I think anybody who has chased ballparks and has been to Pittsburgh can put PNC Park as the best park to go to if not one of the best (possible top 3) for ballparks in the Majors. For me, while I loved my experience at PNC Park and would happily go there again, I'd probably put a few others just slightly ahead of PNC (not much). While I think the structure of PNC Park itself was magnificent and probably the best I've seen, there were only a couple of things I would change about the park.
My family and I went on the last day of June to see the Pirates v. the Milwaukee Brewers. Pittsburgh was in a midst of a long winning streak and the night before the first team to reach the 50 win mark. We get there as it was pretty hot and sunny day as we crossed Clemente Bridge (knocking out one of my items on my sports bucket list). We waited for the gates to open as I walked around the park amazed at how the structure looked on the outside. I really got a thrill seeing the statues of Stargell, Wagner, and Mazeroski (especially his statue as he was about to cross home plate in the 1960 World Series). I got to walk on the riverfront and see the amazing Pittsburgh skyline. I could not help but get excited.
As we got in, we could only walk through the outfield portion for batting practice. And having 2 young kids, there was a small playground right by the gates in right field. We noticed it was starting to cloud up. As the kids were done, we went to the left field bleachers side and my wife did the spinning wheel thing. We won baseball cards, but it could have been more as they offered free tickets and gift cards.
We grabbed our food as my wife and I ordered a Primanti Brothers sandwich and the kids got a hot dog. I liked the sandwich all right, but my wife said hers was too bland and disappointing. And it was admittedly a little too expensive. But I still had to try one since I was in Pittsburgh. I should have opted for a Pierogie instead.
We got to our seats as we noticed more clouds were coming in and the sun was playing more hide and seek with it. We sat right behind home plate on the upper level as I was in awe of the scenic background. It was the most picturesque park view I've seen, Majors or Minors.
After the first inning we started to feel raindrops. My wife took our daughter to the restroom and 5 minutes later the place went into a torrential downpour. We stood out on the concourses as it looked like everybody was leaning on the wall like we were on the ledge of a building since the concourses were too thin. If you took three steps out you would have been drenched. After an hour, the rain hinted of letting up. But as I was walking back to our seats, dark clouds were actually coming in from the east (strange, but it was instead of the normal west). It downpoured again for another hour. Thankfully, the clouds finally cleared up and the rain let up before they called the game. Then the fun really came.
The Pirates and Brewers were in a pitching duel with the scored tied 1-1 and in the 9th, the Pirates had the bases loaded before Inge struck out to end the ninth. The Brewers, having nobody besides Segura, couldn't muster anything. The Pirates had a few times of threatening including a bases loaded, 1 out situation for Pedro Alvarez before hitting into a DP in the 12th inning. In the 14th inning, the Pirates ended it with a walk-off single by Russell Martin. And the 10,000 or so fans (most left after the 2nd inning) who were still there went home happy.
So for me, I pretty much spent about 8 hours at the ballpark, thus making me a happy camper and even my children were pretty happy as well.
Overall, I loved the park, but I was surprised how thin the concourses were so cramped especially up in the upper level. Prices overall were a bit of a shock for me. But if I ever got the chance to go back to PNC, I would do it in a heartbeat.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE PARK:
1. STRUCTURE, BOTH INSIDE AND OUTSIDE. I don't think there is a better park with a more scenic view than PNC and how the park was a true baseball park. And on the outside with the unique Kasota stone, bucking the trend of the red brick around most parks. And the statues of Wagner, Stargell, and Mazeroski were magnificent.
2. SEATING: Comfortable and sightlines are unreal. Never complained for 14 innings.
3. SCOREBOARD: Both the display board and the out of town board. The display had a lot of stats and it was big enough for the park. The out-of-town was up to date and was quicker than whenever I got my alerts that the Tigers were scoring or when the other team was scoring on the Tigers.
4. EMPLOYEES: Beyond friendly and went out of their way to make the experience great. We told them it was our first time at PNC and they told us to go to guest services and they gave us some free stuff.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT THE PARK:
1. CONCOURSES: too thin pretty much everywhere. It was hard to move around (granted the place was packed before the rain delay).
2. FOOD/SOUVENIR PRICES: A little too steep even for a MLB game.
3. RESTROOMS: Incredibly small for me. And dirty.
Overall I gave PNC Park an 87% for the place. For me, anything over 80% is great. The park is a real gem and I am glad Pittsburgh fans finally have something to cheer about this year after 20 years of futility.
MY MLB RATINGS (revised):
1. Oriole Park at Camden Yards
2. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
3. Comerica Park
4. PNC Park
5. Great American Ballpark
6. Progressive Field
7. Turner Field
8. Tiger Stadium
9. Tropicana Field
10. Minute Maid Park
11. Sun Life Stadium
12. Shea Stadium
13. Yankee Stadium (old)
14. RFK Stadium
16. Atlanta Fulton County Stadium