Updated 5:04 p.m.
The biggest difference between Nov. 7 and April 7 in Pittsburgh? The jerseys say “Pirates” today.
Not that anybody around here seems to care.
The Pirates’ home opener featured pirate costumes, burgers on the grill, a bunch of cocktails laid out and coolers scattered all around the parking lots near PNC Park. And, yes, snow — at least in the morning — and an expected high temperature of just 39 degrees, per the National Weather Service.
Pittsburgh will send Ivan Nova to the mound to face the Atlanta Braves and Mike Foltynewicz in a game scheduled for a 1:05 p.m. start. The Bucs are looking for their first win after dropping two against the Red Sox in Boston.
“I like this a little better than last year,” said super fan Art Astringer, carrying a Pirate flag. “Because it was this cold, and you had the sunburn to go with it. And that just wasn’t cool.”
“I’ll take sunburn in the middle of July, not in the middle of April.”
Loyalty: Fan who met Clemente treks to the ‘Burgh for opening day
Brennan Kraje, left, of Lynchburg, Va., and Julio Gonzalez, right, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, pose near PNC Park before today's home opener.Cameron Hart / For The Incline
Julio Gonzalez will never forget the day he met Roberto Clemente.
“I was in first grade. My father invited me to attend a baseball clinic in Catalina,” Gonzales recalled 45 years later, ahead of the home opener. “And he told me [Roberto] Clemente was going to give a baseball clinic to the students.”
“I had an expectation that I was going to learn baseball that day, but it was impossible because Clemente was like a human magnet.”
Gonzalez sat in the dugout, watching as fans swarmed the longtime Pirate.
“Two weeks after that, at 9:25 in the morning, I saw a great sadness in the city,” Gonzalez recalled. “Breaking news coming up on the TV and I asked my mother what happened because all of the people were extremely quiet on the streets. My father told me, ‘Clemente died,’ and I didn’t believe that.”
Gonzalez has been a Pirates fan since, owning a wide collection of Bucs apparel that his buddy, Brennan Kraje raves about.
“This guy’s a nut,” Kraje said. “He got a new car, and within a week, he’s got two stickers on the back window of the old Pirates logo and the new Pirates logo.”
Gonzalez made the four-hour trip to Pittsburgh with Kraje, whom he met three years ago. The two are statisticians in the Baltimore area and bonded over their love of the Bucs. Kraje got his masters degree at Carnegie Mellon.
After attending the Orioles’ opening day, Gonzalez and Kraje made it a point to come out for Pittsburgh’s first home stand.
“It’s spitting snow,” Kraje said. “What a wonderful day for opening day.”
Working on a holiday? No problem, say Pirates’ staff
Even if the weather wasn’t ideal, Harry Michelson enjoyed every minute of his new job: giving schedules to fans walking around PNC Park.
Michelson, who recently returned to the Pittsburgh area after spending 20 years in Harrisburg, worked his first game today as a member of the team’s guest relations staff.
“It’s a holiday,” Michelson said. “Just coming out here, it’s a tradition for a lot of people. Bad weather, good weather: You come out and take in the game. A lot of people are going to show up regardless. It’s something you can lean on. It’s a tradition.”
Having grown up a Pirates fan, Michelson said he’s soaking in the experience of working for his hometown club.
“Working for the Pirates, it’s fantastic,” Michelson said. “I never thought I’d have an opportunity like this but moving out here gave me the chance.”
Another member of guest relations working her first game didn’t want her name made public — she took the day off from her day job to take part in the festivities.
“I’ve always wanted to work an opening day,” she said. “So I called in sick.”
Cody Emerick proposed to Myia Weisend before the home opener today. She said yes.Emily Overdorf / For The Incline
Mike and Nicole Vecchio of Zelienople walk their daughter, Penny, to PNC Park. Penny has gone to the home opener every year since she was born.Cameron Hart / For The Incline
98 years young
Phil Coyne has been an usher for the Pittsburgh Pirates since he was 18-years-old. He turns 99 in two weeks but worked the team’s home opener today in 30-degree weather.