A sea of black greeted Doug Drabek as he peered out of the Pirates dugout before the wild-card game. The right-handed pitcher, whose trademark moustache has turned from brown to gray since the last time he pitched in a playoff game, took a deep breath before stepping to the mound.
"I've got to admit, I was probably more nervous there than I was in the playoffs," Drabek said.
That was 21 years ago, when Drabek started Game 7 of the National League Championship Series -- the most recent time the Pirates appeared in the postseason.
There were higher stakes then, but there also was a little more room for error than there was Tuesday night.
"You only get one pitch, and you've got to put it over the plate," he said.
Drabek, 51, spent six years with the Pirates and said he was a bit surprised when the team asked him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch Tuesday. He was honored, too.
But the nerves began to grow, especially when he got text messages from players he coaches with the Class A Hillsboro Hops in Oregon.
"They wanted to make sure I got on the rubber, I didn't bounce and I threw a strike," he said.
His fastball down the middle ignited the park.
While Drabek was showered with cheers and applause for his first pitch, team owner Bob Nutting has never experienced that kind of adulation at PNC Park. But he was soaking in the atmosphere before the game, shaking hands and chatting with fans and friends as the Pirates took batting practice.
Nutting has received heaps of criticism for miscues -- real or perceived -- but since he assumed ownership in 2007, bringing the red, white and blue MLB postseason bunting back to a Pittsburgh ballpark has long been his dream.
"It's an incredibly emotional day," Nutting said.
The significance of the game hit Nutting as he made his rounds Tuesday afternoon, talking with team personnel who work in the background and other employees who have been with the Pirates for years.
"People who don't get the attention and don't get the thanks and praise," Nutting said. "Just to be able to share with them and to share with the fans this moment is something special."
Though the team's owner was thanking those who don't get much attention, there were a handful of well known fans in the stands.
Actor Michael Keaton and college basketball coach John Calipari wrote online that they planned to attend the wild-card game.
"The Pirates are coming home and so am I," Keaton wrote Monday. "Beat 'em Bucs."
That should have made Pirates pitcher and noted Batman enthusiast A.J. Burnett pretty happy.
Not all the celebrities in attendance were Pirates fans, though.
Charlie Sheen made special arrangements to get to PNC Park to see his favorite team, the Cincinnati Reds.
Sheen's father, Martin, was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, less than an hour from Cincinnati.
Although Charlie Sheen has had a successful acting career, his fame grew after a highly publicized meltdown in 2011, when he was fired from the show "Two and a Half Men."
Most fans around him hoped it wasn't his team that was "winning."
Cal Ripken Jr. first took in a game at PNC Park at the 2006 All-Star Game, and said returning Tuesday to see playoff baseball back in Pittsburgh was "really cool."
Ripken is part of the TBS broadcast crew.
"It's wonderful. I really like Clint Hurdle. Really like what he was able to do to bring this back here," said Ripken.
"This city has such a rich history of baseball, period. For so many years it was forgotten, so it's really great to see the excitement back, a brand-new ballpark and a new generation of kids.
"It's really cool."
Ripken was too young to play in the 1979 World Series at Three Rivers Stadium, but said he did catch Game 1 in Baltimore from the stands as a member of the Orioles organization, the year after he was drafted.
"The Pittsburgh Pirates broke our hearts that year," he said, standing in an empty stadium as the Reds took the field for batting practice.
The scene was much different a couple hours later.
From left field to right, above the Clemente Wall and packed three or four deep in the rotunda, not a spot in PNC Park appeared empty as the Pirates were introduced to deafening cheers at the start of the game.
The crowd rose to their feet for Petrina McCutchen, the mother of Andrew McCutchen, who sang a beautiful rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" in an octave few other than Whitney Houston could rival.
It was her second time singing the national anthem at PNC Park this year.
This time, she said, was much different.
"The noise level here was exciting," she said. "You could kind of feel it in your heart."