November 2009

The WEST VIRGINIA Peas

It was CAT that called it-indeed I will have a recap from one of the most exciting sporting events I have ever witnessed live and in person.

The West Virginia Mountaineers prevailed over the hated Pittsburgh Panthers 19-16 thanks to a last second field goal by freshman kicker Tyler Bitancurt.

First let me take take a moment and walk you through what will go down as one of the most memorable moments in WVU football history.

bitancurttyler.jpgTie ball game. 16-16. 3.4 seconds left, the ball is lined up at the 43 yard line.

Kick is up————And it sails through the uprights.

Bitancurt-Header-112709.jpgBitancurt is mobbed at midfield, hoisted on the shoulders of his blue and gold brothers. As tears of joy stream down his face, elation and happiness fills my undergraduate spirit.

pittgame09.jpgIt was a bone chilling moment, and not just because temperatures dropped into the low 30s. The crowd of 60,000 went silent as the kick went up, paused for a second and broke into a thunderous cheer as the referees motioned their arms in the good and upward position signaling a made field goal.

downpitt.jpgSeeing the distraught Pitt players lay on the ground in sorrow brought the biggest notion of joy. These Panthers from Pittsburgh not only have bestwed a mantra of hatred upon me but they are also the reason my love for Pittsburgh sports does not extend beyond the black and gold of the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins.

I love Pittsburgh. The city is a beautiful place and really underrated in terns of livability and cleanliness. It gets a bad rap for being a rundown area and a city lost in the economic times. However it is very beautiful and a great place to be.

It is not the steel city’s fault that a university like Pitt is in it’s city limits. Don’t get me wrong-it is a great school, a degree from Pittsburgh will go a long way. It is the sporting teams that have always rubbed me thr wrong way.

Many people say “How can you ‘put on for Pittsburgh’ and cheer for the teams, but turn around and hate the Panthers?” The institution of the pro teams and college team is right there in plain colors-well, its the colors. Blue and Gold belongs to the Mountaineers, seeing the Panthers adorn nearly the same colors as WVU and go against the black and gold of the ‘Burgh is a parallel that has always set me off.

Also, it is how I was raised. My family is born and bred in the Mountain State of West Virginia. If you are from WV-you are a Mountaineer fan-by birth. It is really second to none the pride and passion that flows from the blood of the citizens of West “By God” Virginia. The uniqueness of being such a lowly populated, mostly poor and rural area is one thing-but to  have the loyalty of  an athletic club like the Mountaineers to cheer for is great.  With ni pro teams in teh state it is only natural to cheer for the pro teams of Pittsburgh. While cheering for the PROFESSIONAL teams it is clearly natural to root against the natural rival of your beloved Mountaineers-Pitt.

I was raised this way along with many, many others. West Virginia University is filled with students from Western, PA. The saying goes once a Mountaineer always a Mountaineer rings true when these people bring their loyalties to Morgantown. They are fully allowed to cheer with their black and gold from back home while adopting the old gold and blue of WVU.

Beat-Pitt-fleming.jpgJack Fleming is one of these people. As the voice of the Mountaineers for a handful of decades, Fleming had a voice that would send chills down your back. His radio calls are still played with great honor commemorating the great plays of WVU history. Fleming doubled as the voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers as well. His most famous call may be that of the “Immaculate Recpetion” by Franco Harris.

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He was a die hard Steeler and Mountaineer. Contradictory? Not at all!

The 19-16 victory on Friday night was much more fulfilling because revenge was on the line. Everything tastes sweeter when revenge was on the line. Not only are Pitt and WV bitter rivals, this was the 102nd edition of the famed “Backyard Brawl.” In a rivalry game, facts and figures are thrown out the window as pride and bragging rights are on the line. Pitt owns WV in the all time series and have beat us the last two years. The Most stinging loss came in 2007. This game was defined by these two numbers-13-9.

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It stings the heck out of me to even post that picture on here, but to move on to the future I guess you just have to ackbowledge the past.

WVU was ranked 2nd in the nation and had a clear path to the National Title game. I was a freshman at the time and the electricity was well electric. It was unlike anything ever felt before as we had our tickets book to the National Championship game in Miami. All we had to do was get by a 4 win Pittsburgh team. But the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry and the 28 point underdogs came into our house and beat us. On Friday, Pittsburgh was ranked 9th as we were unranked so the history remains the same as it often repeats itself.

The season for the Mountaineers is far from over. We are 8-3 with one game to play next week at Rutgers, It won’t be easy but a win over the Scarlet Knights will put us in a position for a New Years Day Bowl Game, most likely the Gator Bowl.

It was a season that looked to be darkened after 3 tough, very winnable losses. Anythin
g can happen in the Backyard Brawl and the win was definitely a springboard for the rest of our season.

Last night was truly a great night to be a Mountaineer and one I will never forget.

PHOTOS
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The Travels of the Pitt Peas-Cincinnati

While the 1st semester of my junior year of college is winding down and we inch closer and closer to Christmas there is always time for a road trip!

Last weekend my good buddy Angeline was celebrating her 21st birthday. Ange and I have been friends since 1st grade and enjoying this monumental occasion together seemed all but right. So me and three of my roommates packed up the car and trekked out to Cincinnati,OH-you see she does go to school at Xavier University which is located in Cinci. We picked quite the ironic weekend to make the trip as my beloved West Virginia Mountaineers also made the 5 hour voyage to take on the Bearcats of UC. We had full intentions of celebrating an upset win for WVU by painting the town gold and blue. However, the 5th ranked Bearcats pulled off the 24-21 victory. We did not let this little roadblock stand in our way of having a good time. As you can see we still fly the colors proudly.

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That’s my buddy Jared, you make recognize him from previous Pitt Peas trips. To refresh your memory he is a die hard Indians fan.

Beside the 21st birthday party and dinner at P.F. Changs China Bistro we had time to roam about the big city of Cincinnati.

Before I go any further I just want to say how fantastic P.F. Changs is-especially their Cincinnati location. We had a big group of people at our table and they forced us to split up. Not a big deal in the first place but on top of that they gave us free appetizers. Let me tell you what, prior to that dinner Saturday night I was never a big fan of lettuce or green vegetables in general, but their lettuce wraps stuffed with chicken and fried green beans are an absolute revelation. Not to mention the other amenities of the establishment including Spicy Chicken, Sweet and Sour Chicken and their medley of dipping sauces. A divine experience all around. Whew-sorry about that, but I just had to get the word out.

Our afternoon in downtown Cincinnati began not technically in the city limits of Cinci itself. We first ended up out of the state of Ohio completely- making it to Kentucky, Newport, Kentucky.

As we grazed through the shopping mall that was banked along the river I noticed a total sight for sore eyes.

cincichristmas.jpg Oh my gracious a Christmas tree! Now already being in the Christmas spirit since Halloween I was so pumped to see this huge evergreen right before me. The whole area was decorated nicely with wreaths, garland and bows. It was so great. However the unseasonably warm temperatures that pushed 70 did not make for a total Christmas revolution it was still amazing to experience a warm weather Christmas moment. Maybe now I know how people in California feel in December. My love for Christmas probably does exceed my passion for baseball. If you read my “About Me” section you can see that December 25th is indeed my favorite day of the year followed in a close second by Opening Day in April.

cincidowntown.jpgThe cityscape of Cincinnati isn’t really unique to any other cities I have been to. However it does offer the modern necessities of a large metropolitan area. I enjoy the downtown area and feel safe there. There are many opportunities despite the economic climate that seems to sting a majority of the country. I can really see myself living here- it reminds me of Pittsburgh based on size, population and atmosphere. I do not hold a grudge against this city in Ohio like I do for the other two big cities in the Buckeye State. I despise Cleveland (Browns and Indians and Lebron James) and Columbus (THE Ohio State University). The sports teams of Cinci are also a big selling point for myself.

cinciPBstadium.jpgAlthough my thumbs are down in front of Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Bengals, I’m not totally against them. Yeah they’ve really had the Steelers number this year by sweeping them in both games played it is kind of cool to see another team step up in the AFC North. Plus Chad Ochocinco is a character and just like TBS, characters are welcome with me.

While I’m not the biggest NFL fan I am baseball through and through. Right across the street from Paul Brown Stadium is this beauty.

cinciGABP.jpgWell not a beauty per say, but what it houses is indeed a gem. The Great American Ballpark-home of the Cincinnati Reds. Just being by a baseball stadium pumped me up for the crack of the bat. I have been to this stadium before-back in 2003, in fact it was a Pirates-Reds game in which the Buccos won. But just to be outside of the 43,000 seat facility gave me chills when I am not even close to being a Reds fan. This entrance was different from the one I entered through six years ago anyway so it was neat to look around.

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There is an abundance of statues lining the spacious walkway to the gate of the stadium. While I have never heard of any of the players I am sure they are central to Reds History. Mind you none of them were Pete Rose or Johnny Bench. However I’m sure within the confines somewhere you can find a bust of those two legends. To go along with this guy there were at least three more in the entrance way alone.

cinciredswin.jpg I like this little nugget of novelty hanging by the ramps of the stadium. It is a clever message of pride to display after every Reds victory. I know I enjoy seeing a victory sign, much like the Jolly Roger that flies outside of PNC Park after a win. With fireworks and Brandon Philips pumping his fist this would be a welcome sign each evening after having an enjoyable night at the ballpark.

Althoug
h the Reds do play in the NL Central, rivals of the Pirates-there is no need to hate them. I see them as the same position as the Pirates. We’re just two small market teams wanting to get by. I do not necessarily root for them but I’m there cheering them along. If one of us makes it we both make it-well not really, but it is nice to see both teams make strides in a effort to contend. That being said Pirates fans of the world do not be disgruntled when you feats your eyes on this.

cincijoemorgan.jpg   It was all about timing. You don’t wander into the team shop (which I was overjoyed and surprised that it was opened on a Saturday at 4pm during the off season.) an not try on some Cincinnati garb. I’m really digging the hat by the way. if I didn’t need a new Pirates fitted hat-which I do- I would strongly consider buying this red and black piece of flash. The jersey is a plus too. Joe Morgan-one of the best second baseman of all time and my favorite color commentator in the booth.

morgan-miller-phillips.jpg The whole trip and weekend was well worth it. We had a blast each day and a fun car ride there and back. As college kids we need to hit the open road to get our minds off the stress and workload that is all too prevalent. This weekend I will be heading back to Youngstown for a Thanksgiving feast with my family. A week off is also nice to refresh and touch base with my loved ones from back home. I am all too excited and wish you all a safe and happy Thanksgiving as well.

Favorite Baseball movies

Aside from most comedies it is safe to say my favorite movie genre is “sports.” While most are already comedies, a majority of sports movies are dramas. A combination of the two coupled with a sports theme make for one blockbuster of a movie. While Remember the Titans and Space Jam rank up top of my favorite sports movies there is always a place in my heart for films portraying the national pastime. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen upwards of 20 baseball movies in my lifetime, with this list I have narrowed it down to my top seven.

7.)
mr3000.jpgMr. 3000

While I am positive this was a bomb at the box office, I find it rather amusing. The fact that funny man Bernie Mac is playing baseball makes for one heck of an interesting movie. The storyline is unique. Mac, Stan Ross, is a longtime player for the Brewers. Seen as a Barry Bonds type player-he is a guy the fans love to hate. He is portrayed as a self centered jerk but his on field accomplishments are second to none. When he gets his 3000 hit he abruptly ditches his team and waits for his Hall of Fame induction to occur. Years later, when he is eligible for the ballot, the fact checkers find that he came up two hits short of the 3000 plateau. A realsitic fiction type of story, because it could happen I suppose. Anyway, he coems back out of shape but manages to join the Brewers and stink up the joint. He never does get his 3,000 hit but has a sense of self relazation when he helps inspire his new Brewer teammates, especially young superstar T-Rex Pennebaker, one of my favorite names in baseball movies.

6.)
fever_pitch.jpgFever Pitch

Call me a pansy but this love story makes for a fantastic movie. I love both Jimmy Fallona and Drew Barrymore so seeing them as a couple makes me happy. But the story is about a man’s love for the game of baseball. Jimmy Fallon is a die-hard Red Sox fan and lives the dream life for any baseball fan. He has season tickets rigth behind the dugout. He makes the games priorities over anything else. His memorobilla collection is second to none, including a replica of the Green Monster in his apartment. But he finds that baseball may have to take a backseat to a girl when he falls in love with Drew Barrymore. Watchin him explain the game of baseball to her is something I enjoy discussing with girls. Going to a baseball game is such a romantic date. Well so is a horse drawn carriage ride and a wine tasting but for any baseball fan a game hits the spot. It is a movie I have to watch with a girlfriend.

5.)
the_rookie.jpgThe Rookie

The story is one of the greatest basbeall stories ever told. Jim Morris, played by Dennis Quad, is a high school biology teacher who happens to coach the baseball team. Taking a page from most movies the rag-tag group of high school guys are not the most talented group, nor do they care about their play on the field. The team is more concerned that their 40 year old coach actually has some heta left in his throwing arm. Morris challenges the team to reach the playoffs and makes a deal that he will find a major league try out camp and attempt to make the big leagues. The team succeeds and Morris is signed by the Tampa Bay organization. He works his way up the minors and makes his major league debut in his hometown of Arlington, TX against the Texas Rangers. It is a heartwarming true tale. The father-son relationship is defined throughout the movie between Morris and his son as well as Morris and his father. It makes me appreciate my dad so much more and thank him for encouraging my love for the game of baseball.

 4.)
angels.jpgAngels in the Outfield

Angels in the Outfield making the list? “It can happen.” What do most college students do on a Friday night? Stay in and watch this classic Disney movie? Yep, last Friday my roommate Joe and myself watched this classic and were inspired that with a little prayer anything can happen. The characters in this movie are easy to fall in love with and you have to root for them. Roger and JP may be two of the cutest little kids on the big screen. Danny Glover as the manager makes me wish John Russell had the same fire and drive as George Knox. While I wish the Pirates were able to just flap their wings and play winning baseball it is an inspirational story nonetheless. As a matter of fact, the original Angels in the Outfield filmed in 1951 was about the Pittsburgh Pirates. I caught a glimpse of this once on AMC and really want to sit down and watch the whole thing. The story line is much different but applies to me. It is about a local journalist covering the team-my dream job.

3.) The Sandlot 

 

sandlot.jpgThere may be some baseball movies that feature a group of misfits, but these guys really frost the cake. From Squints, to Benny, from Ya-Ya to Smalls, these characters are so easy to fall in love with. The new kid on the block, Smalls, is just trying to fit in upon moving to a new town. Baseball is the name of the game in this midwestern 1960’s town. Smalls not only learns the game of baseball but also the game of life. He develops friendships and creates everlasting memories. From the encounters with the beast, to meeting James Earl Jones and Squints making out with the life guard, this movie gave the audience something to cherish. The simplicity of the game of baseball is defined through this movie. My favorite scene has got to be the 4th of July “night game” when the neighborhood is lit up with fireworks as the boys play baseball set to the tune of Ray Charles’ version of America the Beautiful. Plus everyone’s favorite line has got to be “You’re killing me smalls!”

2.)
hardball.jpgHardball

There surely ain’t no fun like a game of hardball when you are watching this movie. Think Sandlot in the inner city and throw in a bum to manage the team. Hardball is a story of finding yourself in a tough environment. Everyone has their own story and lives it the only way you know how. It is fun to see these boys actually enjoy the game of baseball. When you think about inner city life, baseball isn’t really the hottest sports on the street. This movie showed that baseball can reach anybody, anywhere. Competition really brings out the best in us. We see through the death of G-Baby that a community really does rally around its children. There does get to me some intense moments but the montages featuring “Big Poppa” and “Party up in Here” create for some spine tingling events. It is so high up on the list because this was such a cool movie when I was in 7th grade. My buddies and I would always watch it during our sleepovers.

1.) Rookie of the Year 
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This is quite possibly the most quoted movie by myself and my friends. Classic line such as “Funky Butt Lovin,'” “I haven’t seen the floater pitch since Scruffy McGee,” and ‘it’s all about the bells and whistles.” These lines combines with a fantasy of a child making an MLB team equate to one unforgettable movie. Henry Ragenbuser, Gardenhoser, Rowentgartner has  a freak accident causing his arm tendons to heal in an odd position. With this he finds that he can throw the ball upwards of 100mph. He is a sideshow freak that is discovered at a Cubs game when he does the traditional “Throw it back routine” He is eventually signed by the Cubs and ultimately leads them to the World Series. It is fun to see Henry go through the clubhouse, playing alongside his heroes. He brings the lighter side of baseball and and an entire nation falls in love with him. With Daniel Stern as hitting coach Phil Brickma and Gary Busey as Chet “The Rocket” Steadman the laughs never stop. With this movie we learn that ‘Conversation and Managing Resources is the key to baseball.’

Honorable Menion:

 

 

naked_gun.jpgWhile not technically a baseball movie, the Naked Gun has perhaps the most funniest baseball scene in all of cinema. Leslie Nielson poses as an umpire to stop an assasination attmept against the Queen of England who happens to be at that afternoon’s Dodger game. His on the field antics are quite histericall as are the bloopers that are shown on Dodger Stadium’s jumbotron. In the end we find that Reggie Jackson of all people is programmed to kill the queen.

 

 

Now, now, now I realize I am missing many classics such as Major League, The Natural, For the Love of the Game, Bull Durham and Field Of Dreams. I’m not saying I do not appreciate these movies, it is just that the top 7 are my personal favorites. Feel free to join my debate and post your own favorite baseball movies! 

 

Pirate’s Hot Sove already heating up

Well it was an off day for the World Series, but my baseball world kept turning. Just a few hours ago it was announced that Pittsburgh traded reliever Jesse Chavez to Tampa Bay for Akinori Iwamura.

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Aki, as he is affectionately called, will step in the Pirate clubhouse and not only be one of the oldest on the squad, but also an impact player. At 30 years old Iwamura suffered an injury last season. In just 69 games Iwamura batted .290 with 22 RBI. The power numbers aren’t there as he just hit 1 homer last year and has just 14 over his 3 year career. Iwamura does have a .335 on base percenatge-not bad but I’m hoping he can devlop into a top of the order hitter.

Iwamura’s defense is said to be top notch. It’ll be nice to have someone already meshed into a middle of the infield position. Delwyn Young, our current second baseman was a converted outfielder and had many growing pains when manning 2nd base this year.

In order to acquire Iwamura, the Pirates gave up reliever Jesse Chavez.

jchavez.jpgThe Pirates bullpen was simply attrocious this year.  One of the few, bright, ugh dare I say dimly lit spots was Chavez.  He was just 1-4 in his first full year of  service. Chavez held down a  4.01 ERA  over 67 innings.  No where near the numbers of a star reliever but for the Bucs, the numbers were pretty good. The Pirates need bullpen help and dealing away their best reliver  isn’t really my idea of improving.

All in all I am nutural on the deal. The Pirates need help, in any way possible. The deal will surely help our depth up the middle and Iwamura is an improvement over Ronny Cedeno and Young. It’ll be interesting to see how these three adapt to each other when alternating in an out. There was talk of moving Andy LaRoche to 2nd base, it now seems like these talks will cease.

When I recieved the text message update about this trade I figured many national pundits and local fans would be ho-hum about this.  Some may say “Oh this is just another trade by the Pirates to give away their players.”-but nobody said that, probably because of the return from the deal. People have heard of Akinori and so the Pirates getting him, is a great move by the Bucs. But when we trade players people have heard of such as Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez all I hear is mumblings that the Pirates are idiots for giving away these players! It is very contradictory.

aki mag.jpgAki has a track record of success. He has been on the Rays World Series team and was well liked amongst the clubhouse and the fans. He has the winning experience and a competitive edge. Bringing Iwamura into the mix adds a new dimension into the Pittsburgh clubhouse. I’m sure the international attention, specifically from the Japanese media will heighten for the Bucs. It is a new generation and every little bit helps. 

Hearing this news from the Pirates especially with the Philies and Yankees battling in the World Series just made me so much more excited for some Bucco Baseball in Pittsburgh. Heres to the best for Iwamura and the direction the Pirates are headed in!

Yanks spook the Phils in a Halloween Game 3

While “Thriller” was probably heard playing at your Halloween party last night, the baseball game was anything but that.

The Yankees handily defeated the Philies 8-5.

It surely was a good and memorable game and I’m dissapointed that I missed a good portion of it. Considering it was Halloween and the fact that I am a college student, one would assume that I had other plans-which I did.

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“You gettin’ this camera guy?” I was indeed the shamwow guy for Halloween last night. My group of friends had a lot of equally clever costume ideas as he hit the scene in Morgantown. Within my group the was Bob Ross, Luke Skywalker and Kenny Powers. With thousands of other students out last night there were plenty of humorous get ups, some not suitable for mention on this site.

While I could go on and on with Halloween stories and West Virginia tales we’ll stick to baseball.

Cole Hamels looked like he did in last year’s World Series-dominant. He had the confidence in an early 3-0 lead, but things headed south in the 4th inning.

arod.jpgThis guy finally showed up. A-Rod went deep for a 2 run homerun and his first hit of the World Series. The call which was originally ruled a double was over turned thanks to instant replay. Instant replay has been a hot topic for discussion in this series. Many pundits argue that it is a necessity in all facets of the game. I disagree. If you are going to have it, why do you need umpires. Put robots on the basepaths if you really want the right call. I’m all for instant replay on the homeruns, it’s great that every run is accounted for.

However, on the basepaths, keep it up to the umpires. For all the heat they take, they’re not praised enough for their expertise. It’s not like these guys are  slouches they are seasoned and  have so much experience following baseball. Yes, there have been some buthcered calls on those bang bang plays at first but its the game of baseball. Nothing is perfect-why mess with tradition?

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Even though there is obviously not a DH in the National League, Hideki Matsui still showed up. He came in to pinch hit for Joba Chamberlin in the 8th inning and pulled off his best Matt Stairs impression. There was another Godzilla sighting except this time the Philly Phanatics got a glimpse of the beast. Matsui went deep for a pinch hit solo shot. If there is to be named a World Series MVP, Matsui looks to be a frontrunner for the title.

You want to talk about a comeback player of the Series look no further than Nick Swisher.

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Batting a miniscule .111 through the course of the playoffs its safe to say Yankee fans have been dissapointed in their rightfielder. He was benched in favor Jerry Harriston Jr. in game two. Game three was a different story. Swisher belted a homerun and nailed a double to go 2-4. He was so pumped up and brought a new life to the New York club. All season long Swisher has been a leader and brought the fire. Game 3 was a big confidence booster not only for Nick, but the Yankees as well.

The series has flip flopped completely. Many people already gave this to the Philies after their domination in game one. After three games people are jumping for the Yanks. All along I figured the Yankees are the better team but the Philies do no need to be taken out of the discussion completely.

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