The new Pirates tradition: A 4:12 first pitch in the 412

April 5th, 2024

Perhaps three years is a bit soon to call something an annual tradition. But considering its origins, it seems safe to say that the Pirates’ first pitch at PNC Park is going to be delivered at the same time for years to come.

PNC Park is universally regarded as one of the most beautiful ballparks in the game, but few had the opportunity to watch a game there for a period of time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans were not allowed to attend games in 2020, and social distancing guidelines meant that only a percentage of seats were available in ’21.

That meant 2022 was going to be the first true home opener in three years, and it so happened to fall on April 12, or 4/12. That perfectly matched the city of Pittsburgh’s area code, which is the unofficial number of local Yinzers, spanning to clothing and businesses, too. In ’18, then-Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto declared April 12 as 412 Day.

“This day represents the work ethic and dreams of those who came before us who forged Pittsburgh with their bare hands, and re-affirms the kindness and selflessness that Pittsburgh uniquely possesses -- that we must all teach to our city’s next generation,” the decree read.

So what better time to deliver that first pitch of that 2022 season than at 4:12 p.m.? And while the Pirates’ home opener can’t always be on April 12, the timing of the pitch can reflect the city.

First pitch at today’s home opener against the Orioles will, again, be at 4:12 p.m. -- a tradition that “absolutely” will continue, team president Travis Williams said.

"I think for us, coming out of COVID, we were looking for something special to provide our fans on Opening Day,” Williams said. “What I think is interesting about it as well is, it really allows kids, if they're in school, parents can pick them up at school and get them down to the ballgame in time. So we wanted to be thoughtful of how we can get more people down to the ballpark on Opening Day.”

“I think it’s a beautiful way to tie it into the city and get everyone excited about Bucco baseball coming back,” said closer David Bednar, a Pittsburgh-area native. “I’m expecting another great environment this year.”

While that covers the first pitch of the game, the ceremonial first pitches have been very Pittsburgh in that time, too. In 2022, the ceremonial first pitch was delivered by actor and Pittsburgh native Joe Manganiello, who was wearing a custom jersey with “412” being the number. In 2023, A.J. Burnett threw to Russell Martin, two of the heroes from the 2013 team that got the Pirates back to the playoffs.

That first game is part celebration of Pittsburgh, so the team may as well lean into it fully.

“[It’s] a subtle homage to a great city and the proud people that call Pittsburgh home,” Pirates broadcaster Greg Brown said. “I love it! ... To my knowledge, we’re the only team that matches its first pitch with the city’s area code. It’s just SO Pittsburgh.”