By a show of hands, how many people check the weather reports first thing in the morning?
It has been a total of 15 excruciating days since I was last at my summer home, PNC Park. On Friday night I met my best friend Andrew in Pittsburgh to help open the weekend series with the Braves. I’ve said it before that Pittsburgh is a de facto halfway point for Morgantown and Youngstown.
The traffic into the city was horrendous. Parking was hard to come by once I escaped the bumper to bumper mess. It honestly was the worst I have ever seen the North Shore set up prior to a Pirates game. I expected a packed house with a shot at a sellout.
It was far from that. The announced attendance was just 22,000, still a decent crowd but with most tickets $7 dollars and a sweet Andrew McCutchen canvas photo wrap giveaway there should have been more people.
Many of the people were college kids, around my age. It is weird to be a Pirates fan in and around Pittsburgh for someone younger than the age of 25. There really has been a generation of Pirates fans lost thanks to the 17 straight losing seasons. I really do wish it was cool to be a Pirates fan but until that happens I’ll be stuck surrounded by hooligans who only go to the game to drink, meet with friends and start the wave while not paying attention to the game at all. Baseball ignorant people rub me the wrong way when I go to the park to enjoy a couple hours of a ballgame and to escape the outside world. PNC Park is my santuary for peace.
Anywho, the Pirates lost 7-0 and only managed four hits. Nothing went well for the Bucs. I expected a strong performance out of starting pitcher Ross Ohlendorf, but this guy made sure that didn’t happen.
The Jay-Hey kid (I really do not like that nickname, it is cool no doubt but Willie Mays is the only one who should have that rhyming distinction). The 20-year old (I still can’t get over the fact that I’m older than this guy, I should be a Major League player!) belted a two run homer and teed off for a double. He will be fun to watch as I have already dubbed him the next Ken Griffey Jr. He has the marketabilty and is easy to connect with.
This was the at bat that Heyward went deep in. You always see those flashbulbs going off when a big player steps to the plate. While it seemed that I was the only one snapping a picture of the future star I’m sure that in a few years ballparks will be flickering when he is at bat.
The night didn’t end after the blowout.
I met up with my friend Erin who is a regular reader of the blog. She recently graduated from Pitt and yes I do old that against her. However, she is an awesome girl who rivals me in terms of Pirates knowledge and passion. She also is in love with Nate McLouth. A man that I can just not respect anymore.
The reaction to McLouth’s return to Pittsburgh was underwhelming. It was almost unheralded completely but there were more cheers than boos. I missed his first at bat as Andrew and I fought for parking while we made the game in the bottom of the second inning.
I couldn’t think of a better way to end the night than drinking away my sorrows of a shutout. We went to the Hall of Fame Club located below the scoreboard in right field. It is a cool place to hang out before of after the game and even watch the game from the deck area outside. Every so often there are former players and local celebrities that come by the HOF Club to pour drinks for patrons. Customers were treated to an appearance by one of the most famous Pirates of the last 20 years, Andy Van Slyke.
I do not remember much about Van Slyke as I was just around the age of three when he played. He autographed my program and fielded questions from thirsty guests. He said “There’s no doubt Barry Bonds used steroids” and “He was a jerk and a terrible teammate.” I told him I was a fan of the Tigers because at one time he was a coach for Detroit along with my favorite manager Jim Leyland. Former Pirate managers Gene Lamont and Lloyd McClendon were also on that staff. Literally the Detroit Pirates. Andrew brought up the Tigers-Twins playof play in game of last year dubbing it “the bets baseball game of all time.” Van Slyke agreed saying “it rocked.”
Speaking of Van Slyke it was fitting we met him on that given night. A parking garage between Heinz Field and PNC Park notes their levels based on fmaous Pittsburgh athletes. We just so happened to park on the Andy Van Slyke level.
Now that was not our only coincidence of the night. There was a second that also has to do witha Pittsburgh celebrity.
Remember Erin? Pitt fan. Back in the Hall of Fame club we ran into the only person I respect at that school, basketball coach Jamie Dixon.
After shaking his hand I asked for the picture and then told him that I may get in trouble for this because I am a die hard West Virginia fan. He showed nothing but class and laughed at me. He boasted about Bob Huggins saying he is a first class gentleman and a great friend. I wish I would have taken my jacket off to show off my WVU shirt underneath. It was a once in a lifetime chance but I guess I took the high road and displayed an ounce of respect.
Once again it was a fun night, as all nights are in Pittsburgh, as all nights involving baseball are. Saturday’s game was not televised and I’m actually glad it wasn;t as Pittsburgh fell to ATL again. However Saturday’s game was on and boy was it grand. Ryan Doumit hit a walk off home run in the tenth inning to avoid the sweep.
And what have you done?
Took two out of three
It sure was a lot of fun.
Thank you John and Yoko, a great song for a great series.
The Pirates defeated the Brewers ending a 22 game losing streak in Milwaukee on Tuesday with a 7-3 victory.
The man of the hour looked to be Trevor Hoffman.
“Hells Bells” resounded and chants of “It’s Trevor Time” could be heard around Miller Park. After all, the MLB saves leader deserves an ovation like that.
A few batters later, with the bases loaded Doumit jacked a grand slam deep into the second deck over the right field wall. That sealed the deal and ended the torment.
It never seemed like it would come.
The series began right where it left off in Pittsburgh following that 20-0 history making contest.
Pittsburgh fell 17-3. It was just an ugly game, something Pirates fans have been used to this past week.
The rubber match on Thursday was big. A win by the Pirates would actually tie the Brewers for fourth place in the Central. Now it is quite an accomplishment considering the beat down the Brewers have laid on the Bucs.
The marathon game went to the 14th inning. It should have been over way before that.
Hoffman came in again. Blew it again. Without saying, Pirates closer Octavio Dotel forfeited his own save a few innings later.
After going hitless the entire game Garrett Jones drove in the winning run to cap off the win and take the series. A great series. There is nothing better than raising the Jolly Roger in Miller Park. After all it was 22 game since it last happened.
photo credits: AP/postgazette.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.
I want what is best for my Pittsburgh Pirates. I’ve been here long enough and continue to support my favorite baseball team through the thick and thin. Over the weekend the Pirates announced they would non tender pitchers Phil Dumatrait and Matt Capps. Not that I totally support the decision but hey, maybe it is the right move. Dumatrait was injured all of last year and never really amounted to anything but a 5th starter or maybe a middle of the road reliever in the year before. The real kicker about this news is the loss of closer Matt Capps.
Capps was a great guy and a joy to watch for the past five years. He was built from the ground up in the Pirates organization and did quite well in his time in Pittsburgh. He struggled last year, surrendering 12 home runs in just 54 innings pitched. He blew five saves but was still able to establish a career high in the SV department registering 27. Prior to last season Capps was regarded as one of the best closers in all of baseball. His 0.97 WHIP was among the leagues best and his speed pitches and accuracy were a thing of beauty. He only walked five batters in all of 2008 and in 2007 struck out 64 batters in a matter of 79 innings. He was indeed a “Big Bull Rider” and a force on the mound.
Now I never think one bad year can define a career for anybody in sports, baseball especially, a reliever especially as well. Coming out of the bullpen has to be one of the most overlooked aspects of the game of baseball. The tense warmup and spur of the moment action must be hard to jump into with every single fan expecting you to mow down each batter your facing.
The untimely, de-facto release of Capps sent shockwaves down the backs of most Pirate fans. Capps has been trade bait for quite some time and it painned the pundits to see Capps walk without anything in return. That I do agree with-this I do not.
Cook: Who cares what Pirates do any
Monday, December 14, 2009
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ron Cook is one of the best sports writers in Western, PA. I am a big fan of his and respect his work handling all sports buzz occuring in Pittsburgh. Hoping to one day become a “Ron Cook” of the journalism buisiness I take heed in the words he writer for one of the best newspapers in all of America. article in today’s paper.
I can only dream the headline read something like that, instead the article was one of despair, dissapointment and just plain apathy. Those three feelings are not uncommon between Pittsburgh Pirates “fans” in this area. To hear Ron Cook, a Pittsburgh sports columnist who has been around for the past three decades and a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, say this about my beloved baseball team isn’t as disheartening as I hope it would be. In fact he is actually right.
“I guess that’s what really ticks me off most, that the Pirates have become so irrelevant in our sporting consciousness. Baseball is such a beautiful game and we’re stuck with the worst franchise with the worst ownership in the sport. What did we do so wrong?”
He is spot on. WIth the success of the other sports teams in Pittsburgh, who is left to actually care about the Pirates? Cook continues to state the obvious with this next quote, really raising my concern about the most pressing need for this team.
“Teams all over baseball are looking for relief pitching. That includes the Pirates, who, after releasing Capps and left-hander Phil Dumatrait over the weekend, are looking at a bullpen next season of Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek and what other low-priced stiffs they can find to put out there. Good luck with that.
I know Capps isn’t Mariano Rivera, but it is incomprehensible how the Pirates can give away one of their few commodities without getting anything in return.”
Cook gets it, but does the Pirates front office? I would think so and GM Neil Huntington somewhat agrees.
He said a return for Capps to Pittsburgh really could happen, and Matt himself wouldn’t rule it out either. However if I’m Capps I would want to move on and be with a team who trusts me.
Capps will be missed. Ryan Doumit, having been through the departure of many other teammates was shocked by the decision. He told the Post-Gazette that Capps was reliable and “one of the best around.”
I just want somebody to know that these kind of moves are talked about and dissected withing the strong community that are Pittsburgh Pirates fans. I trust in a turnaround and wait for that day to come, sooner than later. Most people in Pittsburgh, like Ron Cook, are tired of their patience running out any longer.
“You might care if the team loses 115 games next season.
I stopped caring a long time ago.”
Tell me that isn’t the sweetest walk off arrival at home plate ever. I got goosebumps when I saw it. I smiled, laughed, and just through my hands in the air. Doing his best Nike Jumpman impression Andrew was airborne leaping into the dogpile that was awaiting him.
Air Jordan should be Air McCutchen. This dude’s got ups. He was also a football player in high school but if the devlopment league b-ball team in Pittsburgh needs a shooting guard look no further than Andrew McCutchen.
Cutch went 2 for 4 with a stolen base in the game. Solid numbers for the rookie. He did however promptly blow the game in the top of the ninth inning. He misplayed a ball hit to him and forced two Philly runs to score that inning. I hate when this happens because I never have faith when the Bucs aree behind in the bottom of the ninth. I was proved wrong tonight when McCutchen came through to put a smile on all black nd gold fans in Western Pennsylvania (and northern West Virginia for that matter) as the Pirates top the Phillies 6-4.
Maybe it was J. Quist’s report on Ryan Doumit, but the catcher went off tonight. He was just 1 for 2 but it took just one swing of the bat to tie the game 1-1 early in the game. He belted a homerun that landed in the right field stands.
Another tip of the cap goes out to Ross Ohlendorf. Very quitely the young hurler racked up 10 wins on the year. He gained the no decision in tonight’s game but was very solid and in line for the W. In 6.1 innings pitched Ohlendorf gave up just 5 hits and 2 earned runs.
I feel so great about this win. It hurts to see so many Philly fans taking over PNC Park. People from the east side of the state come in with their nose up in the air and walk with their chests out since the World Series win last year. I can’t blame em cause I know it happens everywhere with every team but its hard to swallow win baseball supremacy of teh state of Pennsylvania is not in Pittsburgh. However, tomorrow I hope to get the bandwagon rolling once again. I will be walking around the WVU campus with my McCutchen shirt and Bucco hat. Hopefully some other Pittsburgh fans will come out of the woodwork and join my cause.
One last time, thank you Buccos! Lets Go Pittsburgh!