PITTSBURGH -- When Ian Happ was growing up in Pittsburgh, he used to pay $9 to sit in the upper deck at PNC Park.
"I would usually sit in that section up there in the third deck, behind the left-field foul pole," Happ said Friday. "You could sit up there, bring a bag of sunflower seeds and watch nine innings of baseball and there'd be nobody within shouting distance. It was awesome."
Happ has gone from the upper-deck cheap seats to the starting lineup of a Major League team. On Friday, instead of watching the Pirates play, the Pittsburgh native was starting at second base for the Cubs, who rallied to score six runs in the ninth inning and post a 9-5 victory. Happ singled in the three-run first and scored a run and also doubled in the eighth.
"My goal growing up was playing in college, and once I got to college and had some success, my next goal was to play professional baseball," Happ said. "That's what I've been working for my whole life."
He credited the coaching he received in Mt. Lebanon, noting that his older brother Chris also trained there and was breaking down video of his swing long before most high schoolers do.
"To have that kind of support at a young age and that kind of environment to grow up in and learn to play baseball was something I don't think I'd be here without," Happ said.
He was so eager to come home that Happ, 22, drove from New York to Pittsburgh after the Cubs game against the Mets. He was able to play golf on Thursday's off-day, visited with his high school coach, drove around his old neighborhood and ate at a popular breakfast spot, Pamela's. The good news is that most of his friends got tickets to the game on their own and he only needed to find 20.
"To me, this is awesome," Happ said about being back home. "It's awesome to be back in the city. It's awesome to walk across the [Roberto Clemente] bridge and see the stadium, to be out here, and just the memories of different places I've sat in the stadium, and different games I've watched and the players I've seen, it's really, really special."
Pittsburgh is well known for the talented football players who have grown up in the area.
"It's always entertaining when a local kid can come back home and play," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I don't know how much street cred Pennsylvania has for producing ballplayers, but it's real."