographs for free with the players’ signing schedules available at PiratesFest.
Pirates alumni will be signing autographs in the PNC Press Conference Room. The schedule for alumni autographs follows: Bob Robertson 10-11 a.m. and Dick Groat 11 a.m.-noon (season ticket holders only); and Bill Madlock noon-1 p.m., Richie Hebner 1-2 p.m., Al Oliver 2-3 p.m., John Smiley 3-4 p.m., and Sid Bream 4-5 p.m.
In the Lexus Club, the following events will take place:
• Ask Pirates Pitchers: Bob Walk will host a special Q&A between Pirates fans and attending pitchers such as Jameson Taillon, Steven Brault, J.T. Brubaker, Nick Kingham and pitching coach Ray Searage at Noon.
• Ask the Broadcasters: Joe Klimchak will host a special Q&A between Pirates fans and broadcasters Greg Brown, Joe Block, Bob Walk, and John Wehner at 1 p.m.
• Ask Pirates Management: Fans will have the opportunity to ask their questions about offseason moves, the 2019 season, and more in this Q&A at 2 p.m.
• Ask Pirates Hitters: John Wehner will host a special Q&A between Pirates fans and players such as Josh Bell, Corey Dickerson, Kevin Kramer, Jason Martin, and Erik Gonzalez and new hitting coach Rick Eckstein at 3 p.m.
• Ask a Pirate (Kids Only): Kids will have the chance to ask a question during this special Kids-only Q&A with Colin Moran and Kyle Crick at 4 p.m.
On the Pittsburgh Baseball Club Level will be face painting, photo booth, balloon artists, Pirates Charities raffle, contests, and several games.
Individual game tickets, group and season ticket sales, Buckaroos Kids Club, and PNC Park concessions will also be available.
In addition, the Pirates will give each person who enters the day-long event a 12-month Pirates wall calendar, one of the most popular draws to past PiratesFest. The calendars were not available last year and perhaps the biggest unanswered question asked by those in attendance was, “Where are the calendars?”
They’re back this year.
JIM SANKEY is a baseball columnist for The Allied News.