There's nothing like a summertime baseball game, especially in a great ballpark like Pittsburgh's PNC.
The excitement of watching batting practice, the smell of the popcorn, the sounds of the cracking bat or "Take Me Out to the Ballgame.'' But what makes a game even better is when you get to watch your team win.
It's so much fun to follow professional baseball this summer! Watching the Bucs not only competing but winning, and not only winning, but dominating, is good for the hearts of the team's long-suffering fans.
There's talk about the Pirates everywhere you go - from board rooms to bar stools, street corners to church pews and the never-ending newsfeed of Facebook - the excitement about this year's team is palpable.
The first team to 50 wins, with the best record in baseball, this year's Bucs seem destined to break the longest losing-record streak in major professional sports, and dare we even think it - make the playoffs?
Of course, in the back of our minds we have to wonder are we Charlie Brown to the Pirates' Lucy, waiting for that last second when the ball and our hopes are yanked away just as we are about to kick it, landing painfully on our backs once again? Not this year we still hope.
One of the things I like best about Pirates fans is their unfailing loyalty. No matter how many sub-.500 seasons the Bucs rack up (20 to date), the truly faithful keep believing.
Sure there are those who jump on the bandwagon, filling seats at PNC Park to sell-out capacities, only to jump back off at the sign of a second-half collapse, calling for the skipper's head.
But somehow this season just feels different. The Pirates are winning the close ones, getting the clutch hits in extra innings and even seem to be having fun, lots of fun. They are getting it done with reliable pitching, timely hitting and some awe-inspiring defense, not to mention the "power of Z."
So many factors go into a team's success (or lack thereof) beyond the fundamentals - injuries, management, chemistry, leadership and even luck.
This season, the Pirates are playing and acting like champions, and in that way they are creating their own good fortune, and hopefully it will continue.
There are still thousands of lifelong Pirates fans who remember the Bucs' glory days - the eras of Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell, Jim Leyland, etc.
There is also a generation of young Pirates fans who only know about the World Series championships, pennants and divisional titles from parents and grandparents, or an inquisitive internet search.
Maybe this is the year that fans, young and old, will finally see the Pirates in the hunt down the stretch, not just for a winning record, but for postseason glory. One thing is for certain, this July 4, Pirates fans will flock to the ballpark for more than the fireworks show.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.