January 2010

“They do exist”- Fans flock to PirateFest 2010

 

PirateFest 051.JPGSunday was one of the greatest days of 2010. After an enjoyable night of enjoying the college lifestyle on Saturday, the action continued Sunday morning. A few buddies of mine hopped in my Nissan Versa and trekked up I-79 for the hour long journey to Pittsburgh.

 

VIPpf.jpgPirate Fest opened its doors at noon, we arrived around 12:30. The snaking line extended well past the gates, a surprising sight for my friends Marc, Jared and Richard.

PirateFest 028.JPGThe cost of admission was originally $12 bucks, however we caught a break. A father with a son had four extra “VIP” passes  (which literally meant nothing) he sold them to us for $5 dollars. Scalping tickets to Pirate Fest? Heck yeah!

We rushed to the autograph line where we first hit former Pirate El Roy Face, pitcher Charlie Morton and catcher Ryan Doumit.

PirateFest 034.JPG They’re nice young guys and Jared’s two favorite Pirate players.

Later in the day we came back for another round of autographs.

Firstbaseman/right fielder Garrett Jones and third baseman Neil Walker signed along side another former Pirate in Jim Rooker. It looks like Penguin Sergei Gonchar joined in on the festivities. The Pens were actually playing across town, hosting the Red Wings. Many fans adorning Penguins gear were at the fest and the Penguins won in an epic shootout. The game was playing on an HDTV at a booth.  

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Although the lines were fairly long, we waited in the lines for nearly an hour each time, it was a fun time. We talked to some cool people around us and I got major flack from an elderly man for wearing my Barry Bonds jersey.

One of my favorite parts of Pirate Fest are the memorabilla tables.

PirateFest 037.JPGThis table was filled with just Roberto Clemente stuff. From cereal boxes to buttons to an autographed baseball with a 10,000 dollar price tag. I cam away with a cool Pirates poster from the 90′s, a 1989 game program and some packs of 2010 Topps baseball cards.

Pirate Fest is also a great time to meet some very cool people associated with the team.

 

PirateFest 043.JPGI did meet him on Tuesday but seeing Andrew McCutchen rocking out on Guitar Hero was pretty cool. The guy in the black Cutch shirt was getting owned by the star centerfielder. I think this is a cool picture, considering their both rockin’ the 22.

PirateFest 046.JPGOne of the most bubbly, entergetic and fun people associated with the Pirates is Joe Klimchak. He is famous for his commercials for the Pirates where he mimmicks the “Shamwow” guy. They are very funny and do the job. He is also the in-game host at PNC Park. He hosts the between inning shin digs and brings a good vibe to the ballpark.

The best moment of the day and perhaps my entire life around baseball was meeting General Manager Neil Huntington.

 

PirateFest 045.JPGIt was a very personal time with Jared and I speaking to the GM for a good five minutes. He was standing in the concession stand area just mingling with some fans. He was very genuine and came across like a strong minded individual. After getting a cool snapshot I gave an ill attempt at a joke saying “We just made a deal and I’m the new fifth starter.” Neil really didn’t laugh and Jared just thought I was stupid. It was a good segway into a discussion regarding who the fifth starter for the Bucs. It is a race between Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen-he talked highly of both and really believes the competition will bring out the best in the two young guns.

Jared brought up his former affiliation with the Cleveland Indians, Jared’s favorite team. He is excited for manager Manny Acta to take over and think he deserved the job. He made a point that Terry Francona and Joe Torre were not successful in their first two managerial positions and that the change of scenery will be good for a younger manager with potential.

Talk around Pittsburgh has been heated with Pirates debate. It was reported that Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle have made an offer to Pirates owner Bob Nutting in an attempt to buy the team. It is a hot button issue that probably won’t go anywhere but it has given Pittsburghers false hope. I’m torn on the matter, obviously the Pens are a better run franchise and Mario may perhaps be the face of Pittsburgh sports history. However, because of the market size and baseball regulations, not much would change. It would be cool to have a Pittsburgh cable sports channel broadcasting the Pens/Pirates and other local teams to bring in more revenue than FSN Pittsburgh does already.

While I did not want to bring this up when talking to Mr. Huntington he did cite a similiar position. He said the key for small market teams is too avoid injuries as well as big, bad contracts. While it is easy to say with Lemieux/Burkle the Pirates could spend more money, will they spend it wisely? I don’t just want millions thrown at top free agents to lock them in for multiple years. Currently, Neil is allocating the money properly stocking up with high level prospects who the Pirates have control over for many years at a small cost. It is a risk, but will prove to be rewarded just a few years down the road.

Now that the ownership tangent is over, we made two more stops in the ‘Burgh. Here are pictures from our Steel City travels.

panther.jpgReaders, you know my disdain for the University of Pittsburgh, it is well-documented. We rode into the Oakland section of Pitsburgh and had a self guided tour of the campus. We walked through the basketball arena and stopped by the famous Cathedral of Learning. I hate to say it, but Pitt is a very nice campus. However, it is my civic duty as a Mountaineer to hate everything regarding our bitter rivals. On Wednesday the Panthers come to Morgantown for a battle of top ten college basketball game.

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Before departing back to the Mountain State one final stop had to be made, PNC Park. I honored Willie Stargell the only way I knew how, bowing down. Pops would have been a great player to watch back in the day. He is one of three Pirates honored with statues, with a fourth on the way. It was announced at Pirate Fest that a Bill Mazeroski statue will be erected later this season.

 

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The field was just feet in front of me but the dang metal bars were seperating me from happiness. It was still a cool moment enjoying PNC Park at its calmest. It truly is the most beautiful park in baseball and to be able to regularly attend games here is an awesome feeling. I am spoiled that this is my home park and I can watch a major league baseball games at a great price in a beautiful setting.

 

With February upon us and winter nearly over, actually its not but hey, we can hope, that could mean just one thing.

 

opening day tix2010.jpgOPENING DAY IS JUST TWO MONTHS AWAY! (bought my tickets at Pirate Fest)

I wasn’t the only proud Bucco mlblogger enjoying the fest, check out these blogs for more about the weekend event.

http://kristylovesherbuccos.mlblogs.com/

http://countingbaseballs.mlblogs.com/

http://section316.mlblogs.com

Pirates Caravan-Morgantown, WV

caravan.jpgIt was the moment I have been waiting for since the date was announced back in December. The Pirates Caravan rolled into Morgantown West Virginia to appease the 125 fans waiting for them at Damons. On top of having a great selection of barbecued items, Damons was gracious enough to host the Morgantown stop for the caravan.

The event began at noon, perfect timing for my 19 credit hour semester. I had a class at 9:30-11 and my next was not until 2:30. There was nothing greater than having my normal lunch break along side some of my favorite players. Manager John Russell, relievers Evan Meek and Kevin Hart, center fielder Andrew McCutchen and broadcasters Greg Brown and Bob Walk and the Pirate Parrot came to the event.

My buddy Andrew and I arrived at the restaurant ten minutes before noon and took our seats. We scouted the crowd and realized we were the only two college students among the fans. Weird considering Morgantown is a full fledged college town, but also understandable because this generation of Pirate fans really ceases to exist. I am of a rare breed and even Andrew (who is a die-hard Orioles fan) considers himself a bigger Pirate fan than most baseball fans in this area. I agree with him whole heartedly.

 

piratescaravan 007.jpgAs we dined on our pulled pork sandwiches we were joined by two familiar faces, fellow WVU students in the journalism school. Although I give them credit for being at the event they were self proclaimed “not Pirates fans.” However, they had a good time and admitted that they would follow along because they do support the Penguins and Steelers.

piratescaravan 008.jpgGreg Brown got the festivities under way by taking the mic and adressing those in attendance.

“Look at this sell out crowd!” he said in a joyous tone. I turned to Andrew and said, “He doesn’t get to say that very often” A reference to the infamous spotty crowds that PNC Park is accustomed to.

However, he got the ball rolling introducing Meek, Hart, McCutchen, Russell and Walk to us all. Each Bucco member gave a minute long introduction and expressed their gratitude along with aspirations for the coming season.

While everyone pretty much sugar coated how great the upcoming season is going to be it did give me up. Hearing John Russell speak is not the most exciting thing in the world. He speaks softly with a monotone voice and it really could put you to sleep. However, he did seem excited with an intimate group of fans in front of him, but still maintained the montotone clarity, or lack there of.

The crowd cheered the loudest for this guy.

 

piratescaravan 013.jpgNo, not Andrew, o wait, yes Andrew. McCutchen that is, not Schuerholz. When his name was announced there were hoops and hollers. Many questions were directed his way including one of my own. I asked a question opened to all on the panel but only Cutch answered. I asked, “Who was the most missed player traded last season?” A genral question without getting too in depth. I was more interested in what Russell had to say, but he did not answer. Meek was hurt most of last season and Hart came to Pittsburgh mid season by way of the Tom Gorzelanny/John Grabow to the Cubs trade. I did not expect them to form too tight of a relationship with the current Bucs. It was obvious that McCutchen said Nyjer Morgan, I knew it was coming. It was well documented back in Spring Training of 2009 that the duo were best buds and forming great chemistry that rubbed off on the rest of the team. I was happy when a large smile grew on Cutch’s face when talking about Morgan.

I ended up collecting many autographs which are displayed below.

 

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Evan Meek, Kevin Hart, Andrew McCutchen, Bob Walk, Greg Brown and John Russell all signed these beautiful picture cards. Each year I have been a Pirate fan these cards are passed out throughout the year. Usually they are just headshots of the players on a small sized card. This year has one of the best sets of these cards I have seen. The McCutchen pose is one of my favorites. He is thrusting his arm towards the air in celebration after one of his home runs.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Thumbnail image for piratescaravan 019.jpgThe shrine dedicated to McCutchen is one of my favorite. I had him autograph a ball on the sweet spot a picture card that was provided and the November issue of Baseball America which features Andrew on the cover, I had the card signed during a game at PNC Park earlier this year. 

It was an awesome hour and a half, we had a great time. This weekend I have another Pirates event coming my away. Pirates Fest is taking place in Pittsburgh, my WV buddies plan on going up Sunday. The event begins Friday night and concludes Sunday. Talk about an awesome Pirates week!

Here are some more photos from the day:

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The autograph line

 

 

 

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Andrew McCutchen and me. Too bad Andrew Schuerholz couldn’t have taken a better pitcture from a better angle.

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Announcer Greg Brown and myself posing for the camera. I explained to him about my journalism aspirations and that I hope to take his job someday. He was very encouraging and a down to earth fellow.

 

 

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The Pirate Parrot made an appearance and brought laughter to the party.

Thank you all for letting me share this experience with you all!

Optimism continues in the Pen

A month or two ago I was nervous. The Pirates bullpen looked to be in shambles after a horrendous year in 2009.

There were injuries and youngsters that set the club back. It seemed that when the offense got the job done, a lead was blown thanks to a shaky bullpen.

Not to mention four of the mainstays in the bullpen were traded during the year. It was no secret that it was definitely an area of discussion that needed to be strongly discussed.

The offf season of 2009 gave Pirate fans mixed feelings. While acquiring Akinori Iwamura from the Rays, Pittsburgh also sent one of our best relievers, Jesse Chavez to Tampa Bay.

The Matt Capps situation was also ugly. Capps had a bad year, but I did not feel it was warrented to non-tender the guy after a one dismal year. But anywho, you cannot change the past.

Since that moment the Bucs have added a considerable number of relief pitchers.

Brian Bass, Vinnie Chulk and Jack Taschner were anything but groundbreaking but nonthesless a nice quantity to start re-building the pen.

Then things started to bulk up.

 
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 Javier Lopez, the lefty veteran, gives the Bucs a presence. He has been with the Red Sox and Rockies over the past five years and has had solid stints at each stop. It was not a good year for Lopez in Boston last season. He was injured for a bulk of the time while only pitching in 14 games. However, while we dumped Capps because of a bad year we picked up another guy who had a bad year. Lopez is a cheaper option and very well could bounce back quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

bdon.jpgBrendan Donnelly joined the mix recently. He is 38 and also will be a veteran to accompany Lopez in a relatively young bullpen. He is well-seasoned and well mediocre. However, he is indeed the epitome of a journey man. Pitching for 18 different professional organization since being drafted by the White Sox in 1992, he is surely not short on experience. I’m hoping he can overpower hitters and be a viable long inning guy.

carrasco.jpgThe American League leader in innings pitched is now a Pirate. D.J. Carrasco joins the pe as a fresh face. He looks to be building a solid career and should be welcomed full heartedly in Pittsburgh. Various Whote Sox blogs reportedly were very sad to see him go.

 

 

 

octavio dotel.jpgThe Grandaddy of them All. Sorry Rose Bowl, just stole that from a very exciting bowl game and I apoligize for that because I am a devout college football fan. And if the Rose Bowl committee knew I made that reference to Octavio Dotel they may sue me. I was happy to see us pursue this aging veteran. To actually sign him to a one year deal sent shockwaves through Pittsburgh. Yes his best years are behind him but he still has gas left in the tank. He is said to be the frontrunner for the closer position even after not being the closer for the White Sox last year. He made 6 million last year, but will probably make less in Pittsburgh.

In closing, it looks like the Pirates have completed their off season spending spree. Maybe. The pieces are there with the rebuilt and even stronger bullpen. The bench is filling out and viable talent. There will still be a rat race for the final spots in the starting rotation and that is where Ben Sheets comes in.

ben-sheets.jpgIt was reported that the Pirates had representatives watching Sheets’ throwing session earlier this week. It was been well documented that the Pirates are not in the full hunt for Sheets mostly because of monetary reasons. He is asking for 10 million a year which may scare even the top teams away after his injury problems. However, the Pirates may be willing to spend a pretty penny to make a splash before Spring Training begins. Just like the MLB did to the Marlins a few weeks ago, the Pirates may be investigated in terms of their revenue sharing allocation. By spending some last second cash on an available free agent, a starting pitcher ideally, it may cause an MLB turnoff and bypass the investigation.In the end, it may be the  thing for the organization to be under the microscope and right the ship so to speak. 

photo credits: bygoshitslangosch.mlblogs.com (2), fullpitchcount.com (2), whitesoxblog   

Reactions to Bixler

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Who is Bixler? You ask. Well for one, he is an ex-Pirate and new member of the Cleveland Indians. Brian-his first name, has been dubbed one of the worst Buccos in the storied history of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club.

Bixler was swapped with Jesus Brito. Brito was a member of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, my hometown minor league team back in my city of Youngstown, OH. The Scrappers are a Single A affiliate of the Indians. I have been to a handful of Scrappers games this past year and greatly recall seeing Brito play. My ears perked up whenever he was announced, partially because his name sounds oddly similiar to a Mexican food dish, Burrito.

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Brito, pictured to the right, is an intriguing fellow. He is just 22 and has spent two seasons in the Tribe’s farm system. Last season the Dominican Republic native batted .322 for Mahoning Valley, that is the fifth highest batting average among all minor leaguers for last season. Also interesting is that Jesus was born on Christmas Day, December 25th. I mean what else are you going to name a baby born on Christmas Day?

Even though he is light years from making the big league roster he definitely has shown potential to be a solid player. He has the ability to hit and get on base. His development will be crucial to his success.

Going back to my original statement, that Bixler is often regarded as one of the worst Pirate players in history. Honestly, it is true. In 68 major league games, the Sandusky, OH native owns just a .178 career batting average. Mario Mendoza, be happy. Bixler was often sought as the future shortstop to take over for Jack Wilson. Bixler never even came close to sniffing the dirt off Wilson’s cleats. . 475 OPS, .237 SLG, only 6 extra base hits and 62 strikeouts in 152 at bats are not major league numbers at all. 

The fanfare from the trade of Bixler has resounded across online media since the trade was announced yesterday.

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 There has been some colorful comments left on the official facebook fan page of the Pirates. Usually littered with comments trashing the team left and right, fans came out of the wood work to express gratitude that Bixler will never don the black and gold again. Here is a sample of what has been posted:

  • “I liked bixler, until he forgot how to hit a baseball. Happy trails.”
  • “The Indians now have the worst player in baseball in their organization.”
  • “Bixler made Sammy Khalifa and Rey Quinones look pretty good”
  • “Thank goodness Bixler is gone!”

Pretty harsh huh? I can’t disagree though, it is well warranted. Bixler had every opprtunity to succeed and was handed opportunities to play. He failed, miserably, and rightfully showed he is not ready for a major league position.

My good friend, Jon Anderson from mceffect.com may have stated the best goodbye message to Bixler in his facebook status this morning.

Jon said: woke up, remembered the Pirates traded Bixler yesterday… I think it’s going to be a good day.”

I got a good laugh out of that and will have to check on him later to see if his day went well.(Chances are, it did!)

This may have been the most landmark off-season deal the Bucs have made thus far. Yes they have added Bobby Crosby, Ryan Church and Akinori Iwamura. And the bullpen pieces are faling together. They signed veteran Brendan Donnelly to a one year deal and inked American League innings pitched leader DJ Carrasco. There are also talks of picking up the aging Octavio Dotel.

But this move brough Pirate fans together. The joy and happiness of seeing Bixler leave Pittsburgh gave something we have not had in quite sometime, hope. This is perhaps my favorite comment I have come across regarding the issue:

“Do you feel that? I haven’t felt it in a long time. You know what it is? Optimism. I like this club. I like where they are heading. In Neal We Trust!”

Optimism my friends, it is a good thing to have.

photo credits: mlb.com, milb.com, tcd.ie

Take ‘em to Church

Thumbnail image for catholic-church.jpgWhich MLB player attends religious services every Sunday?

Well I’m sure many do, but one player stands out as one of the holiest players in the league.

RYAN CHURCH

Now I am not totally sure of Church’s religious background, it was just a lame attempt at a joke.

Anyway, getting back on track here, the Pirates have reportedly signed outfielder Ryan Church to a one year, 1.5million dollar deal.

The former 14th round pick of the Indians really made a name for himself when he was a National. During his four years with the organization, his numbers really never stood out.

His highest batting average was .287 in 2005. His
Church1.jpg highest home run total was 15 in 2007. His OPS numbers range from the upper .700s to mid .800s. Nothing to brag about there, but Church is widely regarded as a reliable, yet solid player.

 

 Church spent brief and injury prone years in New York and Atlanta. He gained national attention in a bigger market playing for the Mets. His power numbers digressed after leaving Washington and so did his playing time. He was used in 4th outfielder capacity for both teams but still did his best to strive in the position he was in.

 

 

RyanChurch.jpgChurch, now 31 and a seasoned league vet has always been a favorite player of mine. I have literally had the privelege of following him from the very beginning of his professional career.

ryan-church.jpgChurch was drafted by Cleveland in 2000. The Mahoning Valley Scrappers, short season A ball, usually recieve the top draft picks of the organization literally days after they are signed. It has been great watching former Indians stars such as C.C. Sabathia and Victor Martinez has been a real treat back in my hometown.

Church arrived on the scene in that summer and was a hot player destined for greatness right away. He was named New York Penn player of the week muliple times, a legaue leader in home runs and RBIs and just an exciting player to watch.

It is not very often a player in short season A ball makes a name for himself right out of the gate. Not only is there high turnover rates this low, the fans really do not look that much into these very young players.

As a pre-teen boy I was in awe of Church. Every Scrappers game I went to I would bug Ryan for his autograph. I never did get it though. The crowds were hyped full of tee-ball league players getting autographs as well. I was always too late. Now that he is a Pirate, I plan on earning his signature and explaining to him how he snubbed me some ten years ago.

Church’s role on the Pirates will be unique. He will probably be th 4th outfielder for Pittsburgh, a role he is already used to. With Lastings Milledge and Andrew McCutchen inked into the left and center field positions the right field spot is definitely up for grabs. Brandon Moss and Church will be in the running for the starting spot, however, more than likely Garrett Jones will be the guy the Pirates are most comfortable with manning the outfield grass.

I would rather put Jones at first to give Church the starting position in right. But Jeff Clement looks to be the starting first baseman. Clement came to the Bucs via the Mariners and is considered quite the hot prospect. He does not have very good game experience in the big show, but he is a minor league prodigy. I am skeptical though because I honestly have to see it to believe it.

With the addition of Church the Pirates have just one more bench spot to fill. Brandon Moss and Delwyn Young will be competing for that final spot. This is a tough spot for me personally. I enjoy the potential of Moss, but he has never came through or lived up to any expectations. I hate to give up on him seamingly quickly considering he was part of the Jason Bay deal.

Delwyn Young on the other hand has exceeded expectations, my personal ones and that of Pirate fans. In what was really his first full big league season Young was a clutch hitter who had a knack for finding the holes to get the ball through. He ran out of gas at the end of the year and was really in a deep funk. Delwyn is one of my favorite players. He is likeable and brings a “fresh” feeling to the club.

It’ll be an interesting race and a great storyline heading into Spring Training.

photo credits: homeruncards.com, lompoclockerroom.blogspot.com, wfan.com, brotherpeacemaker.com

 

 

Back in Black

The  Pirates

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The Penguins

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and

The Steelers


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are my favorite professional sports teams. They play in the city I love and proudly don the colors black and gold. The tradition and longevity of the colors are synonymous with the Steel City and have been a staple to Pittsburgh’s lifestyle.

This week a new team was on the block, sporting the black and gold.

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The West Virginia basketball team. They announced that a black alternate jersey would be worn during the season earlier in the year and I was very excited. The tri fecta of black and gold expanded to a quadrilateral in terms of my favorite teams.

On Wednesday the Mountaineers busted out the jerseys in a game against Rutgers. WVU bounced back from their first loss of the season on New Years Day to rout the Scarlet Knights 86-52. It was great to see the team come out in sync for the huge victory.

The Mountaineers have a legit shot to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Currently ranked 8th in the country with a 12-1 record, WVU is poised and confident after that win on Wednesday. The road won’t be easy and they will have to play their best game in and game out to get through the rigorous Big East schedule.

The only problem with the Mountaineers making a run at the Final Four is that it will coincide greatly with Spring Training! As I’m watching the development of the Pirates roster the Mountaineers will be lighting up the scoreboard during March Madness. However I do welcome both teams to win win and win. With the NCAA Championship game being played on April 4th and Opening Day baseball on April 5th good things will occur that week. It may be too much for me to handle.

photo credits: sportingnews.com, sportsbusinessdaily.com, steelertribute.com, msnsportsnet.com

 

A Bay-Bay

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Blue and Orange fits him well, don’t ya think? Nah? I don’t think so either.

Bay is quite the ball player and the baseball world has taken notice. I’m so proud that my favorite player is making the big bucks after proving himself worthy the past few years.

$66 million is a whole heck of a lot of money. Bay will make $16.5 million a year, playing for the Mets and he will be worth every penny.

Bay is the definition of a major league baseball player. He puts up the numbers, comes through in the clutch and is good with the fans and media. You really can’t ask for anything greater than that when searching for a player to build your team around.

Bay batted for 100 RBIs and 30 home runs in back to back seasons with the Red Sox. In Pittsburgh he was just as productive with 2005 and 2006 being his best years when he belted over 30 HRs and 100 RBIs in each of those seasons. He has always flirted with the .300 mark in batting average making him one of the best combinations of power and average in the league. He has consistently hit above .900 is OPS in every season he has been in the MLB.

It was an absolute joy watching him play nearly 5 seasons in Pittsburgh. He was “the guy” for
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the Pirates and fans flocked to him. There’s no question Bay shirts and jerseys were the hottest selling Pirate item during his time here. His batting song “Down with the Sickness” by Disturbed could be played miles around the Pittsburgh area and fans would recognize it mostly because it was played for Bay.

There is some skepticsm about the trading of Bay and the return we got for him, however it was necessary. There was no way the Pirates would be able to afford such a fine player. This was evident even with the amount the Red Sox paid him, which was at and above $6 million. My goodness I would love to be able to pay that much for a star player, seems like a peanut amount to you big market fans doesn’t it?

I do think the Pirates unloaded him at the right time. Having been involved in a 3-way deal with the Dodgers, Red Sox and obviously the Pirates- Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss and Bryan Morris and Craig Hanson (minor league relievers).

LaRoche and Moss were forced into starting positions and mostly underachieved. However, with a little time, patience and practice they very well could blossom to their full potential. Will either of them match the performance of Jason Bay? Probably not but good numbers      
(.280, 20, 70) are definitely achievable in the pair.

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Jason Bay is my favorite player. His outlook and demeanor are straightforward and welcoming. He isn’t boastful with his abilities and his ego isn’t inflated liek other players of his caliber. I do think he will fit in as a New Yorker, because he is so easy going. The bright lights of the Big Apple may be something new for him to adjust to, but the Trail, British Columbia knows what is at stake in a new surrounding. He may be on a short leash with fans if his performance falters, if so he will always have one fan who always has his back-ME.

Don’t worry Jason, I’m planning your triumphant August 20th homecoming to PNC Park already!

photo credits:

getty images, morthas.com, si.com

 

Stumbling out of the 2010 gates- but a bright year is ahead

I hope everyone is enjoying the first days of the new year because I surely am not.

New Years Day was very anticpated alot on my part and by many of my close family and friends. At 1 o’clock was the Gator Bowl featuring West Virginia vs Florida State.

And the dissapointment count begins:

 

1.


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My beloved Mountaineers fell to the Bobby Bowden and FSU. It was a highly emotional event as it was the legendary Bowden’s final game. However, WVU was outplayed and outcoached up and down as the ‘Noles won 33-21. It was embarrasing and disheartening as the game gave me little hope for next year.


 


 


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Next up was another game of blue and gold pride. The undefeated and number 6 basketball team, the Mountaineers had a tough test. WVU traveled to Purdue where the Boilermakers are also undefeated and ranked 4th. West Virginia is slowly transforming into a basketball school. With the coaching fire Bob Huggins possesses fans are believing the sky is the limit for the Mountaineers. However Purdue cut those dreams a bit short with a 77-62 beatdown of West Virginia. If any team can bounce back from that big of a loss I do think it will be Huggins’ squad.


 


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I do live in Youngstown, Ohio, the heart of Buckeye country. However I have never even remotely been close to cheering for Ohio State. It pains me to see everyone around me loving Ohio State like they do. It matches my love of WVU but I’m still the black sheep. Their Rose Bowl win over Oregon really hurt as it set off a state wide Scarlet and Gray celebration


 

4.


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The next dissapointments came on Sunday. I was excited for the Steelers-Dolphins came. My buddy Chris is a big ‘fins fan and this friendly rivalry would be fun to watch. The Steelers did come away with the win 30-24. But the game proved meaningless as the Steelers did not get the help they needed to make it to the playoffs. The worst part of the game was seeing WVU legend Pat White leave the field on a stretcher. It was great seeing White in the game but he never could get the ball rolling and was hit hard by Steeler Ike Taylor. It was reported he just suffered a concussion but White layed on the field motionless for at least 15 minutes.


It surely has been a rought three days in my sports world, but this weekend gave me hope for a much better month ahead. Because my friends it is baseball season!


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As I hung my Cooperstown calendar, which has been a Christmas gift tradition my father has bestowed on me for years, I slowly crept out of the baseball doldrums an got into the baseball spirit. I love looking through these calendars which feature hall of fame players and honor different events. This year has months for Hanks Aaron, Red Shoendienst, George Clyde and my favorite moment the 1960′s World Series between the Pirates and Yankees.


Browsing through the upcomin dates I marked down a handful of important dates that are occuring in January.


The first being Jan. 26th. This Tuesday looks to be filled with fun in Morgantown. I will be back at school then and probably already swamped with work in the new semester. However, the Pirates are coming to down and couldn’t have got me more excited.

caravan_map_09_595x275.jpgI’m pumped beyond belief because last year the Pirates bypassed Morgantown, but still managed to hit alot of areas in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virgnia in their annual caravan tour. My dad and little brother have gone every year when they stop back home in Youngstown. In Morgantown they are holding a luncheon in the afternoon sometime. Manager John Russell, Andrew McCutchen, Evan Meek and two of the broadcasters will be there. I’m hoping for a nice Q and A session along with autographs and some nice one on one casual time with the team.

pirate fest.jpgThe upcoming weekend following the 26th is one of my favorite times of the year and a seasonal tradition. Pirate fest is held in downtown Pittsburgh at the very large and beautiful David L. Lawrence convention center. It is a baseball celebration for a city whose mind is on hockey and football. It features many members of the team for autographs and fun games. It is a great opportunity to get promotional items that I missed during the year and get a look at the new clothing items for sale for the season. While it is held over the 3 day weekend and I would love to be there everyday, I want to try to be there early on Friday to get a jumpstart before the big weekend crowd comes in.

Following January comes February when pitchers and catchers report. And March is getting into the thick of Spring Training. And April, ah April comes Opening Day. April 5th will mark the return of baseball to Pittsburgh when the Pirates host the Dodgers. My oh my-I can’t wait!

photo credits

wvgazette.com, msnsportsnet.com, si.com, dailydolphin.com, pirates.com

 
 

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