June 2009

Morgantown…transfered from Pittsburgh to D.C.

nyjer bat.jpgA blockbuster day was held in Pittsburgh today. The Pirates downed the Cubs 3-0 which was refreshing, but what came before that was very unsettling.

Eric Hinske was delt to the Yankees for two low A propspects. One is a pitcher, teh other an outfielder. Not much info is out there about the pair but when you are in A ball chances are you are lightyears from the MLB. Hinske was a solid backup player and a good role model for the younger guys on teh team. He will be missed but the fact that chances are he wasn’t returning to the team next year.

What really upsets me was the trade of Nyjer Morgan. There have been talks about dealing the speedster for teh past few weeks but I just disregarded it. I knew what we had in Morgan and believed he was going to be a part of the future. That is going against a lot of theories other Pirate fans have about Morgan. He was a great guy, great in the community, a great teammate and a fan favorite. He could have been beloved in Pittsburgh for many years to come. But then again so could Jason Bay, Xavier Nady and Nate McLouth.

What upsets me teh most about the trade was the return. We recieved Lastings Milledge.

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Headcase extrodinaire. He has been the complete opposite of a Nyjer Morgan. In his 3 stints as a major league player he has been tossed numerous times, fined numerous times and found himself in trouble with the law numerous times.

Right now Lastings is in teh GCL league rehabbing an injury. His skills have been degressing over the past few seasons. He has been demoted by the Nats early this season. Take that in for a moment folks…demoted by the Nationals, the Washington Nationals. The worst team in the MLB. He is just 24, with a lot of room for development. Now some may say this is a great move for the Bucs. they traded a mediocre outfielder for one with much more upside…but I don’t see it. Milledge is a bust, he is overrated and overlooked for good reason. He’s had opportunites but has failed to live up to the hype.

The Pirates need power, and need it fast. Although Milledge will probably not make it up to PNC Park for a few months he may provide some pop. He has the coveted “potential” genes, but if he doens’t use it, makes no sense to me. If he can turn it around with this change of scenery it will be a great move….I just don’t see him getting that hot.

Speaking of hot, if you’ve ever been to the Pittsburgh area you are familiar with Quaker Steak and Lube wings.

TheLube.jpg  It is known as best wings USA.

They are famous for their very hot ATOMIC hot wings. Very few have tried to down 5 of these boned wings. You must be brave, hungry, and able to handle heat to complete the coveted challenge and earn a spot on their wall of fame.

My friend Andrew Schuerholz, nephew of Braves VP John Schuerholz, who I have mentioned before completed the feat today. He was in town visiting from Baltimore and couldn’t leave Youngstown without attempting the feat. He passed with flying colors and earned respect from the restraunt. Congrats Drew!

 

PHOTO CREDITS: mlb.com, roethisteinnews.com, sidesalad.com 

 

A night for McCLUTCHen

It’s been a long time coming. On Thursday I finally made my triumphant return to PNC Park. This was my first trip to the beautiful ballpark since mid April when I went to a slew of games. Since school let out I’ve been hard pressed to make a trip out tho the North Shore of Pittsburgh for a Pirate game, on Thursday it all changed.

It was the rubber match between the Pirates and Indians. A big crowd was expected for the critical third game, and quite the big crowd it was.

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As you can see it is decently packed. The announced attendance crowd was just over 30,000.  Very rare for the Burgh, especially on a weekday. It was loud the entire game too. Although alot of the people in attendance were Indians fans. Every time the Tribe reached base and scored, a throng of cheers went up. Im just overjoyed that Grady Sizemore did not play in the game. All the Indian female fans would be yelling and drooling over the guy. In the end the Pirates won 3-2, thanks to a walk off hit by Andrew McCutchen….

Yes you could…..

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It was a great feeling being in attendance for the big win. The atmosphere was entergetic all the way through, another rarity at PNC Park. It was like a playoff atmosphere, even though I’ve never experienced anything close to a playoff atmosphere in Pittsburgh. It was definately an amazing time and an unforgettable game.

Here are some pictures with recaps on my trip to the most beautiful park in America.

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Upon entrance to the stadium every fan recieved this T-shirt as part of T-shirt Thursday. It was a great concept for the shirt making it commerative for the game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

indians game at PNC 328.JPGPrior to the game a handful of Buc players signed autographs for their adoring fans. As a youth I would love to go down early and get players to sign cards and stuff for me. As I’ve gotten older the novelty has worn off, but Thursday I got back in touch with my inner child. Steve Pearce signed for fans for a good 5 minutes, he signed my ticket stub.

 

 

 

indians game at PNC 329.JPGThe big ticket was Andrew McCutchen. He was greeted by a good 30 people rushing over, pushing and shoving to get him to sign. I was amidst the fray and he signed a card for me. It was pretty cool to get him, one of the hottest players in the league and he was very humble and cordial making sure everyone down the line recieved an autograph. Good karma for him as it payed off with a great performance in the game.

 

 

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Here is my autograph haul for the day.

-Andrew McCutchen draft pick card

-Andy LaRoche card

-Steve Pearce game ticket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Our seats were smack dab in center field, right behind McCutchen. We were right along the batting eye. It was a great view of the whole park. I have never sat there before. I was texting Jon, from the “Mc”Effect about the game. He was on his baseball road trip to D.C. and Baltimore. You can read about his journeys on his blog.

 

 

 

 

 

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 That is Andrew, the Yankee fan, and me from our center field seats. My brother Zach and two of his friends and their family were also there. We anticpated a homerun hit by us as we were only 2 rows from the field. Victor Martinez did blast one into the batting eye grass but as you can see from the previous picture we did not want to face the punishment for walking on uncharted territory.

 

 

indians game at PNC 337.JPG Sticking with the theme of family and friends I saw my good buddy Jared at the game. He is a die-hard Indians fan, I did not rub it in his face too much about the game, mostly because he hooked us up with those free Scrappers tickets. And no Julia, I’m not turning into a Red Sox fan by wearing that shirt. I am still a Pirates fan which means I can be a fan of Jason Bay. It was my “Bay 44″ T-shirt. Alot of people in Pittsburgh have one because of how much we truly miss J-Bay. I got some “Go Sox” chants but most people recognized the Bay and Pirates hat I was wearing and were proud of my wardrobe selection.

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PIRATES WIN! PIRATES WIN! McCutchen was the star of the game with 2 hits including the win single that drove in the winning run. After he notched his line drive single into right he was mobbed at first base by his teammates. It was a great moment for us Pirate fans but most importantly Cutch himself. He is here now and a force to be reckoned with. Some say he is the best Pirates prospect since Barry Bonds, I have no argument against that whatsoever. I tried to take a picture of the mob scene but could not. I was shaking with nerves and excitement from what I just witnessed. Here is a professional photo from the post game madness taken by Gene Puskar of The AP.

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Enjoy it guys, the Royals are up next!

A first glimpse of Tony Sanchez

For you non-Pittsburgh Pirate fans out there this entry may be somewhat irrelevant. I recently went to Eastwood Field in Niles, Ohio-about a 15 minute drive from Youngstown to take in a minor league baseball game.

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Eastwood Field is home to the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, low class A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Although I have a deep hatred of the Indians I do support the hometown team-the Scrappers. It is always a fun time at the field with wacky promotions and close to the action seats. Over the years a slew of Major League players have played for the Scrappers, most notably:

-Ben Francisco, Ryan Garko, Chris Gimenez, Trevor Crowe, Tony Sipp,and Victor Martinez-all current Inidans

-Ryan Church- outfielder for the Mets

-Kevin Kouzmanoff-infielder for the Padres

-C.C. Sabathia-hurler for the Yankees

It is a good place to go to take in a baseball game and see just drafted young play their hardest to reach the next level.

My trip to the field this week was to see young talent at its finest. The Scrappers were playing the State College Spikes, the farm team of the Pirates. I was there to mostly see Tony Sanchez, the first round pick of the Pirates in this month’s draft. There has been much talk and speculation about Tony. He was named the collegiate catcher of the year and has the batting numbers to prove it. However, he was ranked at about number 30 in terms of talent in the draft. With the 4th overall pick the Pirates nabbed Sanchez. Many pundits felt it was a security issue for the Bucs. They were able to quickly sign him with a contract rather than picking the best available player who may not have signed with the organization. Personally I like what Sanchez has to offer. I’d rather take a position player than a pithcer in any draft. In the Pirates case a position player is usually the right move regardless, we have a long history of pitching busts.

Decked out in my Pirates gear me my dad and my friend Andrew were able to get front row seats right behind the Spikes dugout. The tix were courtesy of my buddy Jared, The Indians fan. He is working as an intern in the Scrappers ticket office for the summer. It is a good gig for him as he is pursuing a career in sports management. The hours are long but he enjoys every second of being around baseball.

We headed down to our seats while the Spikes were warming up. Tony was playing catch with the starting pitcher. He looks like he has a strong arm for a catcher. He has a quick relaease and can really zoom the ball to his target. As he walked towards the dugout I started yelling his name holding up a ball and picture for him to sign. He was very cordial as he signed my items. We were able to have a brief conversation. He seems like a very genuine guy who is legitimately happy to be playing in the organization. He has a nice smile and a nice voice. Female fans around us were intrigued by his good looks. He said he hopes to do his best for a quick rise through the system and cracking the major league roster in the near future.

Here are pictures of my signed items.

san1.jpg I printed this picture off postgazette.com. It is Tony at PNC Park for the first time after signing his contract. He was there for a brief press conference and intorduction to his future stomping grounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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He signed this ball right on the sweet spot without being asked to do so. Big props in my book as most players just carelessly sign any spot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tony began the game batting in the 3rd spot in the lineup. A perfect notch for him as he needs to develop into that same spot in the future. He is known to have slight pop in his bat, but not overwhelming power. Hopefully the minor league staff can hone his skills so he can drive the ball deep.

tony sanchez 002.jpgFIRST AB- Tony deleivered a frozen rope shot to right over the shortstops head. It flew off his bat and he was safely aboard with a single. He could have had an RBI on the play but the third base coach held the runner at third. Very discouraging as we booed him for not sending him home. 

SECOND AB- He got bad wood on the ball and slowly dribbled it to the shortstop. The shortstop then stepped on second for a force out. On the throw to first the shortstop threw it in the dirt. Sanchez reached on the error and turned on the jets. He took advanatge of the situation and jetted to second base. The next batter ripped a drive to right field and Tony would come around to score what would be the lone Spikes run of the game.

THIRD AB- A pitch got in on his hands and he wasn’t able to turn on it. It was a roller right at the first baseman who easily stepped on first for the unassisted out

FOURTH AB- In hi slast time up he drilled another shot into left field and recahed with a single.

He finished the game 2-4 with a run scored. Not a bad day at the plate. In the other two game of the series he was help hitless in one but reached base once in the other game. It was a single too and he drove it to where else but left field. He also scored a run in that game after the hit.

Behind the plate Sanchez did a solid job keeping balls in front of him. He had one passed ball but othe rthan that it looks like he will be a big body who can mow down runners and be a solid overall defensive backstop.

tony sanchez 001.jpg As a whole I wa simpressed. Tony is a nice guy and a good face for the Pirates organization. There is a lot of work to be done. He can’t just be a singles hitter. He must add some depth to his batting arsenal. We need power at the big league level and if he works at it Tony can be the bopper we need. (no I am not suggesting steroids)

I wish I could have scouted the Spike better as whole instead of focusing on Tony the whole game. This guy sitting a row behind us was a big Pirate fan from Sharon, PA. He had notes about every player in the lineup and telling me who to look out for. There are some guys who may be able to sneak through the system liek second baseman Brock Holt and firstbaseman Kyle Morgan. There are also some pitchers on the team that have the right stuff-so he says.

In the corwd of 4,000 people a good thousand of them were Pirate fans. Alot of cheers went out for the Spikes.It was nice to hear and nice to give a “Lets Go Bucs” to passers by.

The loudest cheer of the night when the Indians score was announced. The Indians were beating the Pirates 5-0 in the 7th inning. Many people were pumped about that. The Youngstown area is loaded with Tribe fans. Pirates play second fiddle once again. I wa stracking the Pirates game on my cell phone and was very dissapointe din Ian Snell. He was shelled again giving up 5 runs. Things took a turn for the better for the Pirates in the car on the drive home. We tuned in to the radio after the Scrappers game, btw Mahoning Valley downed the Spikes 2-1. It was the ninth inning and the Pirates were scratching back with a 5-2 thanks to an Adam LaRoche homer that landed in the Allegheny River. The Pirates rally continued as Kerry Wood came into the game and started blowing up. The Pirates scored 2 off of Wood. Nyjer Morgan, Andrew McCutchen, Brandon Moss, Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez all collected hits in the 2 runs scored. The lineup batted around as Adam stepped up to the plate again. He did not deliever the same heroics as he popped out to right field to end the game. Very dissapointing but I hold my head high after a strong come back. The Bucs did win last night 10-6. Hopefully the offense will be alive again tonight. I will be in attendance at PNC Park for this rubber match between the interleague rivals. 

A Deeper Look Inside…Rick Peaslee

San Francisco 170.JPGI’d liek to start this entry off by wishing a happy Father’s Day to all the pops out there. A father’s love and guidance is prudential to a life and I owe everything that I’ve accomplished to my father, Rick Peaslee. Rick is pictured to the left of myself in the above photo. The picture was taken last year, 2008 in San Francisco. We ventured out west as a family to hit up teh ballparks of the Bay Area. It was an unforgettable trip that really bonded us all together.

Baseball really is a glue that brings people togetehr. There are a lot of father-son combos in baseball. The Ripkens, The Griffeys and the Boones all come to mind. There are hundreds of other combos out there, but one that really hits home is the Peaslee family dynasty.

Rick Peaslee was born in the 50′s in Kingwood, WV. A very small town located an hour outside of Morgantown. When you think West Virginia I’m sure you think of farms, countrysides, mountains and people that talk in a hick accent. If you can picture that you can picture Kingwood. He grew up on a farm and developed an eager work ethic. He learned the values of hard work and dedication. My grandpa really put him to work and taught him the values and morals that helped shaped him become the person he is today.

Rick knew nothing more than bailing hay and playing baseball. He was very into teh game from a young age going out to the local field looking for someone to play catch with him. When he couldn’t find a buddy him and his sister, my Aunt Paula would come up with their own game on the brick wall of a fire station that still stands today. They would mark the walls from least to greatest. Teh least being a single-the greatest a home run. It was very unique and creative, especially for two down home kids living in the sticks of West Virginia.

Rick was so into the game of baseball he would head down to the local ballfields at sunrise to help the volunteer groundscrews line the fields with white chalk. He was invloved in every aspect of the game all the way through high school, where he was a  year letterman.

014.JPG  From his young days in Kingwood to his adult days in Youngstown, Rick followed baseball. His dad always encouraged him to play the game and he did with great pride and passion. Growing up within 3 hours of a major league team, The Pirates, my dad and grandpa were able to make it up to Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium for many historic games. They saw Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell, Vern Law, Bill Madlock, Dave Parker, Steve Blass and so many other great Bucs in there hay day. From regular season games to the first night game in World Series the Peaslees always tried to be front and center to see their battling Bucs.

30 some years later Rick carries on the Bucco Tradition. Each summer for the past 2 decades he has taken me and my brother Zach to Pittsburgh for many Pirate games. I remember being a 2 year old kid playing with my Doug Drabek Starting Lineup figurine and going to Three Rivers Stadium for my first baseball game watching along the third base line. I grew up in that stadium and had some of the best times of my life. My dad took me to see many games and Pirates events yea n and year out. From Jason Kendall hitting the cycle to the final game at Three Rivers Stadium.

As PNC Park opened my brother started to attend more and more games with us. It was and is still great having the trio head out and enjoy a game together. Like I said, it’s basbeall that really brings people together. It is a common ground for people of all races, ages and sizes. All three of us discuss daily roster moves, trade rumors and box scores from all games, not only the Pirates.

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The picture on the right was taken at the Ballpark in Arlington. My mother is pictured with the Peaslee boys. I give her alot of credit for putting up with three baseball crazed men. For the past decade it has been our goal to reach every major legaue ballpark. Thus far we have hit 27 of the 32 major league stadiums. Without my dads hand me down passion for baseball and my mother’s cooperation and vacation planning skills I would not be such a big baseball fan, see so many parts of teh country and spend time with the people I love.

When were not traveling the country going to games, we play baseball. From organized little league games to backyard wiffle ball games the Peaslees always are throwing around the ball. My father got me into baseball when I was young, at the age of 8. I played T-ball, coach pitch ball, and regular baseball til the age of 14. I wa snever the fastest, strongest or smartest player but I loved being out there. I loved swingign the bat, running the bases and catching balls all around the field. My dad coached me every year I played. I miss it more and more each day. I wish I could go back to work on mechanics and form so I could have been a better player. I wish I could have played baseball in high school but the competition was so great, I did not think I could compete. My father was still proud of me. I actually think me halting my organized baseball career allowed me to understand the game better and take in teh finer details. My dad was still proud of me as we watched games from the stands and analyzed more MLB games on TV.

In the backyard competitive wiffle ball games occur all the time in teh summer. Zach and I will invite friends over and dad will be right in the center as the all-time pitcher thrwing us the classic white plastic ball. As a defacto
137.JPG umpire he is always supportive of everyone. When we want intimate Peaslee moments we will head down to a local ball field and shag fly balls. We take turns giving each other infield practice, outfield practice and batting practice. Its great going out with the main people you trust. There is no one to impress and my dad always shows us a great time.

That picture was taken in St. Louis at the new Busch Stadium, just another stop on our grand ballpark tour.  

I ondly remember anotehr stop on one of our voyages. We were at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego about to enter through the gates and into the stadium. This was in the late 90′s as Qualcomm was the former home of the Padres. The round structure reminded me of Three Rivers and I mentioned it to my dad. He said “Boy I wish you could have seen what I saw at Three Rivers. Its really a shame we can’t share teh playoff moements me and my dad shared.” It was really touching for both me and him. I mean this was a regular season, rather meaningless game between the Cubs and Padres in freaking San Diego. Pittsburgh is 3,000 miles away and the Pirates glory days were still on his mind. Its funny how things really haven’t changed since the late 90′s in regards to the state of the Pirates. We as Bucco fans are still starving for that winning season. We’re not asking for a championship like they were in the 70′s when they expected it. We just want to be competive, someway somehow. I would give anything to share a postseason Pirates moment with my dad. We’ve seen some special things at PNC Park, a walk off grand slam by Aramis Rameriz, a Jeromy Burnitz river shot, and Brian Giles catch at the wall. We’ve been to Opening Days and the Home Run Derby and the All Star Game. Unforgettable and unbelievable moments. However, a playofff game or even a winning record in August, let alone September would be fabulous and something else we could embrace together.

For fathers day this year I wanted to give my dad something that would signify my love for baseball. After all if it wasn’t for him I surely would not be a big baseball fan, surely not a Pirates fan at that. Back in January at Piratesfest at the converntion center in Downtown Pittsburgh I purchased a large 3 foot poster of the Great One, Roberto Clemente. One of my dad’s favorite players growing up. He idloized Roberto for the way he played the game, his speed and defensive ability was second to non. At the plate he always delievered in the clutch. He was just as heroic off the field as he wa son. He was gretaly known for his hospitable works in teh poor areas of the Caribbean. Once I laid my eyes on the poster I knew my dad would love it. He would hang it in the basement right away next to his other collections of Clemente pennants, photos and plauqes.

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He enjoyed it very much. It brought back so many fond memories for him and led to stories of watching the Great One roam the field at Forbes and Three Rivers.

Now call me a cheapskate but I also kind of regifted his next present. At PNC Park this year there is a prize wheel station set up. Every person in attendance gets to spin the wheel to recieve a free promotional iteam from last year. Its a nice concept and free with the price of admission. At a game I went to at the beginning of the season I won a Bill Mazeroski Commemerative plate. Now I’m all for Pirates collectibles but a plate doesn’t really cut it for me. I’m not an old lady with a tea set and flatware, I’m a man, I like bobbleheads. However, not saying my dad isn’t a man but he absolutely loves Bill Mazerosi. Playing second base as a kid he dreamed of modeling his game after number 9. Maz was great in the field for the Pirates winning Gold Gloves at the position. In our basement we have some autographed balls and pictures of Maz and my dad had talked about turning a corner of the basement into a nook displaying these precious items. I knew right from the start that the plate would look great in this area. My father agreed and beamed when he opened it.

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My dad is a great man who dedicates his life to his family. I owe him eevrything for giving me a great childhood and allowing me to go to his alma mater, West Virginia University. Sharing in the Pirates an Mountaineers provide great memories that we can share for many years to come. I love going to games with him and just spending quality time togetther. Its tugh as I’m away at school and getting busier and busier as I grow older and into my prime. I can only wish to be the father to my children that my dad is to me. i enjoy every moment we’ve had and hope that we can continue to be best buds….like father like son.

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Friday in the ‘Burgh…with a “Bucks” fan

friday in pittsburgh 011.JPGIt was one of those summer days. I had a rare off day at McDonalds and wanted to do something not only relaxing, but fun as well. My neighbor, Eric has been a good friend of mine for the past 17 years, as long as we’ve lived right next together in Youngstown. He is a big fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes. We’ve always had heated arguments amongst our college football loyalities. Him with the Bucks and me with the Mountaineers. We’ve both been busy these past few weeks. I’ve been home from college for nearly a month and he just finished his junior year of high school. He stays busy in the summer working out for football and he practices nearly everyday. Theres a slim chance we have a day off on the same day, me at McDonalds and him on the field. If you’ve ever read my “About Me’ section in my blog you know that a day trip to Pittsburgh is my idea of fun and relaxation. Even when there is no Pirates game or any sporting event for that matter. On Friday Eric and I ventured out to the Steel City for a day of dobouchery.

Our day started off in the Strip DIstrict of Pittsburgh. I’ve mentioned the Strip before in some entries, I have a great affection for this area of Pittsburgh. Its home to many fine restraunts, shops, bars, eateries and entertainment outlets. Its very authentic of a big city with the markets hustling and bustling serving hungry Pittsburghers. I treated Eric to one of my favorite Burgh eateries, the original Primanti Brothers.

It was his first time tasting the unique Pittsburgh treat. He enjoy his cheesesteak topped with fries, cole slaw and tomato. He gulfed it down before I could barely breathe. He loved it all and washed it down with an ice cold glass of water.

We took a stroll down the lane of the Strip. It was packed with people walking shoulder to shoulder enjoying the beautiful 80 degree day. People were sitting outside at restraunts eating gourmet meals, people were waiting for meat and other deli products at the markets, but a majority of the people were at stands like this one, searching for the latest Pittsburgh
friday in pittsburgh 004.JPGsports gear. As you can see alot of the paraphernalia is that of the Penguins. Pens gear was flying off the shelves. Eric and I were caught up in the spree and we each purchased a Pittsburgh pride shirt. I bought a yellow one reading “City of Champions” featuring a caricature of a penguin on ice skates and a football player. Eric bought an Evgeni Malkin shirt with his smiling grill on the front and “Malkin” spelled in Russian on the back. I purchased a “Got Crosby” shirt for my little brother. To commemorate the day we also bought a pair of Stanley Cup Champs shot glasses. I was pleased to see this little nugget of merchandise perched away on a shelf in one of the Strip District stores.
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Ah, a sight for sore eyes. THE West Virginia Mountaineers. Partially covered by a Stanley Cup Champs shirt they gray WVU hat still poked its way out and into the Western, PA atmosphere. It reminded me of Morgantown and the life I live down at college. Its great getting a breath of fresh air during the summer but I love my Mountaineers and my university-West Virginia.

With the blue and gold pride rushing through my body I wanted to release it on a convienent rival, the Panthers of Pittsburgh.

friday in pittsburgh 029.JPG Pictured to the left is the prestigious Cathedral of Learning on the campus of Pitt. As much as I hate Pitt, it is my civil duty to hate them. It is a very nice campus. It is located in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. It was my first time traveling down to that area of the Burgh and I am quite pleased. The area is a nice mix of suburban and urban qualities. Somewhat reminiscent of Morgantown, I really liked the campus. However, I am a Mountaineer through and through. WVU’s biggest rival is the Panthers of Pittsburgh. As much as I love the pro teams of Pittsburgh the Panthers will forever taint the quadrilateral in terms of sports teams. Its just something about them that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe its the fact that they seem to upset the Mountaineers in every opportunity. In my two years at West Virginia University I have yet to see the Eers defeat them in basketball or football. We did beat them in teh Big East Tournament but seeing a game live and being defeated by the Panthers is humiliating. Don’t get me wrong they are solid in all aspects of their athletic department. On the court with players like Same Young, DeJuan Blair and LeVance Fields and on the field Bill Stull and LaSeasn McCoy, they always outplay the Mountaineers. However I can sense the tide turning. Both Bill Stewart and Bob Huggins, coaches of the WVU football and basketball team respectively are gearing up the Mountaineers and their fans for good things to come in the future. The Panthers better sharpen their claws if they hope to keep up with the Mountaineers.

All this rage against the University of Pittsburgh made me do something drastic.

friday in pittsburgh 009.JPGI took their beloved Panther out for a spin. The Panther was hot as he had been soaking in the sun of the 80 degree weather all day. Of course I always have a Mountaineer Magic rally towel on hand in case any situation such as this would arrive. Eric felt bad for the stinking kitty and fed it a snack.

friday in pittsburgh 010.JPG    Maybe it felt better, but I hope the Panther will forever feel the spirit of teh Mountaineers. The statue is located outside Heinz Field, home of the Steelers, and unfortunately the Pitt Panthers. The stadium is located on the North Shore, we made our way there after our stops in Oakland.

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We took a stroll around the stadium and actually got to go inside. Alot of the main concourse was blocked off but we did manage to catch a glimpse of the team store.

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As you can see Eric is a pretty big guy. He will be entering into his senior year of high school and continuing on his prestigious football career. He is being recruited as an offensive lineman by such schools as Bowling Green, Ohio and Toledo. Having grown up right next door I know his family well and they are very supportive, he has a good head on his shoulders and he will strive no matter where he goes.

From Heinz Field we mosied along the river and to my favorite landmark of Pittsburgh.

friday in pittsburgh 023.JPGThats right…PNC PARK. SInce there was no game today it was cool to see the quiet side of the park. There was no crowd and I enjoyed the surrounding layout of the stadium. And let me tell you, it was realxing just seeing the park so sturdy in all its glory. Eric and I took some noteworthy pictures of parts of the park that we normall do not see on a regular gameday.

 Below is a marker signifying the first World Series in 1909. Between Boston and Pittsburgh, Boston won a 9 game series. It took place just 50 feet outside of where PNC Park stands today.friday in pittsburgh 016.JPG                                          

 

friday in pittsburgh 017.JPGThis tricked-out car was sitting outsdie the right field fence of PNC Park. Eric enjoyed the rims and took a picture of the cover of his newest rap album.

To our surprise the right field gate was opened. The general public is actually allowed to enter through the right and left field gates of the park to cut through and enjoy the ambiance of teh scenery. We took full advanatge of this opportunity and snapped some once in a lifetime pictures.

 

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friday in pittsburgh 021.JPGWe were taking orders at Manny’s BBQ in center field inside the park. Usually bustling on gamedays Mannys is a delicious spot for food at PNC Park. It rivals many of the cities actual gourment barbecues but here the service always comes with a smile. Manny Sanguillen himself is out there taking orders and signing autographs. He is one of the most beloved Pirates of all time and always has time to fondly remember the good old days.

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As cool as it was walking around the best ballpark in America on a non-gameday I still missed seeing Nyjer Morgan steal a base, Jack Wilson make a diving stop and Freddy Sanchez lining a drive to the center field gap. Through the gate I could see people hovering around homeplate. Couldnt see exactly what was going on but it looked like it was the grounds crew digging up something around homeplate.

Perhaps the saddest part of the day occured outside PNC Park at Firewater, a bar outside the left field fence. I had put back on my Pirates jacket. We walked past a group of middle aged guys enjoying after work drinks. One of the guys hollered out “Go Bucs!” I turned my head and acknowledge but was quickly corrected. He was in fact paying homage to Eric’s Ohio State Buckeyes shirt. Instead of a “Go Bucs” it was a “Go Bucks” Even in the shadows of their own home the Pirates still are hard pressed to recieve respect.

We left the North Shore and departed to the South Side. I wanted to see where I was last Friday during the Penguins Stanley Cup celebration. SIcne it wa spitch black and packed with thousands of people I couldn’t drink in the area. My goal was to feel the vibe on a regular, average day.

We crossed the Andy Warhol bridge back into the heart of the city.

The South Side had a feel much like that of Oakland. It was home to many boutiques and specfriday in pittsburgh 014.JPGialty stores. Many people were hanging out outside smoking, reading and eating.           The crowd ranged from young hippies to older businessmen. The bars and clubs were not quite hopping yet as it was still late afternoon but nontheless activity was still booming.

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That little dumby up top obviously is actually quite smart. He was in the window of a bar called Rumshakers donning his Crosby jersey cheering on the Pens.

From our brief tour of the Southside we directed ourselves back to the North Shore for a big dinner. We patronized another of my favorite restraunts, Jerome Bettis Grille 36. Before entering the beautiful establishment we saw a staple of any big city, the Just Ducky Tours.

friday in pittsburgh 022.JPGThey are very fun no matter if your on the boat or walking along the street. They offer a great view from all aspects of the city by land and water. I was on one in Baltimore and really enjoyed it. I’m sure the passengers enjoyed the tour of the Burgh today as well.

It was Eric’s first visit to Jeromes and besides running up a bill of 23 dollars he enjoyed every minute. From watching college baseball on the big screens, to going to the bathroom which he said was “like a nightclub with urinals.” We spent a good hour in there talking and enjoying the hip scene.

It was a superb day and a great way to spend a day off. i love this city and can be a tourist although I know the ins and outs fairly well. There is more to the City of Champions than its sports and there is plenty more to see and do than all I got done in one day. I can’t wait til my next Pittsburgh cruise, although then I plan on seeing the Pirates, live and in person. 

Game Notes: 6-16

Pirates lose 8-2 at the hands of the Minnesota Twins

  • Nyjer Morgan hits 2 run homerun-1st of the 2009 season
  • 5 double plays were turned by the Pirates-they lead the MLB in that category
  • Paul Maholm had his worst start of the year-8 earned runs and 14 hits
  • Joe Mauer is outstanding- he went 4-4 and is currently batting .414

It will be interesting to see how this interleague matchup turns out. The Bucs had a lot of luck in the last series against the Tigers getting 2 out of 3. With the offensive firepower that the Twins posess it will be tough for the Pirates to get out of the Land of Lakes with a decent win.

A Celebration of Pittsburgh; The Streets run red with Hossa’s Blood

pens.jpgThe City of Champions will continue its reign. The Pittsburgh Penguins are your 2009 Stanley Cup Champions.

Of course, being a Pittsburgh fan I had to take part in the celebration. Me and my buddy Jared (the Indians fan) made teh trek to Pittsburgh to watch the game with thousands of other Pens fans. We made it to Jerome Bettis Grille 36, the place was rocking and jumping from start to finish.

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It was too hard to get good pictures in the place. There was approximately 750 people huddled inside the restraunt around 48 plasma HD TVs. We stood the whole time as every table was taken.

The game itself was exiting. If you read my entry about Game 3 of the Stanley Cup you will know that I was on the edge of my seat for the entire 60 minuts of play. While I had no seat in last night I was trembling with nerves throughout the hour of gameplay.

When the Pens scored, teh place was hoppin’. Napkins were thrown in the air, confetti was shot all over and random people were high fiving and huggin.

At the end of the game, with the Penguins winning 2-1 a riot ensued. Beer was sprung all over place as people were shaking it up and pouring it over the neighbors. Fans were standing on chairs waving their towels and jumping all around. In the mob scene I came across a very familiar face.

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This is Jon Anderson. Many of you may know him from “The ‘Mc” Effect”, he was across the street at PNC Park for the Pirates-Tigers game. Although he is a much biggers Pirates fan than A Penguins fan he was enjoying the celebration, in a Diamondbacks shirt no less. Stuck out like a sore thumb as everyone around him was wearing their balck and gold.

Now mind you, I too am a much biggers Pirate fan than a Penguin fan. However, its not every day a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals comes around. I was there to celebrate Pittsburgh, as was everyone one else and every proud citizen of the Steel City.  Call me a front runner, tell me I’m jumping on the bandwagon, but I’m not. I’ve followed the Pens my entire life from Luc Robataile to Evgeni Malkin, I bleed balck and gold.

Anyway, teh celebrations took to the streets as the entire ‘Burgh was rocking. Car horns were blaring, people were screaming, random stuff was thrown about. People even jumped in the Ohio River for a victory splash in honor of the Pens.

 The streets of the southside of Pittsburgh were flooded with people, cops, horses and tanks. You heard me correct HORSES….and….TANKS!

It was a riot scene as people were collaborating around cars, rocking them back and forth and jumping around on buildings. The SWAT team was called in to corall the crowd and keep people in check.

jay and peas.jpgWe were right in the thick of things and had one of the best adrenelline rushes of our lives. We were part of the mob, but were able to keep our cool, unlike some people. Chants of “Detroits Sucks” and “%&$@ You Hossa” -in refernece to former Penguin and current Red Wing Marian Hossa, echoed throughout the vicinity. Young guys, with a little bit too much to drink were acting beligerent and the cops there took them down, tasered them and cuffed them. It was actually very scarry and our hearts were racing a mile a minute. We stayed in teh area for a good hour but when a guy right next to us was grabbed by a cop, we knew it was time to get out of there.

As happy as I am for the Penguins and the city of Pittsburgh, it is all very bittersweet. I am a Pirates fan first and foremost. With all the success and accolades of the Steelers and Penguins the Pirates are just an afterthought. In fact, on one screen at Jeromes the Pirates game was shown. People shouted “Get this sh*^ off Pirates Suck” and when the DJ at the restraunt gave Pirate score updates people yelled “Nobody cares”. Its really sad to see this, especially for me. Baseball is America’s sport, its a shame that the Pirates are treated so poorly in such a fine sports city. I guess thats what 16 straight years of losing will do to a community. However, I am one hundred percent confident that once the Pirates crack .500 at the end of a season the city will get back on board for the Bucs. Its been up to thr front office to lead the charge, but they have failed to do so. With guys like Andrew McCutchen, Andy LaRoche, Delwyn Young, and Freddy Sanchez playing at the top of their game the Pirates may be inching closer to respectabilty. These things take time and for Pittsburgh baseball fans that time is running short.

Untill next time remeber…. PITTSBURGH IS THE CITY OF CHAMPIONS

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Draft Recap

ncaa_e_tonysanchez_300.jpgIn a handful of years you very well could be seeing this guy in a Pittsburgh uniform. History tells us chances are you won’t but the Pirates have full intentions of getting him up to the majors. After all he was their first pick in the 2009 draft. His name: Tony Sanchez, a catcher from Boston College out of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The ACC is known for its baseball poweress, but not so much from a school such as Boston College.

Sanchez completed his Junior year of college at BC and was known as the best collegiate catcher in the draft. Nice accolades, but only one problem, he wasn’t expected to go untill laster, much later in the draft. The pick was done for signability issues, the Pirates front office knew what they were getting into picking a lesser player talent wise, in hopes that he would be an easy sign and that he would easily become a Pirate. The firestorm on Pirates message boards erupted after Sanchez was chosen. Many fans hoped the Pirates would choose a pitcher, specifically Aaron Crow. Crow fell to the 12th pick where he was chosen by Kansas City. Crow was a standout for Missouri so the hometown pick will surely be welcomed as a Royal.

Now I really have no problem with Sanchez, however I just don’t see the need for a catcher. While I can’t really say they Pirates are loaded at that position, I just know we have some solid guys waiting in the wings. Currently Ryan Doumit is first on our depth chart. He is widely regarded as a strong presence at the plate, unfortunately he is on teh DL and looks to remain there for a better part of the year. On the active roster now there is Jason Jaramillo and Robinzon Diaz. Both are rookies and done fantastic filling in for Doumit. In the minors the only catcher that has a legit shot at cracking the majors is Steven Lerud. He has been around for quite sometime but is still mentioned on top prospect lists.

I would have much rather seen an infielder drafted, preferably shortstop or 2nd baseman. Outside of current Pirates Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez the depth is pretty weak. Ideally a corner outfielder or first baseman could have been drafted. The Pirates have a stacked lineup with speed and average, just no power. If Sanchez can be developed properly, perhaps he can be able to put the ball in the seats. In college his numbers were .346, 14 homers, 51 RBI, from covering teh West Virginia University baseball team I can tell you those are very solid. Nobody on the Mountaineers hit more than 14 homeruns and a .346 averagee is very nice.

In later rounds the Pirates went after pitchers. From previous drafts Pirate pitchers have been nothing but busts. Bobby Bradley was injured and faded from baseball, number one overall pick Bryan Bullington never panned out and is probably floating around some Frontier League team. 2 years ago the Pirate nabbed Daniel Moskos. Moskos is a great guy and has a popular blog here on mlblogs, but he is tabbed to become nothing more than a decent relief pitcher. WIth a first round pick common sense would tell you to go after an impact player, not a decent relief pitcher.

Victor Black, Brooks Pounders and Zackary Dodson are a trio of pitchers thats were chosen in the first 5 round by the Bucs. With all the hoopla about the Pirates skipping over Aaron Crow, I look back to the previous busts by Pirate pitchers. Maybe it was a good thing he was passed over. Hopefully Black, Pounders, and Dodson can make teh impact that Maholm, Duke and Snell have made since being drafted by the Bucs and rising through teh farm system. Those 3 certianly aren’t major league elite but they’ve proved themselves through every phase and continue to hold down a spot on a major league rotation.

OTHER NOTABLE PLAYERS CHOSEN:

070924_PatWhite_WestVirginia_vlg_6p_widec.jpgPick 1455- Pat White. Yes, yes indeed this is THE Pat White. WVU football legend and Miami Dolphin Pat White. He made the decision out of high school to come to West Virginia and bypass the chance of playing baseball for the Los Angeles Angels. Based on his speed and pure athletic abilty the Yanks picked White. Once again he will give up baseball to pursue football in the NFL. This just show that 50 rounds is kind of meaningless when half the players will not even sign with their respective teams.

 

 

 

tobias.jpg    Pick 162-Tobias Striech. Following him the last two years and hearing nothing but the best, I knew Streich would be picked up in teh draft. Every single one of the WVU pitchers I’ve talked to said if it wasn’t for Tobias’s knowledge of the game and management skills the Mountaineers would lose more games than they won. He was a great defesnisve catcher with a quick release. Compared to Tony Snachez his numbers lack, but he still has a great opportunity with the Minnesota Twins and their organization.

 

 

 

 

 

VB1.jpgPick 834- Vince Belnome. Belnome was an RBI machine at WVU. His 84 this season gave him the all time single season record as a Mountaineer. He was a scrappy second baseman and always put the ball in play. The Padres picked him up and plan to use him as a utlityman. He was the cleanup hitter for the Mountaineers, a great spot to drive in runs and he did just that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Its hard to tell what will happen with this draft. I wish all the Pirate picks the best of luck, they are the future and a cornerstone to give the Pirates a winning chance. I also wish Streich and Belnome the best. Once a Mountaineer always a Mountaineer, they have a chance to show the nation what West Virginia Spirit is all about.

PHOTO CREDITS: mlb.com, msnsportsnet.com  

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone…

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Words can’t describe how weird it is for me to look at that picture and accept the fact that Nate McLouth is no longer a Pittsburgh Pirate. After 10 years with the Pirates organization, McLouth is now playing centerfield for the Atlanta Braves.

I wish Nate all the best in his tenure in Atlanta, chances are he will be there for quite some time. He is under contract for the next 3 years and when the ATL front office realizes how important he is to their team, they should lock him up for an additional 3 or so years. McLouth has the ability to remain a Brave and become quite the legend. He may never be the best of teh best, but keeping up with his solid all-around style of gameplay he will surely never be forgotten when wearing the Blue and Red.

I might be getting a little ahead of myself here just a bit. It is still very tough to swallow after seeing and getting used to this

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for the better part of the last 4 years. His boyish face, sheepish grin, and bleach blonde hair have been a staple in the Pirates clubhouse and Pittsburgh community for nearly half a decade. Nate had a program he ran at every game called “Nate’s Lucky 13” He would bring in 13 underpriveleged kids from the urban areas of the Burgh and allow them to take part in the baseball experience. These kids normally would not have a chance to go see a live MLB game so Nate would take it upon himself to show these youths a good time. He took them behind the scenes at PNC Park and down on the field for pre-game warmups. They also recieved good seats and custom T-shirts. Nate is a great guy and a player that the Atlanta community should warm up to as well.

Well enough is enough, he’s gone and he ain’t coming back. Instead of visiting Western, PA, the Pirates trekked to Georgia to take on the Braves in a 4 game series. The opening game of the series was very thrilling going 15 innings. The Pirates wound up losing the game 7-6 in the bottom of the 15th but nonetheless, they stuck in there and never backed down.

The Pirates-McLouth reunion was overshadowed by the fact that Braves manager Bobby Cox earned his 2,000 win as a Brave. McLouth took advantage of his old team by ripping three hits including his first homerun in Atlanta, his tenth of the year.

For Pittsburgh, McLouth’s replacement Andrew McCutchen had quite the noteworthy game as well. Cutch had 4 hits, 2 of which were doubles. In my last entry I vented about how important he needs to be in regard to the future of the Pirates organization. He showed last night that he can be looked to as a form of support and he will carry the torch. Although the Bucs lost he put up them numbers that should have put them in a position to win. It was pretty fitting that McCutchen went off like he did playing against McLouth. 

PHOTO CREDITS: ap photos off espn.com 

A Deeper Look Inside…Andrew McCutchen

cutch1.jpgIt has been a while since my last entry in the “A Deeper Look Inside” series, so why not write about the newest (and hottest) Pirate, Andrew McCutchen?

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Since being drafted 11th overall by Pittsburgh in the 2005 draft, McCutchen has been watched like a hawk. Buccos fans, front office members and baseball supporters in general long awaited the arrival of this new prodigy.

“Cutch” as he is lovingly referred to as, has risen through the Pirates minor league system alot slower than many fans would have liked. Mind you he is only 22 years old right now, but being drafted as a high schooler at the age of 18, McCutchen needed time to develop and mature, not only as a baseball player, but as a man.

Cutch played for the Hickory Crawdads, Altoona Curve and Indianapolis Indians during his minor league tenure. At each stop along the way Andrew recieved high honors and accolades. He was named the most outstanding major league prospect in 2006 for the SAL League, also in ’06 he was a mid and post season all-star in the SAL. He was also an all-star at the AAA level in Indianapolis.

Andrew is known as a 5-tool player. He has the power, speed, and defensive ability to be an outstanding all around player. Alot of his success over the past handful of years can be attributed to the time he spent in the Arizona Fall League. Many current MLB All-Stars have spent time in the AFL to fine tune their skills in preparation for a big league callup. David Wright, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard all played in the League. It was very beneficial for them because you can see where there are now.

cutch3.jpgFor Cutch to take it upon himslef to join the League andproperly play against fellow competitors shows how much he cares about his own future, as well as the future of the Pirates. His development in the minor leagues and AFL have already paid dividends as he is up in the majors living out every little boys dream.

  

cutch4.jpgJune 4, 2009 will be a day that will forever live on in Pirates history.

Andrew McCutchen strapped on his black and gold and took teh field at PNC Park. Greeted by a throng of cheers Cutch did not let the bright lights faze him as he went 2-4 with an RBI and stolen base in his major league debut. Since his first game he has also delievered quite well.

Through four games he is batting .333 with 6 hits and4 RBI. His biggest game came against the Astros on Sunday June 7th. The rookie went 3-5 with 1 RBI. He continues to drive the ball to the outfield and blaze around the basepaths with tremendous speed. With Nyjer Morgan and Cutch at the top of the lineup the Bucs have what could be one of the fastest outfield units in the majors. Brandon Moss plays an above average right field and has carralled in his fair share of clutch plays.

PNC Park has a wide open outfield and with Andrew as teh chief in center, opposing teams better adjust their game plans, no ball is dropping in.

Only time will tell to see if Andrew will pan out. Will he be somebody the Pirates can build around? Will he be just a basic lead-off hitter? Can he generate some pop and give the Pirates a much needed deep ball threat? Only time will tell.

There is alot of weight being placed on Andrew McCutchen’s shoulders. He is assuming a starting role and filling in the shoes of Nate McLouth. Bucco fans were deeply affected by the trade of McLouth. He was our best hitter and threat at the plate. He too was fast on the base paths and a top notch center fielder. We knew all along what we had in Cutch, but just thought Nate and Drew would be in the outfield together. The best lasi plans of mice and men often go awry and they surely did in the case of the Pirates future. Whether it will be a step forward or a step back, once again, only time will tell.

 

cutch5.jpgCutch has a certain poise and swagger about him that just screams success. He has a proven track record and teh ability to change a team for the better. The Pirates need a change to break out of their 16 years of losing and McCutchen is the torpedo that will crack the iceberg. If he is as good as advertised, the front office of the Bucs must then be the ones who have to live up to the pressure. The Pirates have long been known to develop their players then trade them when they become stars (ie: Brian Giles, Jason Bay, Nate McLouth etc). To break out of teh negativce image the front office must show loyalty and dedication to not just themselves but to the players and fans of Pittsburgh. They must be able to keep McCutchen in good graces and develop the personnel aroudn him. They can do it, theres no doubt about that, I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I truly didn’t believe that. McCutchen is a sign of things to come and hope on the horizon.

 

PHOTO CREDITS:

dailylife.com

thescore.com

assests.espngo.com

images.athlonsports.com

postgazette.com 

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