Tagged: Pirates

Clint Hurdle is the man for the job

 

clint1.jpgIn what Pirates President Frank Coonelly called an “exhaustive search process,” the Pittsburgh baseball club has their man.

Hurdle comes to the Steel City after being a part of two of the last three World Series. The batting coach for the Rangers, who happened to have the league’s highest team batting average is notoriously known for his tenure as manager of the Colorado Rockies. He was at the helm of the Rockies from 2002 until the beginning of 2009. In that time span he oversaw the development of young prospects such as Brad Hawpe, Troy Tulowitzki, Clint Barmes, Garett Atkins and Matt Holliday. That litany of potential is rivaled by that of the crop of youngsters the Pirates currently have now and the likes that are rising through the system.

clint2.jpg The experience and track record of Hurdle are one thing, but there are plenty more characteristics to attribute to this well rounded man.

Hurdle exudes confidence.

Even the harshest critics of the Pirates buy into the demeaner of Hurdle.

Ahem, Ron Cook.

Cook said, “He’s better than the franchise deserves.”

Hurdle has already implemented catchphrases that the Pirates marketing team needs to play on.

Describing his team as a “wolfpack,” Hurdle said he plans for everyone involved with the organization to go “all in.”

I’ve been all in 21 years of my life, Clint. I’m ready for more to join me.

Aside from his on the field duties, Hurdle is a family man.

His family of four is a tight-knit groupe for good reasons. His daughter suffers from Prader-Willi
clint3.jpg syndrome, a disease with 1 in 25,000 probability. Hurdle said a big reason why he chose the Pittsburgh job was to be close to specialized medical facilites in the city that cater especially to patients with the rare syndrome.

All in all, Hurdle took the job to meet objectives. He wante dto get back into managing and had a chance to take the Mets job. Both New York and Pittsburgh are in rebuilding situations but there is just something lucrative about bringing a forgotten team back to prominence. Hurdle sees that and wants to be the man to right the ship.

He has already began a grassroots campaign in Pittsburgh since it was announced he would be hired. Hurdle was seen Sunday at the Steelers game and Monday at the Penguins games. The Pirates play third fiddle in Pittsburgh so its good that Hurdle is petitioning for some noteriety. In the business thats called good public relations.

The Pirates really haven’t seen that in the last three, make the 18 years.

photo credits:postgazette.com, yahoo.com

 

50th Anniversary of the real shot heard ’round the world

No dissrespect to Bobby Thompson, but the Giants won the pennant.

In 1960 Bill Mazeroski led the Pirates to win the World Series.

 

 

maz paper.jpgAt exactly 3:35 pm on October 13, 1960 the Pirates were all knotted up 9-9 with the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series.

One minute later the Pittsburgh sports scene would be changed forever.


mazshot.jpgSWUNG ON AND IT IS A HIGH FLY BALL DEEP TO LEFT FIELD, THIS MAY DO IT!!!!!!

Mazeroski’s swing of the bat lifted the ball over Yogi Berra’s head sent the crowd into a frenzy.

Seeing Maz fly around the bases, swinging his helmet around in elation is truly a sight to be hold.

A Wheeling, West Virginia native (another reason why I love him so much) Mazeroski came from humble beginnings along the Ohio River. He said he played the game with the same attitude as he did growing up.

How can you not love that attitude?

As he was flying around the bases Mazeroski is quoted as saying he never felt his feet touch the ground. He was mobbed at homeplate by teammates and fans alike in one of the greatest moments in all of sports.

Whats more remarkable is the Pirates and Yankees were in a David vs. Goalith type battle back then. Much like today, New York was favored to take the series with its star studded lineup that included the likes of Berra, Mickey Mantle, Roger Marris and eventual MVP of the series Bobby Richardson.

Mazeroski was never known as a power hitter. He rarely hit double digit home runs in a season. He was known for his glove with eight Gold Glove awards and still owns the highest fielding percentage among second basemen.

Although Pittsburgh is in the midst of 18 straight losing seasons, the Steel City has not forgotten its icons. Across the town Mazeroski’s memory lives on, particularly in the Oakland section of town.

Oakland is home to the University of Pittsburgh, which I despise. The campus does offer one of the most beuatiful sections in all of Western, Pennsylvania, though.

Portions of the outfield wall still stand where Forbes Field was located.

This summer, I toured the old stomping grounds of the Bucs with my good friend Erin, who happens to be a Pitt student. I don’t hate her too much.

She loves the Pirates just as much as I do and we share memories that I have never before been able to extend to others. They just wouldn’t appreciate it.

She showed me the wall and other historic artifacts.

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Forbes Field wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Plaque commemorating that spot at which Mazeroski’s homerun cleared the wall.

 

 

 

 

 

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Forbes Field home plate in its exact location, well almost. It is in the hallway of a Pitt campus building, moved there from just three feet away. If it was in its rightful spot it would be in the women’s restroom. A tourist spot to some maybe? But, the plate deserves to be seen by all

 

 

 

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One of the most famous Pittsburgh photos this captures the celebratory moment when Maz was rounding the bases. Shot from the roof of Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning it provided a stunning view of the field and still today, downtown Pittsburgh.

 

 

 

 

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Unvieled by PNC Park just last month the Mazeroski statue is forever implemented along side the most beautful ballpark in America. Afterall, it was one of the most beautiful moments ever.



The national media picked up on Mazeroski today.

Walking through the WVU student unio I sat down to eat lunch in front of the TV that shows ESPN. Bob Ley of Outside the Lines interviewed a Yankees historian, Steve Blass and Tim Kurkjian regarding the legacy Mazeroski possessed. Highlights of the game were shown and Mazeroski himself spoke.

The guy sitting next to me eventually moved as I was tearing up.

I wasn’t the only one.

Thousands of fan convene on that spot this day every year to relieve the precious memories Mazeroski left behind for us. They play the radio broadcast of Game 7 and embrace each other with thoughts of yesteryear.

Game 7 drew national a couple weeks ago as the tape was found in who else, but Bing Crosby’s wince cellar. Who woulda thunk it?

This was a game that will forever be etched in the minds of baseball fans everywhere.

It is all thanks to the best man in all of sports, Bill Mazeroski.

 

 

 

 

Russell era thankfully comes to a close

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Pictured to the left is the face of a loser.

John Russell was hired before the 2007 season and 299 losses later he is left looking for work.

Pittsburgh could not be happier.

A head scratching move from the beginning Russell was never seen as a quality big league manager.

He was at one time a 3rd base coach for the Bucs but was let go when the previous coaching regime under Lloyd McClendon was cleared out.

He lingered around in the minors and actually won a minor league manager of teh year award with the Philie’s AAA club.

My question: How?
Russell was a lame duck at the helm providing very little support to his team. He never

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showed an ounce of emotion and was never one to rally the troops. It’s not to say he didn’t have the talent to win, because he did not. Russell was handed a team in turmoil.

Part of me thinks that was the plan. 2007 was also the time when the framework was laid for the future. frank Coonelly and Neil Huntington started their time in the front office. Something tells me they did not think the first three years of their set in Pittsburgh were going to be very, well, good. Evident by the fire sale of veteran players and many losses. I think the pair wanted to hire a guy that could just oversee the on field operations until a new wave of younger players were reaching the big league level.

2011.

Next year a core is in place. Talented rookies Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata are cemented in the starting lineup alongside Andrew McCutchen. There are still plenty of holes but they have the ability to be filled with players with hefty major league experience.

Now, who will be the lucky candidates for the open managerial position. Many names have been floating around for years now but here is my top five.

1. Andy Van Slyke

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The former Bucco’s jersey can still be seen littered around PNC Park. He has always been a fan favorite since he left the team in the early 1990’s. He was a hitting and first base coach for the Tigers for three years and since being retired from the game Van Slyke has continued to showcase his baseball knowledge. He is the author of several books centered around baseball. After running into him at a Pirates game this summer it is evident the he still has an itch to return to the field. Nothing would be a better public relations move than to bring back a favorite son as the fearless leader.

2. Bobby Valentine

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It’s no secret he wants back in the game. Why not give him the task of building up a team from the ground up? After years of overseas ball Valentine can add another spectacle to his resume by helping a lowly organization rise back to prominence. The media coverage would also eat it up, something else Pittsburgh needs, exposure.

3. Larry Bowa

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A brash contrast to what the Pirates have been used to for the past three years, Bowa will provide that much needed fire. Ousted as first base coach in Los Angeles when Joe Torre retired he will be looking for work. Giving his age it is more than likely time for Bowa to hang up the cleats permanently and return to a spot in the broadcast booth. But, there is no doubt he will not accept losing.

4. Ken Macha

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 There has never been a champagne shower in PNC Park, nor do i think it has ever been popped in the facility. A Pittsburgh native and former Pirate, Macha knows the area. The kicker is he has experience leading young, small market teams to success. Oakland and Milwaukee have both reached the postseason under his watch.

5. Tony Pena

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Another one who adorned the black and gold, Pena has been around the bigs long enough to have what is needed to lead a club. During his stint as Royals manager he brought the team to new heights. Not since the George Brett era has Kansas City seen the success that Pena guided. Currently as Yankess bench coach Pena knows what winning is like first hand.

It is hard to tell how much of that is wishful thinking. I’d be happy with those five and I know it would send a need message to fans that the front office is serious about moving forward. John Russell was no doubt a cheap option, those five coaches are not. In order to win the checkbooks have to be opened and some precious cash must be ponied up.

Even though it has just been a day since the announced firing of Russell the biggest name out there for the shot at becoming manager is former Indians manager Eric Wedge. Gm Huntington has experience with Wedge and he is notorious for being a homer with his former Cleveland colleagues. It is not my dream pick, but he has reached the postseason. Talking with my Tribe fan friends they say for the sake of the Bucs, that should not happen. They would feel sorry for me if Wedge was named manager.

Quite frankly, I’d be sorry too.

Let’s run away and don’t ever look back

From the 2010 season.

sad.jpg57-105. Wow.

Andy LaRoche popped out in the top of the 9th to conclude one of the worst seasons in the Bucs storied 124 year history.

It’s hard to say there was much promise to be held in 2010, but no one expected it to be this bad.

General Manager Neil Huntington told Jennifer Langosch that “We are moving forward. And 2010 will be a much better year,” back in January.

In fact it was a gargantuan step back, six more losses than in 2009. I can’t help but feel cheated and lied to, but as sad as it is, I’m used to it.

There were dissapointments.

Aki Iwamura was expected to be a solid advancement as an everyday second baseman. That was an experiment gone wrong as Iwamura failed to sniff the Mendoza Line forcing a demotion to AAA eventually leading to an outright release.

The pitching was horrible, to say the least.

Losing 84 games the starting pitchers failed to put the team in a position to win a game. But its not like the offense was much better either.

Garret Jones led the team with 21 homers and 86 RBI, still very much lacking in the power department. The BUcs scored 587 runs and had a .242 batting average and .304 on-base percentage, 2nd lowest in the majors across those catergories.

Fingers can be pointed in many directions but I say it starts at the top.

JR.jpgJohn Russell is a disgrace as a manger. Tabulating a 186-299 record over three seasons he honest to goodness ranks in the top-ten worst managers of all time. Statistical evidence was provided by sports writer Joe Starkey. The face you see on the right side is indicative to his mood throughout the year. He is stone cold and provides little if any backbone to an already defalted team.

Rumors have circulated throughout the weekend that this is the end of Russell’s tenure in Pittsburgh.

The sooner the better.

Now Russell has not had much to work with in his three years as manager including a lineup that was never set in stone. Also with an influx of youngsters and an always changing roster it was hard to find stability. Actually, it wasn’t. Under Russell’s watch the only stability founded was in the L column.

There were so many negatives in 2010 but believe it or not there were positives.

Here are teh top three.

1. The calvary.

Established by post game show host Rocco DeMaro, the calvary describes the young Pirates that made their way into the big league lineup in 2010. The core includes Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Jose Tabata. This trio really has been something to give Pirate fans some sort of hope. All three are crowd favorites and for right reasons.

 

 

 

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  Alvarez has had a series of ups and downs. He has a potent bat, but also a high strikeout tendency. He did smack 16 homers but the real kicker is his astronomical OPS. He has a strong glove and striking arm. Fellas, he’s just 23.

 

 

 

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Walker and Tabata are carbon copies of each other. Each with speed and a strong bat they have staying power. Flirting with a .300 batting average throughout the course of their half-a-big league season the kids have a knack for getting on base. Walker is easily the new “Jack Wilson” of the team. Clubhouse leader and good guy. He is actually from Pittsburgh making the hometown hero legend a reality.

2. James McDonald

j-mac53.jpgIn a rotation strapped for pretty much everything nothing was more welcomed than the trade deadline acquisition of James McDonald.

Consider the fact that no Pirate starter had double digit wins but McDonald provided a little spark, even with his 4-6 record. McDonald went deep into games and actually put the offense in charge of coming through with something. He really was in charge and control of the mound. Barring an offseason addition to the rotation McDonald really does have ace potential.

 

 

 

 

3. The Fans

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What else do I have to say?

Bittersweet end to a wretched season at PNC Park

It’s been a while huh.

Sorry folks a full senior year of college schedule on top of two jobs really weighs ya down. I’m sure I’m dissapointed than most of your readers by my lack of entries but theres just not any time.Plus the obvious fact that the Pirates haven’t given me much besides a 55-100 season, there just isn’t much to talk about.

That is, until Sunday.

It was my first Fan Appreciation Day in quite sometime. The PNC Park schedule ran dry on Sunday as the Astros and Bucs did battle for the final time in PNC Park for 2010. It was my first season finale ballgame since 2000 when Three Rivers Stadium closed its doors.

Sunday morning began with a bang.

 



sunday1.jpgBANG!

They don’t call it the Jewel on the North Shore for nothing. Nestled beyond the trees across the Allegheny River it really is a spectacle to behold. For the next 3-4 hours I would be sitting in my summer home for the final time this year. It chokes me up now and I did lose it when I entered the gates for the final time.

I met my good friend Erin for the game. She’s an awesome girl who shares my intense love for the team that has sustained 18 straight losing seasons. We have shared many memories together this season, many stemming from past experiences we have been through throughout the years. Thats what makes the Pirates and baseball in general so beautiful, the memories you gain with every pitch. But so much in the experience deals with the people you are with and the atmosphere in the ballpark. She gets that feeling too, rare for college kids in our area.

Entering the stadium was really one of the most memorable and defining moments of the day. Remember what song I heard as I entered the gates on opening day in April?

Probably not, it was John Fogerty’s Centerfield. The baseball gods must have been looking down (they have a lot this season for me) because I heard it again Sunday. Crazy how these things work.

We took are seats four rows behind the Pirates dugout. How much did we pay? 15 each, on stubhub.com. Some seats were going as low as 45 cents on the website.

Just let that soak in. People who saw games at Forbes Field payed more than that for the worst seats.

sunday2.jpgMany players were signing before the game, very close
sunday3.jpg to first pitch too. Quite uncharacteristic but I guess you gotta pull out all the stops on Fan Appreciation Day.

 

I got tears in my eyes as the team ran out. And let the waterworks flow after the top of the first when there was a highlight video put to many highlights from the year. Believe it or not, there were a lot. Including the best sports moment I’ve ever experienced on August 8th when Pedro Alvarez went deep in walk off fashion.

Being so close was beautiful. Perfect way to end the season.

 

sunday4.jpgOnly a win could make it more satisfying.

sunday5.jpgHey, hey whatayasay! Raise the Jolly Roger for the final time in 2010 at home.

Bittersweet.

Great win but with 179 more days to go before I will be back in this place leaves a lump in my stomach. Its hard to fathom that there will be no more road trips to Pittsburgh for a baseball game for quite sometime.

It’s sad.

However, the festivities of the day did not end there.

sunday6.jpgThroughout the game lucky fans were picked to come on the field and recieve the game worn jersey of each player. Quite the honor especially if you were drawn for Pedro Alvarez’s, Neil Walker’s, Garret Jones’ or Andrew McCutchen. Chris Resop, Pedro Ciricao or Joe Martinez? Not so much, still quite the honor. They also drew names for Tv’s, Blu Ray players, gift cards to many places and air fare for too. Unfortunately neither me nor Erin were so lucky. She did however grab a piece of Pirate memorobilla right from the sky, literally.

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She nabbed a hat thrown by pitcher Ross Ohlendorf. It was a nice snag!

After watching many little kids and their families run the bases after the game we finally decided it was time to leave. We were one of the last to leave the park, it felt good to close up shop. We just needed to get our moneys worth until next April. We then had a great dinner in Oakland, home of the University of Pittsburgh. Much to my dismay, it really isn’t that bad of an area. I always listen to John Denver’s Country Roads though to salvage my West Virginia roots. It was a great Autumn day in the ‘burgh.

But, speaking of April, it really isn’t that far off, is it?

 

 

sunday8.jpgNope, its actually on the Horizon! 

August losses bring September football

Ladies and gents my baseball season has come to a close. Actually, its safe to say its been shut down for the past four months. Its customary for Pittsburghers to close up shop early in the baseball department, the lone fact that I have this blog makes me a rare exception.

It’s tough no doubt. Not many of you that read this blog are Pirates fans and you take for granted the competitive baseball teams your franchise fields year in and year out.

I don’t know that feeling.

The Pirates’ record in August was 8-21 leading them to a mark of 46-91 as of September 7th.

This time of the year gets very depressing at PNC Park. That being said it is still prime time for me to take in a game. I was in attendance for an 8-5 Pirate win on Friday night. Had a blast at the ballpark. Had a great dinner, got on the jumbo tron and met former Pirate and post game show analyst Kent Tekulve.

teke.jpg“Teke” was the celebrity bar tender at the Hall of Fame club beneath the scoreboard in left field. I usually pony up the cash to get a beer at every ball game I go to but at this point I’ve finally realized my 7.25 is better spent else where.

As you can see I’m rocking my West Virginia shirt. Every year I can I like to go to a Friday Pirate game in September and it usually falls on the night before WVU’s first football game.

I treat it as a symbolic ending to summer and signify the transition from one of my passions to another. With another baseball season in the books its time to shift focus to the Mountaineers.
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WVU opened its season against Coastal Carolina and routed the Chanticleers 31-0. With almost 58,000 people on hand I had one of the best seats in the house sitting in the Milan Puskar Stadium press box.

For the past three years I’ve covered minor sports for The Daily Athenaeum at WVU this year my beat is the grand daddy of them all, Mountaineer football.

press.jpgFrom my perch atop press row I was able to watch a football game in a view I have never seen before. I felt some what removed from the atmosphere which make college football great but was still able to witness plays develop. Cheering was strictly prohibited and rightfully so as it is a working press area. But in my heart I was screaming loudly for the Mountaineers, I still got chills when the team ran out of the tunnell and when the band played. it was one of the most memorable games I have been to and look forward to more as the season progresses.

Although I am in football mode completely I will still watch every Pirate game and strive to make it to more by the time the hourglass offcially runs dry at the end of the month. I will be sitting in PNC Park tonight for free compliments of Braves President John Schuerholz.

I’ve noted before that my good friend Andrew is the nephew of Schuerholz so whenever the Braves are in town he tends to treat us to a free game in great seats behind home plate.

Bombs Away

400.jpgPittsburgh was littered with flonkies in the left field bleachers this past week.

Not just because they are the cheapest seats in the house. The Cardinals were in town for a three game tilt but more importantly history could have been made.

On Monday Albert Pujols hit his 399th career homerun. Could PNC Park be so lucky to see a milestone in its next two games?

Not so much.

Pujols hit is 400th homerun on Thursday in Washington. It was an opposite field blast that would have dissapointed the crowd in Pittsburgh as that section in right field was nearly empty as most fans were in left field.

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Pujols becomes just the 47th player in Major League history to hit 400 career knocks. The best part about it now is that there is plenty more to come.

He’s young. Albert Pujols just eclipsed the age of 30 and still has plenty more gas left in the tank. He has the sweetest yet most powerful swing in the game today. He is strong, boy is he strong. When he made his major league debut back in 2001 he was 21 years old and looked like he does today, big. Compared myself at the same age he is a monster.

I like those commercials for MLB that say “We can tell our grandchildren that we saw Albert Pujols play.” It’s true, we can, and it surely is a pleasure.

Just recently has Pujols began a marketing blitz appearing in Gatorade commercials. Other than that he is a relatively quiet guy and rather softspoken. He doesn’t recieve the fanfare of a Barry Bonds or ken Griffey Jr. because he is quiet and not so well-spoken with the media to create a positive national image. We know him as a good guy, a family man and a ballplayer who is presumed to be clean.

he doesn’t need the extra-circulars to be a star, he lets his on the field play do the talking for him.

By the way, the Pirates took two of three from the Cards.

photo credit: msn