Tagged: Paul Maholm

Home Sweet Home


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There may not be a more refreshing sight that will grace the PNC Park jumbo tron, this year.

Aside from a playoff picture, of course. 
Thursday brought opening day to PIttsburgh and along with it came an enthusiasm that has rarely been replicated in the ten years of PNC Park. People were excited.
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The energy outside the stadium was almost like a college football tailgate party. Upon my arrival to Pittsburgh around 10 am, Thursday, parking spaces were scarce. There were lawn chairs spread out, corn hole bean bags flying and cold beers being drank. A wonderful sight as many people chose to take an old fashioned sick day and mosey on over to the ballpark. It is a tradition unlike any other.
I was excited to connect with many people I have met through the glory of Pirates baseball and set aside much time just to take it all in. Opening Day is unlike any other in the season. Obviously, no matter who are primary team is, this day is special. But for the Pirates, there aren’t many more games like it. Without a legitimate playoff hope in the past decade, it is hard to sustain the optimism over the course of the grueling schedule. 
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The above picture signifies the feeling of the torment that is winter, the despair that the bleak weather will never subside and we won’t be able to experience the glory that is baseball season. I am here to testify that we truly can be at peace again.
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The glory can be felt throughout the field of green and even more so by the members of each club that often go under appreciated. Opening Day is the only time during the year that the head trainers, clubhouse managers and even massage therapists get their recognition in front of a sold out crowd. In Pittsburgh, it was the second largest in park history, 39,290. 
Erin and I were debuting in our new seats for the year, a pair of 20 game plans in section 322, row B, seats 1 and 2. Now, in most other ballparks that section may roll some eyes. For us, it was perfect. At just $140 we are secured for a fun-filled summer at the Best Ballpark in America. Indeed it is. 
While spirits were high and Pittsburgh was joined together in baseball unity, the team could not feed off the energy and fell 7-1 behind an un-spirited pitching performance from starter Paul Maholm and the bullpen. After back-to-back hits from Jose Tabata and Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen tallied a RBI. Even though things seemed to be looking up, six straight innings without a hit dug the offensive hole for the Pirates.
Friday night erased all negative thoughts of the day before.
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The smiling faces and happy thoughts seemed to have exploded from the gallows of uncertainty. The pitching shortcomings of the night before far exceeded themselves against the Rockies on Friday. Ross Ohlendorf did give up a 3-run homer to Jason Giambi, but those were the only runs to cross the plate for Colorado. It took 14 innings but a double from Jose Tabata scored Josh Rodriguez to give the Buccos their first win at their own digs in 2011.
It still remains the only one as they dropped the next two games against the Rockies.

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Saturday night was WVU day at the park, a project I helped organize with other members of the graduating Public Relations class interested in sports communications. It was a great opportunity to get our foot in the door and was a rewarding endeavor. 
It was also fireworks night. While they entertained in the night sky above beautiful downtown Pittsburgh, the real explosions came in the left field bleachers.  
Saturday nights are a time when PNC Park is usually packed, packed with idiots who don’t know how to understand baseball and were never taught how to behave in public. A large group of fans in the bleachers began chanting “USA, USA, USA,” to what I believed was a mocking response to Rockies reliever Rafael Betancourt, a native of Venezuela. 
In fact, it was an unruly fan who was escorted out of the stadium not before resisting arrest and assaulting a stadium usher. Why the patriotic cheers? Well, he was wearing a very outlandish red, white and blue jumpsuit that had USA stitched on the chest. Not exactly what I deem to be proper ballpark attire, anyway. Videos of the event can be seen on youtube, including one shot by fellow MLBlogger, Erik Jabs.http://countingbaseballs.mlblogs.com 
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National media outlets have picked up on the event. Sportscenter and the New York Daily News have featured it. The fan was reluctant to obey the orders instructed to him by the Pittsburgh cops. A taser was induced with no effect as he wasn’t going to the ground. This forced police to draw nightsticks and mercilessly beat the man to the ground. People are calling this excessive force and police brutality, I call it making an example of a goon. You listen to the police, no matter who you are or what you may have did or didn’t do, you act with respect when confronted by cops. This guy did the far opposite and had this embarrassment coming.  
With a fresh seri
es against the Brewers coming up this week, I plan on returning to my summer home to catch some more baseball. We all have a special place where we need to go to take time off, relax and be entertained. For ten years, PNC Park has been my spot. With 78 more home games to go I plan on enjoying every single one I get to go to, win or lose. 
photo credits: pirates.com, nydailynews.com

Yankees silenced as Bucs continue Spring fling

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In 2008 actor Bill Crystal got his birthday wish as he signed a one day contract with the New York Yankees. 
In his lone Spring Training at bat he struck out at the hands of Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm. 
Three years later, six actual Yankees struck out against Pittsburgh pitchers. 
On Tuesday the Bucs blanked the Yanks 2-0 at McKechnie Field in Bradenton. 
Although the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixiera did not take the field, come one, they’re still the Yankees. 
James McDonald took the hill for the Pirates and lasted two solid innings, allowing just a pair of hits. Curtis Granderson tripled in the first inning and Eric Chavez notched a single in the second. 
Behind McDonald, Aaron Thompson gave up two hits. New York would only reach base those four times. 
Daniel McCutchen earned the win, his first of the Spring. He fanned two batters including Nick Swisher. Former first round pick Daniel Moskos was given the save and did not allow a hit in the 9th inning.
The Pirates now stand at 3-2 in the Grapefruit League. The other two wins came against the Tampa Bay Rays. The win against the Yankees was clearly the best performance from the pitching staff, thus far. 
But, there was bad news in the day.
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Relief pitcher Joe Beimel was ordered to be shut down due to discomfort in his left arm. He has undergone and MRI with results coming later Tuesday, or Wednesday. The newly acquired lefty was to be a strong hold in the bullpen. Working with Evan Meek and closer Joel Hanrahan, the back end of the pen looks to be one of the strongest in the NL Central. 
Beimel was once a Pirate before this spring. From 2001-04 he was a reliever in Pittsburgh. He was anything but spectacular and has since spent time with the Dodgers, Nationals and Rockies reviving his career. 
Just look at him. 
He brings an edge, a fire of sorts, that will be utilized. His recovery needs to be brisk for his untapped potential to come about.
photo credits: bleacherreport.com, yahoo.com

“Where were these fans during the year?”

Well, the fun kept coming last week as Pirates baseball remained fresh on everyone’s mind.

The annual Pirate Fest occurred Friday through Sunday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. In fitting fashion I was there for the weekend’s grand opening and grand closing. It was an event filled with non-stop action lifelong memories.
Honestly.
At least enough to hold me over until Spring Training, that is.
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Friday night there was line to get in as the doors were not opened until 4 p.m. In Black Friday style the crowd ransacked their way into the Center as if they were in search of a Doorbuster Deal on ipads. 
While a few friends and I were some of the first ones in, we didn’t rush over to the autograph lines like a majority of the die-hards. Instead, I signed up for a subscription to the Tribune-Review. I was told they could deliver the paper to me on Sundays, so I said why not? 
Just doing my part to sustain my dying industry. 
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We would eventually find our way to the autograph lines. They seem to stretch for hours, because they do. Sometimes, though, I just don’t see the point. I mean, it’s just a signature. Nonetheless, I still got some pretty cool things signed by players and coaches. 
In my opinion, nothing is cooler than a picture, much like this one on the right. New manager Clint Hurdle and I shared a quick discussion and handshake. 
Let me tell you, he means business. 
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While Hurdle has been a hot topic in Pittsburgh recently, the 1960 World Series team is, too. 
Pictured left is pitcher Bob Friend who was a hurler on that classic team. As I’m sure most of you are aware footage from that historic game 7 was recently discovered. Found in Bing Crosby’s wine cellar of all places, it has since been copied into DVD and widely distributed throughout the city and baseball circles.
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Current players were signing, too. 
Here is my brother, Zach, getting right fielder Jose Tabata’s autograph. 
Tabata bulked up over the winter and was visibly larger. He is quiet as he is shy, and not so fluent in English, either. 
Hearing him say Jersey might be the funniest thing in the world.
“Hersee”
Jeff Karstens, remember him?
He was signing Friday, as well. But unlike the rest of the players he kept his interactions with fans to a minimum.
As you can see, he already zoomed through his stack of cards just merely handing them out to passers by.
He was like that mean old lady at the end of your street that just left a big box of candy on the porch on Halloween.
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Of course, they don’t call it Pirate Fest for nothing. There are a plethora of other events go on in this winter baseball epicenter. 
Zach and I took our skills to the broadcast booth as we love to share off our speaking talents. I’m not one to toot my own horn, but we have great banter and chemistry on the mic. 
We called the highlights of this year’s Pedro Alvarez walk off home run to down the Rockies in extras on August 7th. We were very Greg Brown and Steve Blass-esque.
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Speaking of family, it was great to run in Zach, as well as my dad on Friday. If it wasn’t for my old man I wouldn’t be writing this blog in the first place, simply because I wouldn’t be a Pirates fan.
I recall one game when I was no older than 10, we witnessed a beat down of our Bucs and Three Rivers Stadium. Upon walking out, he just turns to me and says ‘I’m sorry.”
There’s no doubt a majority of my 21 years have been a disappointment, but thats what will make the impending turn around so much better.
Sharing the victories with my dad.

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I haven’t been the only one suffering from baseball withdrawal. Driving up from Morgantown with my friend Marc was a great time, even if he truly is a Cubs fan. But meeting up with two of my best friends, Erin and Craig, who are indeed die-hard Pirate fans was refreshing. 
We shared a nice night in the ‘Burgh.
Friday night wasn’t over, though.
The fun was just beginning. 
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I ran into Joe Klimchak, in game host for games at PNC Park. He does a great job keeping a lively atmosphere at games and I try to compliment him any time I can. having been to many parks across the country, I am proud to say, hands down, Pittsburgh has the best host in all of baseball. His attitude and knowledge are inspiring and you just can’t help but feed off his energy. This was evident Friday as we chatted for a good 10 minutes. he had recognized me and called me “West Virginia.”
Heck, I don’t go by anything else!
Then things got a little somber. 
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The most hurtful thing that has happened to myself and the Pirates this off season was letting go of Lastings Milledge. Now, he didn’t necessarily live up to his lofty expectations.
In fact, he underachieved greatly.
But, he had promise and was a fun player to watch at the plate and in the field. He was my favorite player and I just feel the Bucs could fall victim to releasing a strong talent. 
I don’t want the non-retention to hurt Pittsburgh, but I also wish Milledge the best wherever he ends up.
We will never forget.
Later on, my West Virginia act would bite me in the butt.
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At the Q and A session players and coaches sat on stage fielding questions from fans. 
Some questions were cute, others were stupid. 
I had the honor of closing off the event. I asked who attended the recent wedding of Pedro Alvarez, just Neil Walker did.
It got a little dicey, though. 
Introducing myself as “Matt from Morgantown, Let’s Goooo Mountaineers” may have been a bad move. I was serenaded by a throng of boos. There were some cheers, however, laughs, too. I was glad to showcase my two loyalties, though. 
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We ended on that note and came back Sunday. We were greeted by a huge line of people filling in right as the gates opened at noon. 
Many jokes were passed by attendees saying “Where are all these people during the season?” Valid question, but in all honesty, they’ve been at PNC Park.
For the three day span an announced crowd of nearly 17,000 people came, the largest crowd for Fest since 2003. 
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 Erin joined our crowd again Saturday, she’s great. Never thought I could meet a bigger fan of Bucco baseball before, I still have her beat, but sure sure is close. Then, two buddies from Youngstown met us. My longest friend, Andrew and Ed, Yankees and Cubs fan, respectively, donned their black and gold to escape the winter doldrums and get in the baseball spirit. 
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A new addition to the Pirates’ wardrobe was showcased Sunday.
A yellow batting practice jersey will be inducted into the normal locker room attire for this year.
I like it, I always like yellow anything and that includes my music.
Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” has been sweeping the country and the Pirates are jumping on board. Be prepared to hear it a lot this week, too, as its Super Bowl Time.
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The best part about an event like this definitely the people. A colorful crowd attends Pirate Fest every years and it is a great opportunity to discuss baseball with other passionate fans. We mingled and met many cool people including a fellow Pirate blogger, Zac Weiss.
He is an inspiring journalist, too and you and see his work here on mlblogs. His blog is called “Breaking Down the Bucs.”
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In what Erin calls, “The Cutest Thing Ever,” this picture on the left was a long time coming. It is pitcher Paul Maholm’s twitter picture.
Having asked him if I could print it out to have him sign on twitter a few days before, he obliged.
We shared a nice chat about his tweets and family. His so, Wyatt, is indeed the cutest thing ever. Come one, one look at the pic and all you can say is “aww.”
By the way, be sure to follow him on twitter, @Maholm28. He and his family are going to Disney World the week before Spring Training and will be tweeting and twitpic’ing up a storm.
For more Wyatt action, check it out. 
If you think that’s cool wait until you get a load of this.
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Jim Rooker, pitcher on the 1979 World Series team was signing autographs on a limited basis. He just wrote a series of baseball related children’s books. “Matt the Batt, Kitt the Mit and Paul the Ball,” are entertaining books and perfect for the youngest of baseball fans. He would only sign if you bought the book. Of course, I had to splurge on Matt the Bat. Being my namesake and all it will be a great heirloom to pass onto my kids.
Judging from those pictures, wouldn’t you say it was $14 dollars well spent?
Although Rooker would not give me his ring, he did have to say “Give it back, give it back,” I still did not come away from the day empty handed. 
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That my friends is a Delwyn Young banner than hung from outside PNC Park during the 2009 season. For just $25 bucks I one of two people that own one, me and Young himself. 
Unfortunately, shortly after that it was time to call it a day. A wonderful baseball weekend was the perfect dose to cure the winter blues.
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Is it Spring Training, yet?

The brooms are out in Pittsburgh…and Morgantown

broom-1.jpgRaise the jolly roger and sweep PNC Park clean. The Pirates are on a roll and not looking back.

Saturday and Sunday were two games that could make any baseball fan happy. The Pirates came from behind for a walkoff win on Saturday. On Sunday the Bucs got out on top early and sustained the lead until the end.

Raise your hand if your team is .500!

ClassroomGirlHandRaised.jpgThat little girl must be a Pirate fan because we are 7-5. Yes, its April and yes there are 150 games to be played but I will jump at any chance to get excited and the Pirates are giving me that chance right now.

 

gfj walkoff.jpgIt was like deja vu all over again. Thanks for the line Yogi Berra!

The Buccos were destined for a loss on Saturday. Being down 43 in the bottom of the ninth with Francisco Cordero called upon for the save.

I thought we were done for.

Cordero is 4-for-4 in saves opportunities this year and is listed 27th on the all-time closers list.

Can’t you see why I thought we were done for?

But Cordero was erratic. Ryan Church laced a single to left, Ronny Cedeno walked and Lastings Milledge Walked. Garrett Jones stepped to the plate, battling a slump. Jones has been dissapointing fantasy owners everywhere with his lack of power which was expected after his monstrous opening day. He did come through with a hit off the wall to win the ballgame.

 I was not able to watch the Pirate game on Sunday as I was covering the West Virginia baseball game. The 12th ranked Louisville Cardinals brought their own brooms to Morgantown and beat the Mountaineers up and down.

jedd2.jpgU of L beat WVU in the three game series. It was a sweep that the Mountaineers knew was probable coming into the weekend.

Louisville has one of the best pitching staffs in the country. On Sunday I had the pleasure of watching Gabriel Shaw mow down the Mountaineers. In seven innings he struck out six batters allowing just five hits.

Jedd Gyorko, pictured left, drove in the only run for West Virginia. Gyorko is a Morgantown native and high on many experts draft lists. He is a shortstop who will be picked up in the June draft, more than likely in the first few rounds.

Even though I was not watching the Pirates game, 13,860 at PNC Park did. The Buccos jumped out early and produced hits throughout the ballgame. Paul Maholm had a no hitter through four innings and looked the best he has all season. Octavio Dotel picked up the save even after surrendering a homerun to Jay Bruce, who hit two.

Backup catcher Jason Jaramillo brought in three runs with a double in the fifth inning. Jones struggled again, not reaching base in the game.

The Pirates remain at home to face the Brewers this week. Standing just a half game out of first place in the NL Central. This is a big series if the Pirates hope to keep their heads over water in the division and to sustain .500.

photo credit: freeclipartnow.com, nordinho.net, postgazette.com, msnsportsnet.com

Coming back to Earth

Well reality sunk in and hell has not frozen over.

The Pirates will not be undefeated this season.

 

paul maholm.jpgThe Dodgers laid it on the Bucs 11-2. The lack of offense on our end was thanks to excellent starting pitching from my fantasy team ace, Chad Billingsley. He hit 100 pitches within the first five innings and later handed the ball over to Jared “Dream” Weaver. He worked his way out of jams and worked masterfully.

Even though the Bucs lost their first game of the season, by nine runs at that, taking two of three from the Dodgers is no easy feat. I am very proud of the team and their scrappy play thus far in the young infant season.

Wednesdays game was glorious. A lot of my West Virginia friends made the trip up but I had to stay home. As weird as it was for six guys who are not Pirates fans to drive an hour for a Pirates game, they had a great time and were not only treated to a walk off win, but dollar tickets as well! Soak that in for a sec, dollar tickets! They had great seats too, section 113 down the left field line.

 

Thumbnail image for pumped pirates.jpgRonny Cedeno was the hero of the game drilling a pitch to left field for the walkoff. A glorious moment that probably sent the 30,000 at PNC Park into a fury.

With three games down I still remain optimistic that Pittsburgh will surprise people this year. .500 is reachable!

The squad now heads to Pheonix with a weekend series at Chase Field against the Diamondbacks.

photo credits: Keith Srakocic/AP, Peter Diana/Post Gazette

 

A 2-0-1 weekend

The Pirates competed in a trio of ballgames this weekend in the Sunshine State.

They did not lose a single game.

 

 

 

 

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The jolly roger was raised for the first time this spring training season on Friday in a 5-3 win over the Orioles.

One of my favorite prospects in the organization is catcher Tony Sanchez.

tony sanchez.jpgI was able to catch one of Sanchez’s very first minor league games in person back in Youngstown, OH. He was with the State College Spikes facing my hometown Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

He is a very likeable fellow coming out of Boston College. 

In his very first spring training at bat, Sanchez belted a solo homerun off Baltimore’s Troy Patton.

Sanchez is just 21 years old, eight months older than me. It is very funny that someone my age is one of the hottest prospects on a major league ballclub. I guess it is really not too much to fathom as I am a year from graduating college surrounded by Division 1 athletes at one of America’s top sports universities.

Sanchez will probably begin the year in AA Altoona, but will find his way in the ‘Burgh by 2011.

On Saturday the jolly roger may have been raised, but just halfway.

The Pirates and Philies played their way to a 3-3 ten inning tie.

The reining National League champs got hot right off the bat with two runs in the first inning. Pirates starter Kevin Hart looked very sloppy. He looks to be the 5th starter in the rotation so he really needs to hone his mechanics for the remainder of March.

The bottom of the first inning let the Pirates match the Phils, in fact they one upped the boys with Brotherly love. The Buccos scored their only three runs of the contest in the first frame. Ryan Church delievered a two run home run.

On Sunday’s day of rest, the Buc’s bats did anything but. Pittsburgh destroyed absolutely destroyed Minnesota 15-5.

Bobby Crosby gave a good audition for the starting shortstop position with a four RBI performance.

Crosby belted a 3-run homerun while going 2-for-3. It was great to see this guy come through. Whether starting or on the bench he will be vital to the team’s success. Garrett Jones also connected for a homerun, his first of the spring.

The weekend was fun filled with Pirates baseball.

On Sunday it was 30 Clubs/30 Days featuring the Pirates on MLB Network. I think the broadcast team led by Matt Vasgersian really brought to light the hope and promise of the Bucs. They were valiant to praise the efforts of Neil Huntington and the restocked minor league system. They also had good interviews with Lastings Milledge, Andrew McCutchen and Paul Maholm. McCutchen also had a “wired-in” segment with him playing around with teammates comparing his speed to Usain Bolt (a stretch) and hitting an opposite field homerun into the Allegheny River at PNC Park (a bigger stretch).

This weekend I also recieved a package I have long been anticipating.

daveparkerposter.jpgMy Dave Parker poster finally came! I saw this on ebay for a nice price of seven bucks and could not pass it up. It is actually a 7-up ad from the early 80’s. I’m sure the cobra will be so proud to know a college id knows who he is and that the Pirates pride is still stemming from the “We Are Family” days.

On Tuesday I will get the opportunity to see live baseball for the first time in a while.

The West Virginia baseball teams hits the recently snow vacated field to do battle with Duquesne. I once again will be the beat writer for the school newspaper covering the team.

photo credits:piratebox.com, AP/sportingnews

 

March 2, 2010- a good day

From embarrassment to back on track the Pirates defeated the State College of Florida 6-1 on Tuesday afternoon. The embarrassment came last year as the community college defeated the Pirates. Yes, that really happened. Although obviously not the entire major league roster an MLB or even minor league club should handily beat any college team.

It did happen today.

There were a handful positives for Bucco fans steaming from the win today.

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1). It is the start of baseball season. What is better than seeing our boys take the field for an official organized game against competition.

 

 

 

 

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2). Pedro Alvarez very well could be the read deal. The “prodigy” went 3-for-4 with three straight hits including a solid double. If it is any sign of things to come, which I’m sure it is, Alavarez will be on a fast track to the hot corner in Pittsburgh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3). Donnie Veal-remember the name. Veal was a rule 5 pickup last offseason and is said to have killer potential. He was injured for a majority of the year in 2009 but showed promise in a depleted bullpen. He was a part of th Arizona Fall League and tore up the mound last Autumn. Today he went just one inning, but did not allow a hit and struck out a batter. He will begin the year in the Pirate bullpen, but has the talent to make a run at a rotation spot later on in the season.

 

The players in the lineup for the Bucs today were all minor league prospects who will not sniff the big leagues for a while. Alvarez and Jose Tabata are two of the exceptions. However, Brandon Moss too was in the lineup. Moss had a sensational game hitting a home run, but to be playing with these youngsters would have to be pretty demeaning if I were in his shoes. 

moss.jpg Moss has failed to live up to lofty expectations the past two seasons. It is questionable whether or not he will make the big league roster. He surely needs the work in AAA, but there is a fighting chance he will be the last bench spot. He will be in tight competition with Delwyn Young and another rule 5 acquistion, John Rayner. I personally hope Young is part of the opening day 25-man roster

 

 

There are two more reasons why today has been a good day.

Over the weekend I set out with some friends to the Morgantown Mall, anticipating a big purchase. I had my sights set on buying a new hat. I had bought a gray Pirates earlier this year but Saturday I really wanted to be unique with a new team. After much consideration and second guessing I left with this:

SF.jpgYes my friends a San Francisco Giants hat. Odd? Maybe. Unique? Indeed. It is something different and I like being a trend setter here. I have seen these on campus before, but it is very rare. I recieved about three compliments on my new cap and I am proud of my purchase.

Reson number three, last but not least is some big news.

After interviewing for an internship with the West Virginia Power minor league baseball team,
wv power.jpg class A of the Pirates, a few weeks ago I recieved a call back today. I was selected to be an intern. I am overjoyed at this opportunity as it will help further my career and give me a leg up in a field I hope to work in. There are still specifics that need to be worked out, I need some extra cash and a place to stay as the Power makes their home in Charleston, about a three hour drive from Morgantown.

I still have time to think it over, but good news is always welcome.

Everybody who has MLB Network should tune into it tomorrow at 1pm as the Pirates take on the Yankees. I do not pickup the station but my buddy’s girlfriend does. Manager John Russel has said both Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf will pitch in the opening game against NY. Get pumped! Because I am!

phot credits: sarasota.com, zimbio.com, bucsdugout.com, sportsillustrated.com, lids.com,    wowktv.com