This has been a Spring Break I will never forget. Three amazing events all wrapped in a week was so very special.
You all read about my Cooperstown trip and here is a quick, depressing synopsis of my Saturday in Indianapolis.
It was surreal. Surreal that not only was West Virginia playing in the Final Four but also that I was there to witness it. However, the Mountaineers were shalacked. Up and down, it was ugly. We were killed on the boards and Duke was simply shooting lights out.
It was a great road trip for my WVU buddies and I. Although West Virginia was destroyed 78-57 it was an amazing time with unforgettable memories. It is definitely the best sporting event I have ever been to. Surpassing Game 3 of the Stanley Cup from last summer and the 2006 MLB All Star Game in PNC Park.
As tears flowed down my face Saturday night, I felt a shock of jubilation come Sunday night.
Opening Day was abreast!
I rose at 7 am Monday morning and was on the road to Pittsburgh by 8.
My group of six gathered at Primanti Brothers for a tasty breakfast of meat, coleslaw, fries and tomatoes.
The gates to PNC Park opened at 11:30 and we found ourselves in the left field bleachers. In a “right place at the right time” moment I caught a ground rule double off the bat of an unidentified Dodgers batter. My first Opening Day ball!
From there I ventured over to the Pirates dugout. There I met a fellow blogger, Ms. Kristy of “Hands off My Pirates Booty”
mShe was enjoying batting practice from her beautiful seats right along the dugout, just seven rows back. It not only offers a great view of the game, but the city as well. I am sporting my freshly bought Lastings Milledge T-shirt. I was surprised at the variety of T-shirts offered this year.
The game itself was everything I could have asked for. A win!
I was nervous at first as Zach Duke let up two runs in the first inning, however our ace settled down and pitched a solid five innings.
The man of the hour was Garrett Jones, let me re-phrase that, Garrett FREAKING Jones.
Jones went off with a two home run performance and showed he will be our go to guy for power. Both HRs were impressive. The first was a 450 foot blast into the Alegheny River. The other an opposite field homerun to left over the head of Manny Ramirez.
Speaking of the crowd, it was great. A sellout crowd of over 39,000 saw the first game of the 2010 season. And boy did they see a beauty. I’m glad the city of Pittsburgh was welcomed with a heralded perforance. I know it will not be packed with 39,000 every game but hopefully today showed what this team can be capable of and bring some new faces to the ballpark.
That being said, this team is solid. Talented in fact, they will surprise some people this year and may, just maybe break that .500 mark and compete after the All Star break. Until then I plan on enjoying each and every game and cannot wait till I am back in the park. Like every year, it was a great Man Day Monday.
The Buccos defeated the Yanks 12-7 on Tuesday, but most impressive was what was done in the first inning.
Andrew McCutchen got things started with a single.
Ronny Cedeno…a single also.
Lastings Milledge brought home McCutchen with a double.
Then this guy…
Jones blasted a three run homer off none other than CC Sabathia. Sabathia got rocked in two innings pitched giving up seven hits and five earned runs.
It was nice to see us do some damage against Sabathia. The Pirates totaled 15 hits against NY, the most of the spring. It wa salso nice to out hit a team for a change also, the Yanks recorded just eight.
Charlie Morton, anticiapted fourth starter, had a decent outing with a three inning showing on four hit ball. He did give up three runs, but struck out a pair.
By the way, that Garrett Jones picture, photo shopped by yours truly. I got the program for my brithday and have been playing around with it.
Tomorrow it is Pittsburgh-Baltimore live on FSN Pittsburgh.
photo credits: nytimes.com, espn.com
Sunday was one of the greatest days of 2010. After an enjoyable night of enjoying the college lifestyle on Saturday, the action continued Sunday morning. A few buddies of mine hopped in my Nissan Versa and trekked up I-79 for the hour long journey to Pittsburgh.
The cost of admission was originally $12 bucks, however we caught a break. A father with a son had four extra “VIP” passes (which literally meant nothing) he sold them to us for $5 dollars. Scalping tickets to Pirate Fest? Heck yeah!
We rushed to the autograph line where we first hit former Pirate El Roy Face, pitcher Charlie Morton and catcher Ryan Doumit.
Later in the day we came back for another round of autographs.
Firstbaseman/right fielder Garrett Jones and third baseman Neil Walker signed along side another former Pirate in Jim Rooker. It looks like Penguin Sergei Gonchar joined in on the festivities. The Pens were actually playing across town, hosting the Red Wings. Many fans adorning Penguins gear were at the fest and the Penguins won in an epic shootout. The game was playing on an HDTV at a booth.
Although the lines were fairly long, we waited in the lines for nearly an hour each time, it was a fun time. We talked to some cool people around us and I got major flack from an elderly man for wearing my Barry Bonds jersey.
One of my favorite parts of Pirate Fest are the memorabilla tables.
This table was filled with just Roberto Clemente stuff. From cereal boxes to buttons to an autographed baseball with a 10,000 dollar price tag. I cam away with a cool Pirates poster from the 90’s, a 1989 game program and some packs of 2010 Topps baseball cards.
Pirate Fest is also a great time to meet some very cool people associated with the team.
I did meet him on Tuesday but seeing Andrew McCutchen rocking out on Guitar Hero was pretty cool. The guy in the black Cutch shirt was getting owned by the star centerfielder. I think this is a cool picture, considering their both rockin’ the 22.
One of the most bubbly, entergetic and fun people associated with the Pirates is Joe Klimchak. He is famous for his commercials for the Pirates where he mimmicks the “Shamwow” guy. They are very funny and do the job. He is also the in-game host at PNC Park. He hosts the between inning shin digs and brings a good vibe to the ballpark.
The best moment of the day and perhaps my entire life around baseball was meeting General Manager Neil Huntington.
It was a very personal time with Jared and I speaking to the GM for a good five minutes. He was standing in the concession stand area just mingling with some fans. He was very genuine and came across like a strong minded individual. After getting a cool snapshot I gave an ill attempt at a joke saying “We just made a deal and I’m the new fifth starter.” Neil really didn’t laugh and Jared just thought I was stupid. It was a good segway into a discussion regarding who the fifth starter for the Bucs. It is a race between Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen-he talked highly of both and really believes the competition will bring out the best in the two young guns.
Jared brought up his former affiliation with the Cleveland Indians, Jared’s favorite team. He is excited for manager Manny Acta to take over and think he deserved the job. He made a point that Terry Francona and Joe Torre were not successful in their first two managerial positions and that the change of scenery will be good for a younger manager with potential.
Talk around Pittsburgh has been heated with Pirates debate. It was reported that Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle have made an offer to Pirates owner Bob Nutting in an attempt to buy the team. It is a hot button issue that probably won’t go anywhere but it has given Pittsburghers false hope. I’m torn on the matter, obviously the Pens are a better run franchise and Mario may perhaps be the face of Pittsburgh sports history. However, because of the market size and baseball regulations, not much would change. It would be cool to have a Pittsburgh cable sports channel broadcasting the Pens/Pirates and other local teams to bring in more revenue than FSN Pittsburgh does already.
While I did not want to bring this up when talking to Mr. Huntington he did cite a similiar position. He said the key for small market teams is too avoid injuries as well as big, bad contracts. While it is easy to say with Lemieux/Burkle the Pirates could spend more money, will they spend it wisely? I don’t just want millions thrown at top free agents to lock them in for multiple years. Currently, Neil is allocating the money properly stocking up with high level prospects who the Pirates have control over for many years at a small cost. It is a risk, but will prove to be rewarded just a few years down the road.
Now that the ownership tangent is over, we made two more stops in the ‘Burgh. Here are pictures from our Steel City travels.
Readers, you know my disdain for the University of Pittsburgh, it is well-documented. We rode into the Oakland section of Pitsburgh and had a self guided tour of the campus. We walked through the basketball arena and stopped by the famous Cathedral of Learning. I hate to say it, but Pitt is a very nice campus. However, it is my civic duty as a Mountaineer to hate everything regarding our bitter rivals. On Wednesday the Panthers come to Morgantown for a battle of top ten college basketball game.
Before departing back to the Mountain State one final stop had to be made, PNC Park. I honored Willie Stargell the only way I knew how, bowing down. Pops would have been a great player to watch back in the day. He is one of three Pirates honored with statues, with a fourth on the way. It was announced at Pirate Fest that a Bill Mazeroski statue will be erected later this season.
The field was just feet in front of me but the dang metal bars were seperating me from happiness. It was still a cool moment enjoying PNC Park at its calmest. It truly is the most beautiful park in baseball and to be able to regularly attend games here is an awesome feeling. I am spoiled that this is my home park and I can watch a major league baseball games at a great price in a beautiful setting.
With February upon us and winter nearly over, actually its not but hey, we can hope, that could mean just one thing.
I wasn’t the only proud Bucco mlblogger enjoying the fest, check out these blogs for more about the weekend event.
Well I’m sure many do, but one player stands out as one of the holiest players in the league.
Now I am not totally sure of Church’s religious background, it was just a lame attempt at a joke.
Anyway, getting back on track here, the Pirates have reportedly signed outfielder Ryan Church to a one year, 1.5million dollar deal.
The former 14th round pick of the Indians really made a name for himself when he was a National. During his four years with the organization, his numbers really never stood out.
His highest batting average was .287 in 2005. His
highest home run total was 15 in 2007. His OPS numbers range from the upper .700s to mid .800s. Nothing to brag about there, but Church is widely regarded as a reliable, yet solid player.
Church spent brief and injury prone years in New York and Atlanta. He gained national attention in a bigger market playing for the Mets. His power numbers digressed after leaving Washington and so did his playing time. He was used in 4th outfielder capacity for both teams but still did his best to strive in the position he was in.
Church was drafted by Cleveland in 2000. The Mahoning Valley Scrappers, short season A ball, usually recieve the top draft picks of the organization literally days after they are signed. It has been great watching former Indians stars such as C.C. Sabathia and Victor Martinez has been a real treat back in my hometown.
Church arrived on the scene in that summer and was a hot player destined for greatness right away. He was named New York Penn player of the week muliple times, a legaue leader in home runs and RBIs and just an exciting player to watch.
It is not very often a player in short season A ball makes a name for himself right out of the gate. Not only is there high turnover rates this low, the fans really do not look that much into these very young players.
As a pre-teen boy I was in awe of Church. Every Scrappers game I went to I would bug Ryan for his autograph. I never did get it though. The crowds were hyped full of tee-ball league players getting autographs as well. I was always too late. Now that he is a Pirate, I plan on earning his signature and explaining to him how he snubbed me some ten years ago.
Church’s role on the Pirates will be unique. He will probably be th 4th outfielder for Pittsburgh, a role he is already used to. With Lastings Milledge and Andrew McCutchen inked into the left and center field positions the right field spot is definitely up for grabs. Brandon Moss and Church will be in the running for the starting spot, however, more than likely Garrett Jones will be the guy the Pirates are most comfortable with manning the outfield grass.
I would rather put Jones at first to give Church the starting position in right. But Jeff Clement looks to be the starting first baseman. Clement came to the Bucs via the Mariners and is considered quite the hot prospect. He does not have very good game experience in the big show, but he is a minor league prodigy. I am skeptical though because I honestly have to see it to believe it.
With the addition of Church the Pirates have just one more bench spot to fill. Brandon Moss and Delwyn Young will be competing for that final spot. This is a tough spot for me personally. I enjoy the potential of Moss, but he has never came through or lived up to any expectations. I hate to give up on him seamingly quickly considering he was part of the Jason Bay deal.
Delwyn Young on the other hand has exceeded expectations, my personal ones and that of Pirate fans. In what was really his first full big league season Young was a clutch hitter who had a knack for finding the holes to get the ball through. He ran out of gas at the end of the year and was really in a deep funk. Delwyn is one of my favorite players. He is likeable and brings a “fresh” feeling to the club.
It’ll be an interesting race and a great storyline heading into Spring Training.
photo credits: homeruncards.com, lompoclockerroom.blogspot.com, wfan.com, brotherpeacemaker.com
WITH A WIN!
What a refreshing way to close the door on PNC Park for the 2009 campaign. It is bittersweet for me. I hate the end of baseball season (yes I know the Pirates still have two series of road games to play and yes there is still playoffs, but the fact I gotta wait til April to see a live game puts me in a tizzy) Bu anyway the faith is still there. The Pirates actually have a little life and a fight in them to take 3 of 4 from the mighty Dodgers.
On Friday the Bucs edged the Dodgers 3-1, they struggled on Saturday but remained in the 8-4 defeat, it was 6-5 on Sunday as Lastings Milledge nailed a 3-run walk off double and on Monday the Bucco big bats came out in an 11-1 victory.
It is all bittersweet. I loved the way we played against LA but where was that winning spirit throughout the course of the season. Pittsburgh is swept by the Reds but can win three games against the Dodgers in the same week. It just doesn’t come full circle. I honestly believe we have the talent. McCutchen, Jones and Milledge will be cornerstones on this team. However, it takes me than three solid major leaguers to win ballgames. The other regulars on the team have had flashed of brillance but never enough to sustain a winning record.
Andy LaRoche was one of those flashes today
He went 5-5 with a pair of homers, two doubles and a triples. With a showing like that you would think this guy is a superstar but this year he has been far from it. He’s batting .259 with 12 homeruns. Totally mediocre and he has played the 3rd base position all year. For a player at that position he should be doing much better. He has been a dissapointment considering the hype around him. After all we basically got him for the price of Jason Bay. He’s been off and on all year with a 2 week slump here and a week of greatness there. Emma from CRZblue has been asking about her former top prospect in LA. Emma, what you saw today is really just Andy wearing his “good baseball player” mask. He has a lot of slack to pick up if he wants to guarentee his spot next year. Pedro Alvarez is in the minors and knocking at the PNC Parks doors rapidly.
LaRoche came over from the Dodgers in the three way trade last year. The Dodgers gave the Bucs another key player that has been a starter for Pittsburgh most of the year.
Delwyn Young is a natural corner outfielder. Since the Pittsburgh trade he has been converted
to a second baseman. It took him a while to get adjusted but since he has been more nurtured he has been a soild infielder. He’s been seen on top plays and web gems. He’s been strong at the plate doing his job as speedy guy and getting on base. He is a pure singles hitter who always seems to get a hit. He’s flireted with a .300 batting average for most of the season. He has descended throughout the past 2 months and is now at .261. I’m sure this being his first full time position player season he is winded and will need some much needed R and R this offseason.
The Pirates-Dodgers connection extends beyond the baseball field.
Last week the Pirates took a trip out west to Sunny California and were warmly welcomed by the Dodgers in historic Dodger Stadium.
Like always Cat was at the game showing her pride and watched her Dodgers sweep the Bucs in three games. While she was there she so genuinely picked up a token of memorabilla for me.
She was able to snag an autograph from Pirates reliever Jesse Chavez. Chavez has been very rocky all year and isn’t the most liked guy in Pittsburgh. However, he is nice with the fans and always takes time to sign autographs and throw balls to fans in the stands. I’m impressed with him and all the Pirates players. They relaize their not a team like the Dodgers and should be happy with the strong fan base that will always stick with him. I just want to say thanks Cat! I’m definately keeping this on display, my favorite part is actually the Dodgers season ticket stub. It is very cool and add to my baseball collection. I also want to say hey to my friend Steve, he’s lurking in the background and got caught in the pic.