When I was 18 years old I was in a high school play. To conclude my senior year a few friends and I thought it would be a change of pace to finish off four years. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was a blast, I was the camel.
I have read “Blink” my Malcolm Gladwell, and a pair of books about Pirates history. But the one that stuck out, not only from the books I have read this summer, but from all books I have ever read is “Are We Winning?” by Will Leitch.
I have always been a fan of Leitch’s. I loved “God Save the Fan” where he trashed ESPN and other media outlets, it really got me thinking. I also enjoy his columns in The Sporting News. But this book is the end all be all of Leitch and baseball books everywhere.
It is an honest tale of the game of baseball and how special it really is to fathers and sons. The memories made, the lessons taught and the good times that can ony be shared and understood by a father and his son.
Each chapter in entitled as an inning, top of the first, bottom of the first, top of the second and so on.
The premise of the book details Will’s trip to Wrigley Field where he meets his father and college buddy who is a die-hard Cubs fan. The Leitch family lives and dies by the Cubs’ bitter rivals, Cardinals. Just as you can expect hilarity ensues with raunchy slurs and colorful words
to describe Wrigley Field, Wrigleyville, Cubs fans, Vince Vaughn, beer, women and everything and everyone in between.
He gives a vivid recap of the game at hand, it is a special game as the Cubs are just one win away from clinching the Division title. Along with the game play by play he also flashes back to important moments in his life.
College days, Cardinal games and life in general. It is a perfect autobiography that all men who love baseball can easily relate to, and get many laughs in the process.
While Leitch doesn’t necessairly bash the Pirates he just tells the truth. Many times he spouts that there are not any Pirate fans, well quite frankly there are not. When he spoke of this fact many times he really made me sad, driving me to put down the book a few times and collect my thoughts. I thought long and hard about what the Pirates mean to me, what baseball means to me, what I would possibly do without being a Pirates fan and what a shame it is that more people in Pittsburgh have turned their back on this franchise.
However, all the disdain will eventually turn to the most powerful statement of the whole book. Towards the end he describes baseball towns and how other sports take a backseat to these citizens compared to their baseball teams. New York, Boston and St. Louis are examples of these baseball meccas. To conclude the chapter he delievers a bold prediction.
“Kansas City. Pittsburgh. Cincinnati. Baltimore. These are baseball towns. They will rise again.
Man is that beautiful and I simply could not agree more. All four have had their time in the sun with a large period of famine since either one of the franchises have seen a good baseball season. Cincinnati is seeing what could happen when winning occurs and it has transformed that city in Ohio. If the Pirates have even just a winning season within three years fans will flock back. My generation does not know what winning feels like. The book makes that clear and makes me jealous when Leitch describes how amazing it is to live and die by every pitch, call your father after a must win game and live out dreams by seeing a World Series live and in person.
While its been a tough 18 years with the 18th consecutive losing season just a few games away, the Pirates redirected their future today by signing their first and second round draft picks, Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie.
Taillon and Allie have been touted as the two best high school pitchers in the country. They are now part of the Pittsburgh organization. Homegrown pitchers have been a specialty of the Bucs, however they never seem to live up to the hype let alone pan out as formidable Major League starters.
This pair has a chance to change that mantra and allow the Bucs to become part of the competitive baseball landscape. We’ve seen that this year has been dominated by pitchers and now that the Pirates have two pitchers with the potential to dominate it just shows that down the road Pittsburgh will rise again.
photo credits: amazon.com, destination360.com,mackmetblog.com, hotstoveinfo.com
His every move was watched as 44,000 in Nationals Park and millions around the world were focused on this kid who is only six months older than myself.
It was like a presidential procession as he left the dugout to warm up in the outfield as a handful of security guards surrounded him as media and fans attempted to get a glimpse of the hurler.
With all the craze and hype developing since he was drafted as the first overall pick in 2009 Strasburg handled the moment the best way he knew how, striking out 14 Pirate batters.
It was the most unique way I personally have ever watched a baseball game as I focused solely on the 6’4 220 pounds pitcher. He is straight up Nasty, with a capital N.
He throws so hard hitting the upper nineties like it is nothing. His changeup clocks in at 91. His changeup! His sinker and curveballs would make Pedro Cerrano cry. They are simply unhittable.
He gave up a two run homerun to Delwyn Young and Andy LaRoche recorded the first hit off him in the third inning. Strasburg will be great, time will tell if he will be mentioned in the same breath as the Randy Johnson’s and Roger Clemens’s and if he will end up on the Yankees. But I think it is safe to say he will be the 2010 Rookie of the Year.
A much less hyped up debut of a pair of major leaguers will also be occuring soon.
The Pirates’ outfielder Jose Tabata and pitcher Brad Lincoln will make their first appearances sometime this week.
Lincoln was the Buc’s first round draft pick in the 2006 draft, 4th overall. He’s had a solid minor league year at AAA Indianapolis going 6-2 with a 3.16 ERA. It has been his best year since returning from surgery in 2007. He has the potential to be a number one starter in the rotation but alsi has to develop himself into that role. Soemthing that homegrown Pirates pitchers fail to do.
Tabata is a unique story. He came over to Pittsburgh from the Yankees in the trade that sent Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to New York. The Pirates also recieved Ross Ohlendorf in that swap. Tabata is best known for having a 35 year old wife who kidnaps children (long story). His on the field reputation is good as he has great potential at the plate. He is batting just over .300 with three homeruns this season. His best year came in 2008 when he arrived in AA Altoona. He hit for a .348 average. Tabata will split time in the outfield with Ryan Church, Lastings Milledge and Garrett Jones, when he is not manning first.
Both players will get early playing time by being thrown into the fire right away, I like that. That kind of development and on the job training is necessary to succeed. That is why they are up here anyway, to play.
The Pirates and the rest of Major League baseball all took a step in the right direction towards their future.
I was pleased with Pittsburgh’s draft class as I have been the past two years. It picked up who Baseball America called the two hardest throwing pitchers in the draft in 2nd overall pick Jameson Taillon and second rounder Stetson Allie. Not only do they both have sweet names, they have sweet pitches. Both can hit the 100mph mark which I think is ridiculous for both of them coming right out of high school. I still have doubts that the Pirates will be able to sign eitehr of them. They will demand a boatload of money and I am sure the Bucs will short change them. I can only hope owner Bob Nutting is ready to open up the checkbook.
I was most ecstatic about former West Virginia short stop Jedd Gyorko going 59th overall to the San Diego Padres.
I have covered Gyorko and the Mountaineer baseball team for the past two years and he is head over heels the best collegiate player I have ever seen. He leaves WVU as the best hitter in school history with a .404 Batting Average and 35 home runs. He will help the Padres up the middle as well with a good gloves and wide range.
Kaybee and Hyun Young; enjoy him. He is a pleasure to watch and an even greater guy. He stabnds just a generous 5’10” but plays much bigger. He does have a stocky build and natural raw power. He was definitely picked up because of his bat and will be able to transition from aluminum to wood nicely. He is such a nice dude who was a pleasure to talk with and develop a trusting relationship. Yesterday was a big day for him and his family yet he took time out of it to do an interview with me. You guys can read my article about Gyorko here at The Daily Athenaeum website, the official school newspaper of WVU.