As the unthinkable approaches -- postseason baseball in Pittsburgh! -- the Pirates have been stepping up the pressure, and I don't mean on the baseball field. In phone calls, snail mailings and near-daily email blasts, they have been cajoling us to reserve our 2014 season tickets now. Don't wait! Make sure you have your very own seats for all of next year! Make a deposit now!
My family and I love watching baseball in Pittsburgh, but I have absolutely no intention of buying season tickets. Not for me, not for my wife and not for our two boys.
It's not that I object to the notion. I do find something alluring about claiming your very own personal slice of the ballpark, something that envelops you in a bigger -- even tribal -- experience within your community. But this year, during the Bucs' unlikely summer of success, my family has learned something even better than we would from watching 25 games from Section 123, Row K.
In 2003 and 2006, when our sons were born, my wife and I made a pledge to each other: We wanted to make certain we brought up our children to see the world from all different perspectives, just as my parents had done while raising me. By teaching our boys how the world looks from multiple vantage points, we thought, we could give them the tools they need to lead a globalized, 21st-century American life: flexibility, nimble thinking, an unerring ability to see where the other guy is coming from.
How do you do that, though? By taking them to new places. By challenging their thinking and testing their conventional wisdom. By exposing them to all different kinds of people with different beliefs, different life experiences and different cultural backgrounds.
And, we realized, by watching baseball games from all of the many angles that PNC Park offers.
We didn't start the season this way. Our first set of tickets, against the Braves on a still-chilly Sunday afternoon in April, were on the first-base side in Section 107, about 30 rows back. They provided a near-field-level view and were great for watching the plate ... if right-handed batters Andrew McCutchen or Russell Martin were up. But left-handers Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez and our younger son's favorite, Travis Snider? Not so much. "I can't see him swing!" the 6-year-old said of Mr. Alvarez that day.
When we next went a few weeks later, we found ourselves in the 200 level on the third-base side. "You can see a lot more from here," said the 10-year-old, impressed. Watching Mr. Jones and Mr. Alvarez was more fun. Lost, though, was that feeling of being right near the action.
By June, several sets of tickets later, we were starting to enjoy our inside-the-park wanderlust. We spent a humid Friday evening watching the Dodgers from the center field bleachers near the bullpens. The boys thrilled to see Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli warming up in the late innings, but to them the ballplayers on the field were a distant hubbub, and they found it hard to keep their attention on the game. "They look like little bugs from here," the 6-year-old said, though he loved it when a fly ball brought Starling Marte to the warning track in left-center, just a few feet from us.
We started to actively look for opportunities to watch the game from oblique angles. A July 4 gift of tickets placed us in the upper deck in right field, where the Pittsburgh skyline was as much of a star as the action on the field against the Phillies. When we went to buy burgers at Manny Sanguillen's grill, we spent some time peeking in from the stands in right field.
The 6-year-old, attending a game with a friend who had season tickets, sat just a few rows behind home plate and was struck by the revelation that the players, up close, "looked just like they did on Root Sports." His older brother spent his 10th birthday party with his friends all the way up by the World Series flags, awash in a sea of Jolly Rogers and struck by the panoramic view of the field that the radio announcers have.
Our boys even got to see what it was like down on the field: They spent one Sunday afternoon postgame running the bases with hundreds of other Pittsburgh kids, craning their necks in awe at the tiers of seats that towered around them. Said the 6-year-old that day: "It must be really really weird to be Clint Barmes. I can't believe how different the view is from down here."
Success. The message was getting through. We had taken the game of baseball, something they love, and used it to show them that life can look very different from different places -- that how you perceive things varies dramatically depending on where in the world you stand and in which direction you choose to look.
So hey, Pirates season-ticket salesman: Thanks, but no thanks. We'll take the single-gamers. Send 'em in the mail, four at a time. Let us pick them up at Will Call or buy them from the ticket kiosks on Federal Street or redeem them through the Bucaroos Kids Club passports.
And then, if you need to find us, take up the challenge. Look for us behind the plate. Catch us baking in the sun of the center field bleachers with our eyes on Mr. Melancon or Mr. Grilli in the bullpen. Or way up in the 300 level by those World Series flags, or down low on the first-base side, or -- when we have a little extra cash -- in the 200-level "Pittsburgh Baseball Club" seats that provide an unmatched view of the baseball diamond below.
Maybe, if we decide to come out at the last minute and most seats are taken, find us in the nosebleed back row of the highest left-field section, where you can feel the speeding traffic on the nearby I-279 ramp. Or, if we're lucky enough to score an invitation as we did in July, you might find us in a luxury box.
After this unusual summer, a lot of people are looking at the Pirates differently. So are we. And when spring rolls around and the gates of PNC Park reopen for another season's business, we'll start over again, using the national pastime as our muse, looking for different ways to look at things in different ways.
Ted Anthony, a journalist who has reported from more than 20 countries, lives in Hampton.