The conversion of mlblogs to wordpess was completed last week. My personal conversion happened just seconds ago.
Whether it was my own internet technological illiteracy or a kink in the system, I found it harder to get back on the blogosphere than some of my other loyal bloggers. Nonetheless, I’m back and ready to share what I’ve been up to since my last post.
And, it’s been four years in the making.
I am a proud graduate of West Virginia University.
Last Sunday I walked across the stage at the Morgantown Events Center, shook hands with the School of Journalism Dean and proceeded to be handed a public relations diploma from one of my favorite professors, Dr. Diana Martinelli.
The moment was surreal as it just seemed I was doing this similar process some four years ago in Youngstown, OH when I graduated from high school. I was on my own, two hours away from my family and basically alone on a campus of nearly 30,000 students. However, I quickly made life long friends and created memories that will never fade away. I had much help along the way. From my parents, to my close relatives, friends, teachers, advisors, heck, even this blog has been an immense advocate in guiding me to this point.
Now, I truly am in the real world paving out a successful future.
I’m working for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, a Class-A minor league affiliate of the Indians. As a promotions and marketing intern, I assist in the whole production of game day at the ballpark. It’s a dream come true. After attending hundreds of baseball games in the past 22 years, I can now personally share my thoughts, ideas and experiences with a professional baseball front office. Furthermore, I serve as the in-game host between inning breaks. That guy, or girl, at a park can make or break the fan experience. I’m glad that responsibility is placed on my shoulders because I love the fan interaction of a sporting event.
Again, thank you all for your support. It’s an exciting time and I will surely be sharing it all right here.
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.
Apparently the groundhog does, too.
Former Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck once said, “There are two seasons, winter and baseball.”
Snowballs, skis and trays from the dining halls have all been some of the most popular items to play with throughout this and every winter season.
Isn’t it time for some new toys?
Although it is still January, I am ready to put a glove on my hand and toss around a white leather ball with red stitching.
I’m ready for baseball.
The feeling of the ball smacking into your Rawlings mitt, the ding of an aluminum bat colliding with the ball, and the dirt accumulating in your shoes as you round the bases create memories that last a lifetime.
Sadly, my time in organized baseball has been over for nearly five years. I find it hard-pressed to get pickup games going, as many of my friends have given up their childhood recollection of their first Little League games. Some even go as far as saying baseball is a dying sport.
I’m here to defend our national pastime.
The first thing I hear from anti-baseball narcissists is that it’s a boring game. “It takes so long in between pitches, and it’s never exciting,” they moan.
OK, so there’s no hard-hitting action like in hockey or football. But it’s far from dreary.
There are nine guys out in the field ready to move on any pitch. Each player has specific game plans for each hitter and has to adjust to every pitch. There can’t be any flaw in their concentration at any time.
Furthermore, the precise skill of hitting is far from simple.
Ted Williams, a 19-time All Star and two-time MVP, said hitting a baseball was the hardest thing to do in the sport.
Based on the national television ratings, baseball has indeed taken a backseat to the National Football League. In all honesty, that makes sense.
After all, it’s kind of hard to plan a life around 162 Major League Baseball games.
ose against the sport have plenty of ammunition to put down the nearly 200-year-old sport, as no instant replay and the lack of a salary cap seems to have hindered interest in the sport.
But, unlike any other sport on earth, baseball is built on tradition. The dirt fields and humble beginnings have translated to the modern game with a blue collar ethic and desire for personal achievement. Baseball is embedded in the soil of the founding of America.
Can any sport hold a candle to that distinction?
While basketball and football may be easier to play with simple equipment, baseball has been here from the get-go.
Even today, the mentality of the sport is carried out by the die-hard players, coaches and fans.
Last Friday, West Virginia head baseball Greg Van Zant tweeted that his squad opened practice with “great effort” and a well-prepared attitude. Although, he has drawn harsh criticisms in his 15 years at WVU, Van Zant appreciates the central ethics of being a baseball player.
While we are all suffering through the harsh conditions of the winter doldrums there is something to look forward to that will rid ourselves of the freezing torment: Baseball.
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” 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.
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.
From 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.
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.
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.
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!
That 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.
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.
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