Every spring, I anticipate another Pirates season with the same hope, and it isn't just for a winning team.
I hope every year that the ballpark experience will not include so much cloying organ music -- i.e. "The Mexican Hat Dance," "The Irish Washerwoman," "Tarantella Napoletana" and "Hava Nagila" -- or prompts for people to clap and make noise.
Every year, my hopes are dashed. But there are creative juices at work on behalf of fans at PNC Park.
The in-game entertainment staff comes up with a new gimmick each season to introduce the players on the video board. A few years ago, each player was shown making a slapdash painting that provided a peek of insight. It was a clever idea and pretty interesting, but clearly no one is paying these guys to wield a paintbrush.
This year's emphasis is on the Pirates' relationship to the city, with a nod to neighborhood places and iconic signs. It starts with a pregame video showing that day's lineup posed in sites around the city, a la NBC's introduction each week of the "Saturday Night Live" cast.
Paul Denillo, production coordinator for in-game entertainment, said that intro "has been getting a lot of media attention. We put that on our YouTube page and it blew up on ESPN. We went out on two Saturday nights in March and filmed different night spots in the city, from Shadyside to the South Side, Market Square, all over the place."
The players actually taped their parts in the neighborhood videos in Bradenton, Fla., where they were filmed during spring training in front of a green screen.
"I was able to insert the players in these different spots in the city," Mr. Denillo explained. The Duquesne University School of Music created "our very own custom soundtrack for that."
The city theme continues in a collage of each player's last name shown on the scoreboard when he comes up to bat. Each letter is taken from a different sign located somewhere around the city, whether etched, painted, lit up or stamped. The aesthetic effect is captivating.
"We had a fantastic freelancer, Jen Reilly, come to us with this idea," Mr. Denillo said. "We thought it was different than anything we had done before." He said one appealing quality of the proposal was the interest the signs would create among fans, "to recognize where that spot is in the city."
"We did 62 players and [the letters for] all of them are unique," he said. "I think she took over 500 pictures of different signs around the city," so no letter is repeated.
On Sunday, when Garrett Jones, who was playing right field, strolled to the plate, I watched the video board to see how the name we share would be presented. The "J" came from the "Jos. Horne Co." sign on the department store's former home Downtown. The "N" came from the "Friendship Park" sign in Bloomfield.
Two of the C's in center fielder Andrew McCutchen's name come from the Clark Building sign on the North Shore and the Racer marquee at Kennywood.
Pitcher A.J. Burnett's "B" comes from the Benedum Center, the "U" from a city redd-up sign.
The city's sights also fill a video as the game is about to start. It flashes on scene after scene of the city with a giant "P" moving through the streets. The images weave the old and the new, traditions and innovations, the interactions and activities of regular people and dramatic juxtapositions of geography, bridges, institutions and architecture.
When the video ends, the "P" has come to rest in the middle of an image of the ball field.
A local company, New Perspective, created that video. Mr. Denillo said it was intended "to symbolize the Pirates emerging once again, to reconnect the team with the fans and the city."
It's a spectacular video that he said will play throughout the season. Because it celebrates a city in resurgence, it portends excitement and inspires a little hope for a Pirates' resurgence after 20 years of losing. For that, I could live with hearing "The Irish Washerwoman."
The jazzy pregame player intros can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDKYaIwequ8.