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PNC Park sporting new field surface

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pirates fans may not notice the concrete and caulking work done to the concourse and riverwalk at PNC Park during the offeseason.

Same goes for the repainting of all the exterior steel or intensive power washing of the stone, maintenance that Pirates president Frank Coonelly on Monday called "not jazzy stuff but things that needed to be done."

But chances are that many fans - and certainly players - will notice the completely revamped field, including new grass, cutout, infield dirt, warning track and pitching mound.

The new grass, a Tuckahoe Bluegrass from a sod farm in New Jersey, was installed last fall. The previous surface was installed three years ago and was supposed to last five, but the grounds crew suggested replacing it for the coming season because of maintenance issues.

"You can't put in a grass surface that's going to take ground ball after ground ball and all of a sudden be losing chunks of the ground," Coonelly said. "So (the choice of grass is based on) what's going to grow and be maintained over a period of time and best for a use like baseball."

The Pirates also replaced the underground piping system that delivers warm air to the grass and helps wick moisture away.

The infield dirt is new Dura Edge All-Star Infield Mix, which Coonelly said has a greater consistency than the old dirt, and the warning track is a crushed lava rock. The pitching mound is new, as are the benches in both dugouts.

The field cutout now matches the one at McKechnie Field in Bradenton and has an angular cut at both first and third base, similar to what the Texas Rangers use.

The advantages are "in terms of the players running the bases, so that they run and hit mostly dirt as opposed to going into the grass, and strategically trying to have the grass end at a point in time when the third basemen and first basemen are not going to be taking the balls off the lips of the grass," Coonelly said.

One of the other big changes is that the Pirates brought a portion of Forbes Field wall out of storage, where it sat since the demise of Three Rivers Stadium, and reassembled it on the Riverwalk. With 406 feet still written in the original paint, it is the section over which Bill Mazeroski's home run soared in 1960.

Some of the other changes include new menu items at the club level and at the Trib Total Media Hall of Fame Club, a VIP service center for season ticket holders and new merchandise in the team store.

Additional Information:

Home opener parking and traffic info

The Pirates host the Houston Astros at PNC Park in the home opener at 1:35 p.m. on Monday. Gates open at 11:30 a.m. with pregame ceremonies beginning at approximately 12:45 p.m. The Roberto Clemente Bridge will close to vehicular traffic beginning at 11 a.m., all parking lots and garages on the North Shore are closed to commuter traffic and North Shore parking near PNC Park will open at 9:30 a.m. For fans arriving after 11:30 a.m., the Pirates highly recommend the following travel and parking options:

• Use Port Authority Service to get downtown then walk across the Clemente Bridge

• Park at Station Square (1,500 spaces) and use the Gateway Clipper for a round-trip fee of $10 per person

• Park at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, at the Fulton Avenue lots on the north side of the West End Bridge, at the River Road lots east of PNC Park or the Brighton Road lot west of the ballpark

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