New ballpark something to behold

| Sunday, April 1, 2001

Past Kendall Corners
03/25/01-Mexico: Good baseball but don't drink the water

03/18/01-Reports of switching to second base are just 'Madness'

0 311/01-Maz finally gets what he deserves
03/04/01-High strikes and 'The Mole'
02/25/01-Conditioning cutting into defensive, batting drills
From the moment our bus drove through the Fort Pitt tunnels Friday night until after our game with the Mets, I've had goosebumps.

All I can tell you is that PNC Park is a very, very special ballpark. Everybody who comes into this ballpark, whether you are a player or fan, you will say the same thing. It's very hard to put into words unless you actually are on the field or sitting in the stands.

This place simply is unbelievable.

We got back into town Friday night and headed right to the ballpark. When we came through the tunnel, I looked to the left to see where Three Rivers Stadium used to sit. The last time I was here was the morning of the implosion and it was a mess.

When I looked over there, I got sad a little bit. But then, I looked to the right and saw the ballpark all lit up and said, 'Whoa, maybe not.' The other word that kept coming to mind was 'Wow!'

I liked Three Rivers. I'm one of the few guys who really liked it, but there is NO comparison to PNC Park. This IS a ballpark.

The first thing I did when I got here Friday was check out the field. A lot of players came into the clubhouse first. But I hung a right because I wanted to see the field. I think I was the first one out there. I walked around home plate, got down and checked it out. Then, I sat there in the dugout for a few seconds and got goosebumps. It was really neat.

This is our new home and nobody could be happier. Everybody on the team had a reaction that was similar to mine - - Wow, this is the most beautfiul ballpark in the game.

I went home that night and could hardly sleep. Keith Osik and I were the first ones here for the game. I think we left at 6:45 a.m. so we could get here and hang out.

One thing I noticed during the game was that the fans are right on top of you. They really are a part of the game. I think they can see how quick the game is and it puts everything into perspective.

There isn't one thing I've found wrong about it. You can see the ball well from the batter's eye. The background for catching is good. It looks like it's going to be a fair park for hitters and pitchers.

We have our second game here today. Don't take this the wrong way, but it will be nice to get it over with. We're excited to play here, but we also know we have to concentrate Tuesday when we open the season in Cincinnati.

I think everybody's ready to go. Everybody wants to end this portion of spring training and get the season started. I know, I'm ready to go. I've started hitting again. Last week, I was having a hard time, but I feel a lot better at the plate.

Even though I wasn't going well for a while, I wasn't worried. That happens to me a lot in the spring, but then, I get going in the final week or two and everything is OK.

I like how this team is coming together. One thing this team has had is injuries, but I think for the first time in a while everyone is on the same page.

We're not going to sit here and worry about this or that. We can't afford to do that; we have to step up and get the job done. When those injured guys come back, they'll help us improve. But, for now, I like what I see.

I know people aren't picking us to do much this year, but I think we'll prove them wrong. My goal every year is to get to the World Series and win it, and that's not going to change now.

With the start of a new season, though, means an end to my spring training column. I've had a lot of fun doing this column for the Trib this year. I hope you've had fun reading it, and I hope I can come back and do it again next year.

Pirates catcher Jason Kendall's column appears exclusively in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review each Sunday during spring training.

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