Attendance is down, in general, around most of Major League Baseball. The weather has played a part in that and so has the poor state of the economy. But at least one unexpected team has seen a rise in support, a rise that is only gaining more momentum: the Pittsburgh Pirates.
According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, ticket sales this year at the gorgeous PNC Park are already up 2.4 percent and are 14 percent ahead of the sales pace set in 2010.
The Pirates sold out Saturday evening’s 6-2 interleague victory over the Tigers, in part because of a bobblehead promotion featuring popular second baseman and Pittsburgh native Neil Walker. One Pirates executive is predicting that the club will draw at least nine sellouts this season.
“We’re seeing some pretty good growth,” executive vice president Lou DePaoli said last week. “Even some weekday games are moving well. We should have more sellouts this year than we did last year.”
Of course, playing good baseball helps. The Bucs have an improved 22-23 record this season and sit only four games back of the Cardinals in the National League Central standings.
More than 90,000 tickets have been sold for the Pirates’ early-June series against the cross-state Phillies.
The Cardinals have selected right-hander Miles Mikolas as their Opening Day starter, the club revealed Saturday. It’ll mark the first career Opening Day start for Mikolas, who is scheduled to go up against the Brewers when the team hits the road on March 28.
The 29-year-old righty was a strong contender for the 2018 NL Cy Young Award, earning All-Star distinctions and pitching to a career-best 18-4 record with a 2.83 ERA, 1.3 BB/9, 6.5 SO/9, and 4.3 fWAR over 200 2/3 innings. He’s positioned to lead the Cardinals rotation in 2019 as well, with former Opening Day starters Carlos Martínez and Adam Wainwright and some combination of right-handers Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha, Alex Reyes, and John Gant behind him.
Manager Mike Shildt told reporters that Flaherty, Wacha, Wainwright, and Martínez had all been considered for the honor, but admitted that Opening Day honors were ultimately handed to Mikolas “in recognition of [his performance] last year.” The Cardinals are scheduled to play a four-game set against the Brewers to start the season and will stop over in Pittsburgh for another two games before returning to St. Louis for their opening homestand against the Padres on April 4. Additional pitching assignments have yet to be announced.