Usually, one of my weekly traditions is enjoying a relaxing Saturday afternoon watching This Week in Baseball from my comfortable couch.
This past week I did so in Citizens Bank Park.
A Pirates featured segment was shown as part of the 30 minute program on the jumbotron at the exact same time the Pirates were stepping into the batters box for pre-game batting practice. It was a beautiful day for baseball in Philadelphia and Erin and I were lucky enough to enjoy it all. We made the trip across the state of Pennsylvania for the weekend to see the Pirates play the Phillies. Although it wound up being a sweep by the boys from the City of Brotherly love, we had a great time and saw a competitive game on Saturday evening.
As soon as the gates opened we rushed to the field for a closer look at BP. Decked out in red and blue, Phillies fans clamored throughout the park some 2 and a half hours before the game was slated to start. It was the largest pre-game crowd I had ever seen at a big league park. The brass was indeed treated to a show, as were we.
Making his Phillies debut, Hunter Pence responded to the huge ovations he received, just by stepping into the cage, by launching balls out of the yeard. From our account, at least eight of Pence’s swings were home runs, long ones at that.
Pence’s arrival in Philly was the talk of the sports world and surely the talk of the town.
Now, all this Philly hype didn’t get me down. I embraced it, respected it and acknowledged it. The whole set up, atmosphere and pride Philly has with their baseball team is impressive. They put on a great show, both on and off the field, and I had a great time taking it all in.
I didn’t go for them, though.
This trip was made solely for the Buccos. And, win or lose, I was going to support them, be loud and make it known that Southwest PA can competed with the bigger market on the eastern side of the state.
As I did for the Yankees game in Cleveland, I brought my new Nikon D3000 and snapped some pretty cool pics of my team.
With more than enough time to spare before the game, we wandered about the stadium. It was Erin’s first time at the Bank, my second. I went with my parents in 2004, the year it opened, as part of one of our glorious baseball road trips.
I ran into a fellow blogger and minor league baseball connoisseur, Tug Haines.
From the friendly, now to the creepy.
Let me first say that the Phillies have some quality souvenir items at many stands scattered throughout the stadium. I do include these under the “quality” category.
Player stuffed animals were flying off the shelves, after customers forked over $28. I admit they are pretty cool, but also could be used for some forms of voodoo. I would like to see a dreadlocked Andrew McCutchen or bearded Neil Walker doll being sold in Pittsburgh. Secretly, I would buy one.
We scored 45 dollar seats on Stuhub in the week leading up to the game. Not bad considering our fairly primo location in section 419, directly above and behind homeplate.
The night belonged to the Phillies with their 7-4 victory. Ryan Howard went 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a home run. Cliff Lee struck out 11, but the fact that the Bucs got four runs off him, we couldn’t be too upset. Not many teams could say that.
As for the “golden boy” Hunter Pence.
Nonetheless, it was a fun time in the very nice city of Philadelphia. It does get a bad rap, although it honestly is a deserved tag. However, the fans, most of them, are first class. Even the bandwagoners that are just there because its the cool thing to do pay attention to the game and hang on every pitch.
The crowd was electric and every single fan of the 45, 737 created an electric baseball atmosphere. It was announced that the 25th million fan in the seven years of Citizen Bank Park came through the gates on Saturday night. That is a phenomenal milestone. And for good reason, the fans come in droves to the park. Upper management puts a great product on the field and the chemistry of the team surely pumps the skills and stats into their on field play. The Phillies are a symbol of success and the strongest dynasty in the National League.
Looking over the sweep, the Pirates added two bats to a depleted offense. Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick will be transplanted to Pittsburgh and instilled as go-to pieces in the Bucs lineup. They aren’t much, but they are upgrades and solid additions to make this team competitive towards the pennant run.
It was a game I honestly didn’t want to end.
Nearing 2 a.m. on a Tuesday/Wednesday morning, I had to be up in a mere 5 hours to be at work at 8:30. Still, nothing was going to let me fall asleep.
Nine innings turned into 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14. Before we knew it 18 and a half innings passed and the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves were still ready to play on until the wee hours of the night.
Home plate umpire Jerry Meals was not.
Looming directly over the plate, Meals called Julio Lugo safe on a play that more than likely would have sent the game to the remarkable 20th inning. Now, it was just the second out, but batter Scott Proctor fell running towards first and catcher Mike McKenry would have gotten him out with an easy throw over.
It was the call that sparked a revelation . A revelation not only experienced by those involved on the field, but the loyal fans of both teams. Twitter was a sight to behold last night with hundreds upon hundreds of people weighing in on the hottest of the hot button issues to occur in baseball, this season.
From @SBerthiaumeESPN: WOW….WOW. I know Jerry Meals worked all 19 innings behind plate, but I’ve never seen a key call missed by THAT much!
From @PeytonsHead: OMG….I’ve not watched the end of a MLB game all year, and when I do, a team gets robbed. Sorry PIT fans, ATL stole that one.
From: @JamesSantelli: I’m literally shaking. I can’t believe that a great game like that ended with possibly the worst call at home plate I’ve ever seen.
From: @ajcbraves: That may be the worst call I’ve ever seen. No, it is. Worst call I’ve ever seen. Unbelievably bad. Braves win on horrendous safe call.
The shocked tweets turned into groundbreaking hashtags. #jerrymealssaysitssafe has turned into a worldwide trending topic with Pirates fans, Braves fans and total non-baseball fans chiming in to express their outrage.
That one single play will forever be etched in the minds of Pirate fans for quite some time, that’s for sure. But for the loyalists to just remember this travesty will never be enough to make a difference. Manager Clint Hurdle made his case, McKenry surely did, too. But this moment needs to be taken to the forefront of Commissioner Bud Selig’s office.
Sadly, it may be too late.
Meals already released his statement on the issue. “”I saw the tag,” he said after the game. “I looked at the replays and it appeared he might have got him on the shin area,” he continues. “I’m guessing he might have got him.”
He doesn’t admit defeat, though.
“But when I was out there when it happened I didn’t see a tag, I just saw the glove sweep up. I didn’t see the glove hit his leg.”
This is what bugs me the most. As evident in the above picture, Meals is in a perfect position to make the right call. jabs at umpires have long been spewed about across the league, and a major fuel backing that up is that umps just are simply out of their element and not situated in the right place to make the fairest call.
Meals was, but still acted upon anything but fair intentions.
Also, the second culprit of “blow call-gate,” Julio Lugo, isn’t off the hook, either. His actions and mannerisms at the time of the tag were just as disheveled as any player would following a being out by a mile. It wasn’t until he saw Meals outstretched arms that he celebrated.
Lugo was just as stunned as everyone watching.
His post game comments suggest otherwise, but no player would cave in to the opponent after a marathon game like that.
Like Jim Joyce before him, Jerry Meals is not going to be fading away any time soon. He will forever be linked with making one of the worst calls in the history of the game and hindering the Pirates from inching just a little bit closer to their fateful season of destiny.
photo credits: sportsgrid.com, Root Sports, Yahoo.com
Quotes credits: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
New York City is the destination and Yankee Stadium will be out 27th ballpark as part of our annual baseball vacations.
photo credits: everyjoe.com, multiinvestor.com
You can’t please everyone. This is evident in the discussions of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game.
Much of the blame is placed on the shoulders of this guy, Commissioner Bud Selig. Rightfully so, he is the man in charge and stemming from the ASG fiasco of 2002 in Milwaukee, there is a right to be warry of his decisions. He has drawn much scrutiny from his management of the league, but the All-Star Game is not something that has fallen through the cracks.
It is the premier star-studded showcase for premier players in any major sport. It is treated like it, too. The controversy and speculation surrounding the game are unlike in any other sport.
That means people are paying attention.
Many of the criticims the game itself faces are mere suggestions that I feel would hinder the meaning and tradition of baseball’s mid-season spectacle. For example, I am very much pleased with all 30 teams being represented. It may take away a chance for a player with better numbers to be snubbed, but what reason would a die-hard fan of a lowly team have to even watch the game? And to truly be a Major League Baseball All-Star game, shouldn’t every team in Major League Baseball be represented?
I heard the rumblings from some national pundits saying “Are Royals fans really that excited for reliever Aaron Crow to be in Arizona?” I think they are. They can buy his American League jersey, honor his acknowledgement and watch intently during the game to see if he gets in.
Other brash suggestions have been doing away with the fans vote.
How ’bout no.
This is a game for the fans and the players who start the game should be elected by the fans. It’s who they want to see in the game. Also, it’s more than likely that the players they want to see in the game will be selected anyway. I think the bigger honor is actually being selected by the manager of the team and the players. They know baseball and are more respectable than those punching ballots at stadiums or voting thousands of times online. Plus, the starters will not play many innings in order to get an also deserving player in the game.
Which brings me to my next point.
I watch the game to see a crop of players playing together that I normally do not see on a nigh-in, night-out basis. I anticipate the substitutions to see these guys get some hacks out of their natural game routine and element.
And, of course, to see a Pirate like Andrew McCutchen.
He only hit a slow dribbler back to the mound and was easily out at first in his only at bat of the contest. Still, seeing him come in to replace Matt Kemp in the 8th was a thrill. I know the feeling is mutual among all baseball fans who enjoy seeing their guys in the big game.
McCutchen was in the game to record the final out from pitcher Brian Wilson and walked off Chase Field a winner in his first of what many predict to be many All-Star Game appearances.
Two other Pirates made the team, as well. Kevin Correia and Joel Hanrahan were represented as two of the top pitchers in the National League. Hanrahan deserved to be there, Correia really did not.
The one rule, or obligation, I have against the game is the quantity of players there. It can be fixed with one simple tweak. Letting the pitchers that pitch Sunday be eligible for the All Star game. If worries about rest still arise, just move the game back a day to Wednesday. It is an off day, anyway. All of Major League Baseball should have Monday off, do the Home Run Derby Tuesday, play the game itself Wednesday, then have another day off on Thursday. Half the teams do anyway, why not grant every team a properly earned day of rest. The second half will always be a grueling one, four full days to prepare and focus is proper and should be granted.
Nonetheless, the game is a staple for the American Summer and should be honored with all its tradition.
The game, although a blow out in Midsummer Classic terms, was very entertaining and provided much to cheer about.
Prince Fielder was the most outspoken character of All Star week andrightfully so performed on the biggest stage. As much as it pains me to say it, congrats and thank you for helping display baseball at its finest on a hot summer night.
photo credits: yahoo.com
It’s been nearly three weeks since I’ve been to a Major League Baseball game. What’s the best way to fix that?
Go to three in one week.
I got back in the groove by hitting Progressive Field in Cleveland for a 4th of July celebration and went to two games in my beloved Pittsburgh summer home of PNC Park.
Slider came to the park on Monday, July 4, in his best red, white and blue outfit. But, my buddy Andrew and I stuck with a special kind of patriotism. He is a well-documented Yankees fan and a loyal supporter of my Pirates. When the Yankees come close to Northeast Ohio, he makes every effort to attend a game. The last time he saw his time live and in person was two years ago, though.
I can’t imagine that.
Only getting to see your team one every handful of years is quite the misfortune. Having grown up in great proximity to Pittsburgh, I have attended over 20 games almost every year these past two decades. That feeling of being at the ballpark live is probably the biggest explanation of why I am such a big fan. For that reason, I feel the need to support Andrew and his Yankees.
What’s unique about the Yankees is their aura. There is a sense of pride, although it is much stronger than that, among the fan base and the team itself. Standing just 10 feet away from legends during batting practice gave me an indescribable feeling. Jeter, Rodriguez, Cano, Sabathia, even Swisher, these are media darlings that can be identified by nearly anyone who follows sports from coast to coast. No other team can boast what the Yankees can and from that I don’t feel any hatred. It’s not even a jealousy, it’s simple respect. I think it takes a true baseball fan to realize what the Yankees stand for and look past the notions of “ruining baseball” and “Yankees Suck.”
Clearly, they don’t.
I was lucky enough to snap some great pictures of Yankees players during BP as Andrew was content just yelling out to his heroes and holding out hope that one may stop over, say hi, and sign an autograph for some of the hundreds waiting patiently.
But this day was for Derek Jeter.
The 4th was Jeter’s first game back from a DL stint and the reception he received from the faithful was overwhelming. Signs and shouts to the shortstop were all positive until his first at-bat.
The Indians fans booed him mercilessly.
Sitting just six hits shy of 3,000 we knew we had the potential of seeing a simple path on the road to history. We didn’t as Jeter went 0-for-4.
The game itself was an unbelievable game, especially coming from a 3rd party fan, myself. The Yanks were no-hit through six innings but would falter in the end. The atmosphere was electric in the park. Anytime a club beats the Yankees can be special and with the way the Tribe has been playing, it could be the cornerstone to a strong second half.
The joyous sounds of Americana graced the park as fireworks filled the night sky. Baseball on the 4th of July is as true to this country as you can get. Like the scene out of The Sandlot, we got a sight of awe and wonder as over 40,000 people basked in a perfect evening.
I wanted to make the next night even better.
I was back at my park, PNC Park.
The way the Bucs have been playing, all of Pittsburgh has caught the baseball fever. A sold out crowd on Independence Day saw a huge Pirate win over the Astros. I wanted to see an encore on Tuesday. Nearly 20,000 other did, as well. A crowd like that was unheard of over the past eight or so years. More than 9,000 people walked up to get tickets, too. While the buzz has been palpable, I turned my back, somehow.
Craig Biggio is one of, if not, my most favorite ballplayer. He was nitty, he was gritty and he played the game with the heart and integrity that little leaguers, like myself at the time looked up to. Recently, I pulled the trigger on the jersey to honor this idol in my baseball life.
I had to give that same song and dance to at least five other Pirates fans at the game. Everyone obliged and actually respected me with a slew of high fives and fist bumps. I simply said, “I’ll probably wear this jersey seven times in my life. This is one of the most appropriate times.”
Well, I’m not one to believe in superstitions but Biggio brought Pittsburgh luck as the Buccos raised the jolly roger.
While the end result was not pleasant, the 39,000 in attendance were treated to the most surreal moment in PNC Park history.
A slow roar grew into a loud yell as a message was displayed on the jumbotron during catcher Mike McKenry’s at-bat in the 4th inning.
Snubbed for a week, Andrew McCutchen finally caught word that he was heading to Pheonix for the All Star Game. The crowd was loud and rose to their feet, triggering McCutchen out of the dugout to acknowledge the crowd. A curtain call and he wasn’t even at the plate! His next at-bat was eerily similar. The adoring fans rose once again in a standing ovation for number 22 getting the recognition we all knew he deserved.
The scoreboard also displayed another important message.
Just as in Cleveland, this drew a mixed reaction. I yelled and clapped profusely. Again, I’m not a Yankees fan by any stretch of the imagination, I just respect historic feats and the Yankees are pretty good at recording them. I was lucky enough to have watched his momentous 3,000 hit on mlb.tv with my dad, earlier in the day. It was an unfathomable event I won’t soon forget.
After being away from the game I love, I think this week drew me back to what I have known all along. I’m a rare breed. We all are-anyone reading this. Baseball is a game that can only be appreciated by those who cling to it. It will always have its naysayers, they simply do not know what they are missing. No sport provides the magic, memories or momentum that baseball does. Honestly, that’s why I feel the Pirates are doing so well this season. Those three M’s have all come together and created a fourth-moments. Baseball is full of them, each pitch to be exact. Some are good and some are bad. With 162 games there is enough time to experience a lot of both.
Obviously fans want to see more good than bad, but to those who grasp the full circle of the game, the good comes a bit easier.
That’s the mark of a true Pirates fan, in a nutshell.
Forget what you thought you know about the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The small crowds, cellar dwellers, AAAA farm team, 18 straight losing seasons.
Forget about it. The city of Pittsburgh has, why shouldn’t you?
There is a new sense of belonging in the Steel City, or shall I say Buc Town. It’s cool to be a Pirates fan and the 2011 Buccos have provided a city with hope that this time around really matters. Summer has always been a void for sports fans in athletic crazed Pittsburgh, PA. Fall belongs to the Steelers, the Penguins own winter and spring and with top-flight college programs (WVU, Pitt, Penn State) in the region all-school year long, summer was never really welcoming to what it was meant for.
Yes, people would wind up in beautiful PNC Park, but simply as a courtesy. The Pirates have always been a sideshow for people just looking for something to do on a warm, summer night. Think about it. Everybody watches the SuperBowl, everybody goes to the annual church festival, everybody goes to a Pirate game-for the heck of it, really with no rhyme or reason.
That’s different this year and there is reason to prove it.
Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review provided factual evidence that a competitive Pirates team in June is a true revolution.
Pirate games television ratings are up 34% from last year and are at their highest since 2005.
Apparel sales have boomed up to 50% in the Pittsburgh metro area.
Views of the Pirates homepage are up 41%.
Attendance at PNC Park is up 12%.
This is far from the same old, same old. Usually, Pittsburgh is a far cry away from contention, let alone .500, by this time of the year. June is about to wrap up and the Pirates currently stand at 39-37, a mere 2.5 games out of first place in the National League Central.
To quote Lou Brown from Major League, “we’re contenders now.”
Baseball is indeed a funny sport, as no one could have predicted this dramatic turnaround from last year’s Bucs and last years Bucs “fans.”
Twice in 2011, PNC Park attendance records have been set and then broken. An average of over 22,000 people have rushed the gates so far, this year. It’s a new feeling at the park, too. People can relate to this team unlike any year before. It’s a new feeling that these guys are our guys. Complaints of years before that read something like, “they just trade away everyone, anyway.” Well, they did that to get to this point.
Most notably pitchers Jeff Karstens and Joel Hanrahan, whose performances on the mound propelled the Pirates to a 6-4 win over the Red Sox on Saturday, have been the centerpiece to bewildering revolution.
With plenty of season left to play, there is more than enough time for the Bucs to pick up steam, but lose it as well. For now, it’s time to enjoy competitive baseball in Pittsburgh. For many, it’s something new. But, it’s fun to be a fan.