Pittsburgh is a great baseball destination. Heres why.

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In a blog posted about a month ago, I rated my top five favorite baseball road destinations and I think a few of you were surprised to hear that No. 4 on the list was Pittsburgh.

While I don’t aspire to live in the Steel City — the winters are brutal and the sun is an infrequent visitor pretty much from November through April — I love coming here for baseball trips. Whenever I’m asked which are the best facilities in baseball, I list three: AT&T Park in San Francisco, Minute Maid Park in Houston, and PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Most of the modern-day ballparks are unique and pleasant in their own right, but for me, these three stand out above the rest.

Posted above is my view from the press box at PNC. To me, it looks more like a painting. You can see everything from up here: the spacious ballpark, the downtown skyline and the yellow bridges that tower above the three rivers and connect the stadiums (Heinz Field, home to the Steelers, is just down the way).

I ventured outside PNC during batting practice on Saturday, mainly to take a few pictures of the larger-than-life statues of Pirates legends that are such a presence at this ballpark. In one corner stands Honus Wagner, in another, Willie Stargell, and just down the road from him, Roberto Clemente. I’m hearing a Bill Mazeroski statue is also in the works.

The Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992, and that streak is sure to continue this year. But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that the Pirates have a fantastic history, filled with Hall of Fame players, World Series titles and a sparkling downtown ballpark.

We took some behind-the-scenes video of the visitors clubhouse at PNC Park as well as the view from around the cage during batting practice.

Enjoy the tour, and the photos:

The main locker room area in the Astros’ clubhouse. It’s not the biggest in the league, but it’s plenty spacious and the players seem to like it here.
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The ballpark is surrounded by statues of Pirates greats. Here is Honus Wagner, the Hall of Fame shortstop who won eight batting titles.

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Willie Stargell, known to teammates as “Pops,” played 20 seasons with the Pirates and also played in six postseasons, including two World Series. He and former Astros manager Phil Garner were teammates during the 1979 World Championship season.

There is a rather sad history attached to this statue — the unveiling took place on April 7, 2001, two days before Stargell passed away.

You can really tell how massive these statues are when you compare them to the people standing nearby.

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The Roberto Clemente statue stands just before the Roberto Clemente bridge, which you can see in the background.

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I met these nice Astros fans near the Clemente statue. You can’t see it in this picture, but even his shoelaces were orange.

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Batting practice images: Hunter Pence.

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Jason Michaels.

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Michael Bourn.

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Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman.

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Questions? Send to afooter@astros.com

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