Sunday, August 24, 2008

Let's Go to Steeler Training Camp!

I am not the kind of fan who sits glued to the television watching the Sunday game or Monday Night Football. But, when Suzie enthusiastically suggested we spend a day at the Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp, I agreed to the outing. After all, we were at Grandma’s in Greensburg and Steelers Training Camp was a short six mile drive to Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

St. Vincent College has been home to the Training Camp for as long as I can remember. Steelers fans come from all over. They plan vacations around the dates of Camp. They fake sick days at work to watch the team. And, although the Steelers had been practicing in “my backyard” for the near-lifetime that I lived in Pennsylvania, I had never visited the Training Camp. I had even passed on the opportunity to take my son Chris, who many years ago, won a contest sponsored by the local Tribune-Review newspaper to join Bubby Brewster for lunch. I sent my Dad as the accompanying adult. He was a long-time Steeler fan and he jumped at the opportunity. He treasured the experience just like I would come to treasure my day at Camp.

So what made my visit to Steelers Training Camp a positive experience?

The venue contributed many pluses. A former corn field on the perimeter of St. Vincent’s campus provided ample parking. It was easily accessible from U.S. Route 30 East in Latrobe. Seating – well, there were no reserved seats. People spread blankets in the shade of trees on the hills above the practice field. Some folks brought their favorite lawn chairs. Bleachers catered to folks like us who wanted to be in the stands. Admission was free.

I was with great company – my daughter Suzie and granddaughter Brianna. Both girls dressed for the day: four-year-old Brianna wore a Steelers cheerleader outfit and Suzie wore the Black & Gold. We cheered for the team as they appeared on the playing field. We watched the players do warm-up calisthenics and push-ups that only professional athletes can do. We strained to find the numbered jersey on the field of Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. When we spied him, Brianna learned from her Aunt Suzie to say that “Ben Roethlisberger is hot!” The sun in the stands was hot too; so to stay cool, we shared a three-foot long blueberry freezer pop. We laughed when our cold treat turned our lips and teeth blue. We saw the special teams maneuver on the field. We cheered and clapped for good plays. We fretted when the ball fell short. And, when practice ended, we hoped that we’d be among the lucky to get a player autograph.

We were lucky! As we walked from the stands across campus, a golf cart was headed our way. It carried three Steelers who had just come off the playing field. Suzie yelled to me, “Mom take a picture. Here they come.” I missed the shot but I didn’t miss catching the practice glove tossed to me by one of the players.

I don’t know which Steeler tossed me the glove. It really doesn’t matter. I will treasure the day and the unexpected gift from a visit to Steelers Training Camp.

August 6, 2008

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