Spare me the attendance and crowd jokes at PNC Park this year for just a moment. In fact, let’s get it all out of the way now. The Pirates ranked 14th in the National League and 25th in Major League Baseball in attendance this season. The only teams that trailed Pittsburgh were Toronto, who had three different home venues in 2021, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Oakland and Miami.
The Pirates have ranked near the bottom in attendance essentially every year since their last playoff run in 2015. But with something we all took for granted as simple as going to watch live sporting events, it was great to see fans back to watch their Buccos again in 2021.
Coming off of a crazy year that was 2020, the Pirates and the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball played in front of empty stadiums, or in some cases, cardboard cutouts. Fake crowd noise was pumped into stadiums and on television broadcasts to try and come as close to a real atmosphere as possible, but it just wasn’t the same.
The year started with limited capacity at PNC Park, and the Pirates gradually loosened restrictions regarding seating at the ballpark as the season went on. Even though the Pirates averaged just 10,611 fans per game, their passion and their enthusiasm was felt and heard. For some, it was the first time they attended a live sporting event since the pandemic hit as they took in the beautiful skyline of Pittsburgh outside of PNC Park with a cold beer and a Primanti’s sandwich in hand. For the first time in a while, things felt normal again.
The crowds at PNC Park this season booed the opposing players, the umpires and even their own team at times. They also cheered together in the big moments. One instance that really stands out to me is how loud the crowd of over 27,000 got when Jacob Stallings hit is walk-off grand slam against the Mets in July.
Jacob Stallings walk-off grand slam! The Mets had a 6-0 lead in the 8th inning and the Pirates won 9-7 pic.twitter.com/ozRj7gXSFd
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) July 18, 2021
Without fans, there are no sports. Players feed off of the energy the fans at times, and Pittsburgh has some of the most passionate sports fans in the country. Having the fans back meant a lot to both the players and coaches, as evident by a Twitter post by manager Derek Shelton at the conclusion of the season.
Seeing the return of our fans to PNC this season was something special. You guys are awesome! I love the being a part of this city.
I truly believe we are building something here that is going to be really fun, very soon. pic.twitter.com/ZOiftIeQ82
— Derek Shelton (@derekshelton) October 4, 2021
I know for me personally, baseball just didn’t feel the same in 2020 without the fans. The energy at the games just wasn’t the same, and the cardboard cutouts and fake crowd noise – no matter how hard they tired, just didn’t do it for me. No matter how much I can’t stand it, I don’t think I’ll ever take the “Woo!” coming from the crowd late in games for granted again.