Pittsburgh Is Catching Baseball Fever

Pittsburgh Is Catching Baseball Fever

A mid-summer trip to PNC Park might be more crowded and expensive than you bargained for. After two consecutive decades of nothing but sub-.500 and often last-place teams, the Pirates suddenly find themselves with the best record in baseball at this season’s midway point – and fans are responding.

The Pirates recently enjoyed a fifth-straight home sellout, which believe it or not is the longest streak since they opened their new ballpark in 2001, and may be the longest such streak in franchise history. That run was broken up with the help of some inclement weather, but with the club’s record 51-30, and optimism that these Bucs won’t fall apart down the stretch, you can expect the trend of packed houses to continue in Pittsburgh.

Forbes.com’s Kurt Badenhausen writes about how the organization’s resurgence on the field has led to a dramatic increase at the box office. Needless to say, Phillies fans heading west this week may have to shell out more dough for tickets than they are used to.

The team’s success on the field and off has been building for a couple of years. The Pirates started hot the past two seasons only to see second half fades on the diamond. But fans turned out with attendance up 30% between 2010 and 2012. Last year represented the second highest attendance in the franchise’s history with 2.1 million fans. This year is going to be better.

“With the club’s strong performance, (ticket) sales have picked up at a brisk pace the past two or three weeks,” says Pirates president Frank Coonelly. Sunday was the largest single day of ticket sales in the franchise’s history. Total tickets already sold for the season (including games still to be played) are up 11% versus last year. Per-game attendance is still running slightly behind last year, but Coonelly says that is a function of scheduling and the season starting on a Monday instead of near the weekend. Connelly expects final 2013 attendance to trail only 2001 when PNC opened and 2.4 million fans came through the turnstiles.

The landscape is quite a bit different than it is here, where the greatest era Phillies baseball appears to be approaching its end, and attendance is down markedly.

While we’re not fans of Pittsburgh sports to say the least, it’s still nice to see a down-on-its-luck organization with a history and tradition like the Pirates turn things around and become relevant again. You can’t really blame the fans there for not being more loyal to a team that racked up nine last-place finishes in the last 20 years.

Although if you were hoping a July 4 trip to Pitt would be a cheap way to catch the Phillies at a beautiful ballpark on the river, sorry. Hope you bought your tickets in advance.

>> The Pittsburgh Pirates Are Baseball’s Best And Business Is Thriving [Forbes]

Drexel falls to James Madison in potential CAA Tournament preview

Drexel falls to James Madison in potential CAA Tournament preview

BOX SCORE

Jackson Kent and Tom Vodanovich combined to score 31 points and James Madison held off Drexel late to secure a 70-64 victory Thursday night.

The game could be a preview of a first-round match-up in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. With one game left in the regular season, James Madison (9-21, 7-10) is the No. 7 seed and Drexel (9-21, 3-14) has locked up the No. 10 seed. Those seeds meet in the first round, with the winner facing the No. 2 seed in the second round.

Sammy Mojica hit a 3-pointer with :32 left to get the Dragons within four, 66-62, but Shakir Brown and Joey McLean each hit a pair of free throws to seal the victory.

Kent hit 6 of 11 from the floor and tallied 16 points with eight rebounds to lead the Dukes. Vodanovich added 15 points.

Kurk Lee and Mojica both scored 18 points off the Dragons' bench.

Conspiracy charge added for 3 former Penn State administrators

ap-tim-curley-gary-schultz.jpg
AP Images

Conspiracy charge added for 3 former Penn State administrators

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday allowed prosecutors to add a conspiracy charge against three former Penn State administrators, increasing their possible penalty if convicted of crimes for their handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.

Judge John Boccabella granted a request by the attorney general's office to tack on a related conspiracy count to the charges of endangering the welfare of children.

Prosecutors said each felony count carries up to 7 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

Jury selection is scheduled for March 20 in Harrisburg in the case of former university president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley.

The defendants sought permission last week from Boccabella for an appeal that could delay the trial. The judge has not ruled on that request.

They argue Boccabella erred when he declined to dismiss the child-welfare charges, arguing the statute of limitations expired, the defendants did not provide direct care for children and they are charged with actions that occurred before the law was revised.

Earlier this month, the judge dismissed charges of failing to properly report suspected abuse, and last year the Superior Court threw out perjury, obstruction and conspiracy charges.

The three administrators fielded a complaint in 2001 from a graduate assistant who said he saw Sandusky, then retired as an assistant football coach, sexually abusing a boy in a team shower.

They did not report the matter to police or child welfare authorities, but did tell Sandusky he could no longer bring children to the campus and they notified his charity for children, The Second Mile.

Sandusky currently is serving a lengthy state prison term after being convicted in 2012 of 45 counts of sexual abuse of 10 boys.

Last week, a new judge appointed to preside over his appeals under the state's Post-Conviction Relief Act scheduled a March 24 hearing at the courthouse near State College to "present and finalize the evidentiary portion" of the hearing.