A blanket of gray clouds rolled over PNC Park as the time for this afternoon's National League playoff game approached, causing fans, players and television network executives, in all likelihood, to cross their fingers.
But just about 20 minutes before the first pitch, the clouds parted and the park was bathed in sunshine.
Among those keeping a close eye on the skies was Manny Lopez, 43, director of field operations at PNC Park, who has been with the Pirates for 20 years. PNC Park is his baby.
"The real rain hit us this morning, but the field is great," he said, as a break in the weather basked the ballpark in sunshine from noon until just before 2 p.m. "We have pumps underneath that drain all the water out. Everything's dry and we're in good shape.
"I think right now, this field is in the best shape it's ever been in at the end of the regular season. We had some minor repairs to do, but when you consider all the activities we have -- and it's not just baseball -- we're real happy. We're looking good."
The 2013 season marks the most games ever played in what is widely regarded as "The best ballpark in baseball."
Should weather permit the game to be played, it could be the last game played on the field this season. If -- and, of course, this is a worst-case scenario -- the Cardinals win today, the best-of-five series will return to St. Louis for the fifth and deciding game. Should that game become necessary -- and the Cards win it -- the Pirates' season will be over and the players won't take a meaningful stroll on these basepaths until spring.
"For me, the weather is extremely unstable," Mr. Lopez said. "Coming from Florida, I thought it was bad down there. But I've gotten used to it now. That's the thing I deal with."
As far as Mr. Lopez is concerned, there are no major offseason projects in mind.
"Just keeping up with the detail work," he said in the tunnel leading to the field, where his crew of a dozen groundskeepers was placing the chalk outlines for the game. "Replacing sod that we need to replace. Shutting down the irrigation and getting ready for winter."
But that isn't a step he's ready to take yet.
"We're all real excited, just like everyone else in the city," he said of himself and his crew. "I'm taking it all in. It's not even like coming to work anymore. We're having a blast."
NOTES -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, his focus on today's game, refused to bite on a reporter's question regarding who might be his starting pitcher if a Game 5 is played in St. Louis.
"It's really nobody's business but ours at this point," he said in pregame remarks. "That's the way we'll keep it."
First Published October 7, 2013 11:06 AM