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Pirates Pirates get a spacious new home within a home

Sunday, April 15, 2001

By Paul Meyer, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

The Pirates' clubhouse inside PNC Park will be just that -- a house for the club -- maybe even a mansion.

The players' locker room encompasses 5,200 square feet. The coaches' offices and lockers is a 2,400-square foot room. The trainers' facility is 3,085 square feet. One more example? The weight room is 3,085 square feet.

The Pirates logo dominates the carpet in the center of the Pirates locker room. (John Beale, Post-Gazette)

There are other areas, but perhaps you get the drift here.

The Pirates' clubhouse area in PNC Park is a lot larger -- and tons plusher -- than the clubhouse they squeezed into in Three Rivers Stadium, which had about 4,000 square feet. The clubhouse area in PNC Park is 18,000 square feet.

"No question it's a longer walk to the cooler at the opposite end for a beer," relief pitcher Mike Williams said. "At Three Rivers, everybody was cramped. We'll feel more comfortable in the new one. And the more comfortable you are, the easier it is.

"You're not worrying about this. You're not worrying about that. When you worry, you're not as relaxed as you should be."

The Pirates -- and even the visiting teams -- should be very relaxed in their rooms under the third base and first base stands, respectively, at PNC Park.

"There's generous space in both clubhouses," said Roger Wilson, the Pirates' equipment manager who, along with visiting clubhouse manager Kevin Conrad, had input in the design of the rooms. "HOK [the Kansas City-based firm that designed the stadium] took our input, and it turned out pretty much the way we wanted.

"Bruce Marshall, who we worked with a lot, was really understanding about the things we wanted. We have the good fortune of being the only tenant [in PNC Park], so it's much more geared to baseball.

"We have an up-to-date training room, one that's up to major-league standards. The old one was very small -- too small to be efficient. Ours is as big as any we've seen in professional sports."

In these days of baseball players constantly going on the disabled list and rehabilitating injuries, a state-of-the-art trainers' room is no small consideration.

The trainers' room in PNC Park includes a swimming pool -- sort of. It's a SwimEx water pool for water therapy. It's six-feet deep, 10-feet wide and 18-feet long.

"You can create a current so players can exercise against a current," trainer Kent Biggerstaff said. "It's a tremendous rehab tool that puts less weight on ankles, knees and backs. Players can get in a lot of cardiovascular work."

This facility will come in handy for first baseman Kevin Young, for example, who has bad knees. And for infielder Mike Benjamin, who has an achy back. And for pitcher Jose Silva and his arthritic knees.

"It's an additional rehab tool and an additional conditioning tool," Biggerstaff said.

The trainers' room is not where players want to be, however. Visits there usually mean something's wrong.

Now, visits to the weight room? Those are fine. State-of-the-art in there, too. And it seems larger than the weight room used by the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League, a room the Pirates can use when they play the Padres.

"And we have a first-class laundry facility and players' lounge, which is more spacious," Wilson said. "And more equipment room to store things."

An indoor batting cage adjacent to the Pirates locker room is one of the features of the large clubhouse at PNC Park. The floor is covered with old artificial turf from Three Rivers Stadium. (John Beale, Post-Gazette)

The locker room proper has wall-to-wall carpeting featuring a taupe and blue pattern of baseballs. The Pirates logo is prominently displayed in the middle of the carpet.

There are 40 lockers, one for each player on the 40-man roster, which becomes important at September call-up time. Each four-foot wide locker has an electrical outlet for hair dryers or for re-charging cell phones and a safe with a combination lock..

And each locker has a metal plate running across the front.

"That was part of incorporating into the clubhouse the heritage of the steel industry, which really put Pittsburgh on the map," Wilson said.

Just next to the clubhouse are batting cages and a warm-up mound for pitchers, who can throw during rain delays. The visitors' clubhouse also has an adjacent batting cage.

The visitors' clubhouse isn't shabby, either. It's just not quite so big.

"We want visiting players to feel, 'Damn, the Pirates are really taking care of us,'" Wilson said. "They might think, 'Gosh, if our clubhouse is this nice, I wonder what the home side looks like?' Who knows? Maybe visiting players will want to come and play for us."

The Pirates clubhouse is designed in "a wagon wheel effect" as opposed to "a corridor effect," according to Wilson.

"Everything is much more accessible for the players, and everything circles around the players," Wilson said. "The players are the hub. A lot of thought went into this based on photographs of other clubhouses we took over two years, our years of experience and what we thought would be best and most functional for the players -- because it really is the players' home."

But will the more nicer, up-to-date, clubhouse mean more victories for the Pirates?

"I don't think it has anything to do with results," said bench coach Bill Virdon, who's been in baseball clubhouses for 50 years. "It's a lot easier to get aggravated when you're having a bad year if you don't have a decent place to go to rest and so forth, but what makes a pleasant clubhouse is winning."

On the other hand. . .

"When you have a nicer, spacious, comfortable clubhouse, guys want to be there," infielder John Wehner said in the waning days of spring training. "Guys want to come in a little earlier and stay a little later.

"What you'll find is that guys will be talking about the game, and you can learn a lot about baseball by talking about the game. At least that's what you hope will happen.

"The more you're together, the closer you become. The closer you become, the more you care about one another. The more you care about one another, the harder you play for one another.

"It won't be just about, 'Me and I and what did I do that day.' It will be about, 'What did I do for the team today?' You become more accountable to the team."

Not a bad statement. Maybe one that the players who will reside in this new home might want to laminate and post on a wall of this new clubhouse.

There certainly is enough room for it.

Next: Fans will see a different brand of baseball

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