A playoff experience to remember

I couldn’t have been older than 6 or 7 when my father took me by the hand and apologized.

We left Three Rivers Stadium after a Pirates loss to the San Diego Padres. One of many losses to (insert Major League Baseball team name here) that we’ve witnessed over the years. But on that summer evening in the mid-1990s, Rick Peaslee was especially somber.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

He apologized, not only for dragging me to another failing defeat, but for bringing me in to the torture and impending doom of being a Pirates fan.

I never accepted that apology. This was something I signed up for and nearly 20 years later it’s paid off.

Oct. 1, 2013, was the day I’ve been anticipating since even before that significant loss to the Padres. My dad and I got to experience it together with over 40,000 of our closest, black shirt-adorning, Jolly Roger-waving fans at PNC Park.

The most beautiful ballpark in baseball was built for nights like Tuesday.

I arrived in Pittsburgh at noon for the 8:07 p.m. first pitch. Federal Street beyond the left field wall was already closed to vehicle traffic and a small crowd already started to form around tents, food trucks and drink stations.

However, I went away from the budding scene. I went to Oakland. Old Forbes Field used to be in this Pittsburgh neighborhood; the center field wall and huge flag pole that was actually in play still stands. I just thought it was fitting to honor the Bill Mazeroskis, Bob Friends and Roberto Clementes of the past before a new age of Pittsburgh poststeason baseball began.

Tuesday was truly a night for the Russell Martins, Marlon Byrds and Andrew McCutchens. Morse, those guys on the field played for the fans who sat through the Al Martins, Jason Kendalls and Jack Wilsons. The dark ages, the losing gauntlet, 20 years of futility.

It was all washed away on Tuesday.

Every moment in that game from Francisco Liriano striking out Shin-Soo Choo in the first at-bat to Jason Grilli 1-2-3 ninth inning and three home runs in between will forever be etched in Bucco lore.

Pirates 6, Reds 2.

Pinch me. I still think I’m dreaming.

Every year, I just hope for 82 wins. For so long I just wanted the pain to stop. I wanted to compete. I wanted a winning season. I, and all you other fans, got just that. Now, we’re playing with house money. Pittsburgh could’ve lost that Wild Card game on Tuesday and I’d still be bumping my chest and wearing my ‘P’ cap like the Pirates won the World Series.

What’s funny is, they can. This team is built to go all the way. The offense is clicking and the pitching has been lights out. The Pirates are arguably riding their hottest streak of the season when they meet the Cardinals in St. Louis tonight.

No matter what, there is guaranteed to be one more playoff game in Pittsburgh on Sunday. It still will be hard to top the emotion of Tuesday night. The Pirates may win the National League Division Series, they may get swept in three games.

Either way, it’s been an amazing ride in 2013 and a rewarding lifetime of Bucco baseball.

I have my dad to thank for that.

(Peaslee, a Youngstown native, is a sports writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mpeaslee@heraldstaronline.com or followed on Twitter at @thempeas).