Pirates apologize to fans for long lines entering PNC Park

| Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 9:51 p.m.

Gerrit Cole delivered the first pitch of his major league career on Tuesday at 96 mph.

Most of the ones that followed stoned the San Francisco Giants and wowed a PNC Park crowd as the rookie pitched shutout ball into the seventh inning.

And oh, yeah, he whipped up a single to drive in the Bucs' first two runs as they coasted to a victory.

Some fans who had planned to witness the top prospect's debut missed the early pitches while they stood outside in line, tickets in hand, waiting to be screened with metal-detecting wands.

Such security measures aren't uncommon at sports venues — the NFL began requiring wanding at its stadiums in 2012 — but it was the first night using the devices at the ballpark.

It just happened to coincide with 30,614 fans arriving to witness history. Thousands of fans ended up in lines that stretched from the home plate entrance to Federal Street and from the right-field gate down the block past the Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse.

“On behalf of the Pirates organization, I apologize to our fans who experienced long lines at the gates prior to tonight's game,” team president Frank Coonelly said in a prepared statement released during the seventh inning. “We made the decision several weeks ago to enhance the security at the gates beginning with tonight's game, but unfortunately we failed in our preparation and execution. We stopped the wanding procedure at the start of the game and were able to clear the lines at the gates by the end of first inning.

“The experience was simply unacceptable, and we will ensure this does not happen again. We appreciate the support and patience of our fans.”

Fans who still were lined up on West General Robinson Street at 7:15 p.m. weren't shy in expressing their anger and frustration, calling the lines ridiculous. Some said they wanted their money back. One man said it was his grandson's birthday and that they would be lucky to make it in by the third inning.

Season-ticket holders Bruce Antonoff, 67, of Plum and Randy Boswell, 65, of Monroeville said they'd been standing in line for at least 40 minutes.

“I hope (Cole) is still pitching when we get there,” Boswell said.

“I'm sad I missed the first part of the game,” said 6-year-old Christian Risinger of the North Side.

Christian's mother, Michelle Lynch, said her son had the tickets to the game hanging on his door for weeks and started to cry when the game started and they still were standing outside.

“He's pretty upset,” she said. “He wanted to see the whole game.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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