Chalking up another birthday on Friday made me realize that, it's true, you can't outrun Father Time.

But that doesn't mean you can't recapture your youth every once in awhile.

I was doing work up at our horse barn during the afternoon, sweating and acknowledging that it takes me longer these days to get chores done and to recover from any activity I do.

I was feeling old.

Then my son Colton told me quit what I was doing on the spot, Mom wanted me to get down to the house. I said, nah, got to finish up first, almost done, but he came back and showed me a fistful of papers.

They were five printed tickets for the Pittsburgh Pirates vs. New York Mets game that night at PNC Park, courtesy of my wife Karin. Suddenly, a smile broke across my face, and I nodded.

No matter how old I get, I'll never pass up a trip to the ballpark.

So I showered, put on a Pirates polo shirt and jumped into the car.

I've been to PNC Park more times than I can count, but, even now, it still gives me a sense of excitement.

The Bucs were mired in post-All-Star Game slump but one good thing about that was much lighter traffic than usual. That's one trait my family and I share. Whether the team is winning or losing makes no difference to us, we all enjoy seeing a Pirates game.

We each picked who we thought would be the "Pirate Player of the Game," with me tabbing Bryan Reynolds, Karin taking Josh Bell, Brooke going with a long shot in catcher Elias Diaz, and Colton and Westley choosing Starling Marte and Kevin Newman, respectively.

Each of us wore Pirates garb as is our tradition, but, as usual, James Madison student Brooke was the fashion plate for the family with a snazzy Pirates jersey and baseball cap that matched up perfectly.

It was "Free Shirt Friday" and we got there in plenty of time to claim that giveaway and see the players warming up on a perfect night for baseball. We had great seats, Section 26, Row G, down the third-base line.

The Mets were riding a seven-game winning streak, while the Pirates had won only three of their last 19, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when New York jumped on Trevor Williams for two runs in the first inning.

I'm not a big Mets fan but Todd Frazier did loft a ball in our direction, though just out of Karin's reach.

After two innings it was time to make a food run.

Westley might be the youngest of the family at 13 but with a large portion of Crabbie Fries along with an order of Buffalo chicken strips, a bag of peanuts and a large drink -- all that after already having consumed an entire carton of Italian ice -- he was the eating champion of the night. Somehow he would find room to add some Dippin' Dots later for dessert.

Heading back to the seats, the Pirates, now down 3-0, put together a five-run rally in the fourth to surge ahead.

Having waited in line, bought and carried food for everyone else, I decided to feed myself and took a loop around to my favorite spot, Manny's BBQ, which sells what in my opinion are the best hamburgers at PNC Park.

It never ceases to amaze me that at a stadium with thousands of fans I almost always run into someone I know and this night was no different.

I heard a voice from someone who said he recognized me. Yes, my name is Rob Burchianti, I replied. It was Brownsville graduate Tim Ryan, who attended Penn State while I was there. It seems a group from Brownsville's Class of 1979 was at the game, including Carmen Congelio, among others.

Tim and I smiled and parted ways and I swung down to get my burger, hoping he was there, and he was.

Two-time Pirates World Champion Manny Sanguillen, bearded with sunglasses and, now at 75 years old, needing a walker to get around, nonetheless flashed his famous smile while I snapped his picture.

The burger -- nothing fancy, just cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions with ketchup and mustard -- was big, juicy and delicious as usual.

When I got back it was only Brooke and I in our seats to witness Marte drill a three-run home run over the left field wall to give the Bucs an 8-4 lead, so we high-fived each other (although Colton witnessed it as well from the top of the aisle).

Everyone was back sitting down when Felipe "The Nightmare" Vazquez trotted in to finish up the game in a non-save situation. He electrified the crowd with a few 100-plus mph pitches in a 1-2-3 ninth that ended with a strikeout of Home Run Derby champion Pete Alonso to set off the fireworks that accompany each win at PNC Park.

That drew a first-bump from Colton as we watched a post-game interview of Newman and debated who was correct on the Pirate Player of the Game. Each of our selections had a strong performance but I crowned Marte, and thus Colton, the winner.

As we were preparing to leave, I looked down to see Randy Wilson, who works in the Albert Gallatin School District and happened to be sitting in the same section as us. He had several boys in attendance with him and apparently three of them got baseballs, two thanks to one of the Pirates' recently called-up relief pitchers.

One of the boys let me look at his ball, which I held with appreciation for a few seconds. Clearly the feeling of getting a baseball at the ballpark is the same now as it was a century ago, no matter what age you are.

The free shirt didn't stop us from making a trip to the PNC Park merchandise store and I scored a new Pirates hat from Karin as an extra gift.

We walked back to our car all in a good mood, laughing and smiling.

So, if you're getting up in age and feeling a tad depressed but have a love for baseball as I do, there's still nothing like a trip to the ballpark as a remedy.

At least for a few hours, you'll feel like a kid again.

Rob Burchianti can be reached at

(1) comment

Linda Joy

Great story!

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