February 2010

2010 Baseball Cards- I’ve seen better

 

 

2010toppsseries1baseballcardshobbybox.jpgWhat is nearly as welcoming as a field of green, a glove a bat and a ball? Not much but I can think of something square shaped that comes close. BASEBALL CARDS

Last weekend I spent some hard earned cash on a few packs of cards. Getting razzed by my buddies for wasting my beer money on baseball cards, I feel I made the right decision. 

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Topps 2010 were the first I flocked to.

The base cards are striking with bold pictures and the team name prominently displayed. However, they seem like minature posters rather than baseball cards. Don’t get me wrong I do like them, I just don’t feel we need to “Mickey Mouse” these American traditions any more than they already.

davidwright.jpgWhile these are two great poses demonstrating these two top tier players, most of the pictures are weird and simply do not justify the players. They show the backs of some players.

Being a loyal topps customer I also wanted to dip into what the 2010 Upper Decks had to offer.

udlogo.jpgThe Upper Deck Company has always played second fiddle to Topps it seems. The pictures are always better with UD, but the classic feel is lacking. They definitely showed why they are runners up with this year’s set.

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The set up of the cards are nice, for the most part. The player’s pictures are nice and centralized. Their poses are natural and easily to be deciphered. The mug shot of the player in the lower right hand corner is a nice touch. The only drawback, and it is a very big drawback, is the very bottom of the cars. It’s green! For every team, even if they are not the A’s. It is rather annoying. Also, the player’s names and team name is written in like a Times New Roman style. It doesn’t mesh well with the other natures of the cards.

Of course when opening a pack of cards I get most excited when I draw a Pirate. In the four packs I bought (2 Topps and 2 Upper Decks) I grabbed a Neil Walker and Andy LaRoche. Even though the initial thrill of baseball cards is originally opening the package, I still do not get distraught if I pull some players I could care less about. My favorite part of a card is the back where you can see stats and fun facts. The education you can get about a player from their baseball card is really underrated and something more fans should enjoy.

photo credits: beckettblog.wordpress.com, ebay.com

Welcome to Bradenton Buccos!

With one countdown over, another begins.

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Pitchers and catchers have arrived in Bradenton, Florida, which mean just 13 days until the first Sprign Training game.

John Schelegel of mlb.com said it best.

The smell of the grass.

The pop of the glove.

The crack of the bat.

With those sensory delights, baseball begins anew, and awakens us all to a new year with baseball in Florida and Arizona. And, just like every year, isn’t it about time?

We have been waiting far too long. It is time!

photo credit: pirates.com 

Turning 21 to honor the Great One

 

21-film-poster-spacey.jpgAnybody see this movie? I did two summers ago and I was very impressed. However, Kevin Spacey and company will not be mentioned any more throughout this article. But the aptly titled movie number will be, 21.

You see February 15th is my birthday. This is a monumental year as I am now 21. It is a cool feeling. Grown up for sure as I can now legally drink. Looks like it’s time for a new big man on campus here at WVU. Won’t be getting too crazy, or crazy at all because this is a busy week for me with two tests, a speech due and numerous newspaper assignments. However, I will be enjoying one of these sooner or later.

 
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My real dream will come true on April 5th. Then I can enjoy my first baseball brew. I simply can’t wait until Opening Day when I can pay 8 bucks for a miniscule cup of beer. Ahh, enjoying a ball game with a cold beer in my hand, is there really anything better?
 

 

 

For this entry I have been researching some MLB players who have donned the number 21.

The list includes: Ryan Klesko, Heath Bell, Mark Sweeney, Clint Barmes, Kip Wells,
Ty Wigginton, Scott Hatteberg, Jason Marquis, Dimitri Young, Jon Lieber, Carlos Delgado, Sammy Sosa, Mark Kotsay, Matt Garza, Billy Butler, Sean Casey and Nick Markakis.

Now that list is of fairly current players. Warren Spahn is also up there as the leader of the 21′s. The famous Braves pitcher has his number retired. However, one man reigns supreme with the number 21.

 


The Great One, Roberto Clemente. The tried and true pride of the Pirates is not just one of the gems of the MLB, but for all humanity. It is well documented that my admiration for Clemente is vast. Man, if I could have seen this guy play. His glove, his arm, his bat, his speed. Holy cow, he was the complete package. While I do not believe his number should be retired across the MLB simply because he did not have the impace of Jackie Robinson, he can be the face of professional baseball. By giving him a day of honor and rewarding a player with an award on Roberto’s behalf is simply fantastic enough.

robertoclemente1.jpgThank you Roberto, for giving hope to us all, even after nearly four decades since you were last here on earth.

Thank you for helping me honore my 21st birthday!

And thank you to all my readers and facebook friends for their kind comments and birthday wishes.

And to everybody else, you’re welcome. With my birthday comes the week that pitchers and catchers report! I’m just getting the ball rolling.

photo credits: moviefone.com, teachline.ie, masslive.com, popcultureshock.com

 

A New Pirate Generation

As the snow continues to pile up…

da snow.jpgand life is slowly chuggin along. While some are without power and water for days, I feel lucky to be safe in a working apartment with a roof over my head. As West Virginia University has canceled classes in three of the last school days, we students have been overjoyed. Although the Mountaineers lost Big Monday’s basketball showdown against Villanova 82-77, I still have hope. There are seven games left in the season. Friday begins the remaining quest for the Big East Title. A rematch with Pittsburgh will be entertaining and fun to watch. I am on pins and needles for another round of the Backyard Brawl.

But something of equal importance is coming in hot.

PITCHERS AND CATCHERS WILL BE REPORTING

 

It seems like nearly every baseball fan is going nuts with anticipation for the unofficial, well I guess it could be considered the official, start of spring training. From fellow bloggers, to Twitter-ers, the internet is really pumped for February 18th. The Pirates, along with every other official website has been counting down the days, hours and even minutes until pitchers and catchers will show up at their respective spring training locations.

I menioned this song a few entries back when naming “The Grammys of Baseball” It was at one time the official theme song of the Pirates, played as the team ran out or after every win. It hasn’t been played at PNC Park for a few years, but the tune is still heard during every radio broadcast. I have it on my iPod and many CDs. Listening to it everyday has really got me in the baseball spirit, much like Christmas music gets me in the Christmas spirit.

It is on youtube and I hope you all can appreciate this song like I do. Not only is it true, it is a great anthem for the state of the Pirates. A storied past with a bright future. This year will defintiely be a new Pirate generation. A generation filled with question marks and what ifs.

No matter the score, no matter the record-with every slide there will be Pittsburgh pride.

(the line is not only up near the blog title, it is in the song too!)

photo credit: thedaonline.com

Big thanks to Kristy for showing me how to post videos on here! 

 

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/j3esgkNzkPA&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1

Congrats to the other Black and Gold

 

 

drew brees.jpgBourbon Street is rockin’ and Miami is bumpin’. The Saints are Superbowl Champs. I was rather indifferent to this game, but nonetheless, it is the Superbowl. Had a great time watching with friends and came away so impressed.

The Saints overcomed great adversity with nearly every pundit picking against them. They overcame an early ten-point defecit, which was the largest comeback in SB history.

I was watching the pre-game specials all day and tears were forming in my eyes. The clips of the ravaged New Orleanes streets were hard to witness. Interviews with citizens still trying to build their homes back was also heart wrenching. The Saints give those people hope and to see them bring home the ultimate prize is something special. I can see the movie rights being lobbied for already.

SIDENOTE: With Superbowl Sunday in the books most of us are dreading heading back to work and school for Monday-not I.

West Virginia University will remain shut down thanks to the snowstorm that shalacked Morgantown over the weekend. Nearly 2 feet of the white stuff later, much of the town is still trying to dig out. Myself, along with the 28,000 other students couldn’t be happy for an extra day of drinking   I mean STUDYING (thats for you mom). Actually there is something much larger than drinking, studying and the normal college routine. For it is Big Monday. The No. 2 ranked Villanova Wildcats come to town to do battle with our  No. 6 Mountaineers.

Deniz2110.jpgWest Virginia is riding high after a 14 point comeback win over St. Johns on Saturday. WVU is now 19-3 and needs a marquee win to secure a spot atop the Big East standings. Pictured to the left is Deniz Kilicli “The Turk” as he is affectionately known in Morgantow. He is just a freshman who can easily pass for a 30 year old man. He hails from Istanbul, Turkey and made his collegiate debut last week in the infamous Pitt game.

The student section of WVU has been under fire for the past few weeks but things really got heated in last Wednesday’s game game against the Panthers. Pitt is already our biggest rival and it was shown on Wednesday. In the previous two home games against Ohio State and Louisville the Mountaineer students were heard chanting various vulgarities and obscenities that were picked up by the television mics and heard over national television. I can’t deny it, I was in the middle of it.

After a flood of e-mails from the Vice President of the school things were hoped to be calmed down against Pitt. That wasn’t the case. At all. After a questionable call by an official at half court items such as T-shirts, bottles and cups rained down onto the court from the student section. A handful of items reached the court, probably seven from my count. This prompted head coach Bob Huggins to grab the PA mic and yell at the fans. This week there has been plenty of local and national backlash from the media about our behavior. While I agree with what they are saying and admit this is a complete embarrasment I can’t help but suggest that every incident be reported. WVU’s image is already tarnished enough acidemically, but we have had a reputation for being unruly and rowdy.

I’m sure we all have been at sporting events were a person or group of people began to chant cuss words and such. Heck I hear it everytime I watch a college sporting event on ESPN. Throwing stuff on the court? Yeah, I’ve seen it before too. The UNC-Virginia Tech game had to be stopped to clear debris from the court just last week. I’ve heard bat day at Yankee Stadium caused fans to throw wrappings and even the bats on the field. But just because we are West Virginia we need to be made an example. It really isn’t fair and makes us good seeds (such as myself) recieve the negative stereotypes when in reality it is just a few bad apples. However, just a few bad ones can ruin the fun for everyone.

 I suggest to you sports fans to watch the big basketball game tomorrow at 7 on ESPN, hopefully the classy WVU crowd shows up. I’ll be there-classy as ever.

LETS GO MOUNTAINEERS/CONGRATS SAINTS!

photo credits: getty images/espn.com, msnsportsnet.com

Front Page Material

 

lastingmlblogs.jpgThis picture look familiar? It should. It is featured on the front page of mlblogs.com. When I logged on this morning I was welcomed with the sight of Bucco. I was shocked, simply because when are the Pirates even merely mentioned? Lastings Milledge was front and center as mlb.com drooled over his fantasy potential. 

Lastings Milledge my friends, this guy is going to be good. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Cory Schwartz of Fantasy 411 on mlb.com had this to say about Pittsburgh’s starting left fielder. 

Lastings Milledge is something of a forgotten man after being run out of two organizations, and he was further hampered last season by a broken finger, but he’s stolen 28 bases in his last 162 Major League games going back to 2008, along with a .278 average and 17 homers. He seems comfortable in Pittsburgh, especially now that he’s been moved to the less stressful defensive assignment in left field, and he’s still only 24. Milledge’s talent has never been in question, so with a full season of health and calm this could be year he starts converting those skills into big-time fantasy results.

I agree with everything Schwartz mentioned above. When Milledge first came over from Washington I thought we were in for a long, rusty relationship. He had indeed hit his rough patches as a Met and even in Washington he butted heads with those in charge. It looked as if we had traded Nyjer Morgan, one of the nicest guys in the business, for this firecracker.

Within days, Milledge proved us all wrong. Management praised his attitude and worth ethic as he put in the time and effort he never seemed to in previous years. Everytime I saw him last season he had a smile on his face and looked like he belonged. 

lastings2.jpgHitting the seen near the beginning of 2006, Milledge was heralded as “the future,” a phenom. Whether the hype went to his head is something often discussed but he was never welcomed in New York. As the youngest player in the National League, just a few days into his 21st year, Milledge was never understood by his veteran teammates. Such stars as Cliff Floyd, David Wright and Billy Wagner were reported to have lashed out against their rookie member in the clubhouse. It is safe to say they had a reason. Milledge acted like a kid in a candy score in the Shea Stadium outfield. He celebrated outlandishly, high fived fans and blew up at umpires. Maybe the vets had a point. Milledge definitely had some growing up to do. He got that opportunity in Washington when he was traded to the Nationals. Ironically enough Milledge was swapped for Ryan Church. Now the two pieces of a trade will be united together in ittsburgh as Pirates this year.

In a new setting and a new environment, young Lastings still had to fight to find his niche.

Thumbnail image for lastings3.jpgHe was welcomed by the younger, more relaxed clubhouse in Nationals Stadium. It was his performance on the field that rolled some eyes. Batting in the third spot Milledge was batting .245 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs. Miniscule numbers for a quality 3rd batter. He suffered through a lingering foot injury suffered while in New York. After the rehab process he showed some life in his bat with an above .300 average to close out the 2008 season. When he was traded near the July 31st trade deadline, Milledge had a hand injury and could not play baseball for the life of him. With a sub-Mendoza Line batting average and nagging metacarpals Milledge came to Pittsburgh amidst the outcrys of Pirates fans who mised their beloved Nyjer Morgan. Like I said before, it was only a matter of days before he put the criticism to rest and strived.

 

lastings1.jpgPart of the facts attributing to the resurgence of Lastings was the much younger clubhouse. Stepping in as actually one of the veteran guys at the rip age of 24 was appealing. Also, lets face it, its Pittsburgh. Milledge found a home in the lower part of the batting order and finished the year strong. With our outfield set, he is truly a part of the bright future of the Pirates.

picture credits: mlblogs.com, dailynews.com, postgazette.com, washingtonpost.com       

 

The Grammys of Baseball

grammy.jpgSince the Grammys were held last Sunday I figured it was only proper to pay homage to the rich history of music in baseball.

Music is synonomous with sport. Any sport. It is played over the speakers in the stadium to pump up the crowd and listened to by the athletes in the locker room to help them focus. It is safe to say music is critical to the production of any sporting event. Games and tailgates would be toned down and downright boring even.

To honor what music has brought to the game of baseball I present the Innagural Grammys of Baseball. A collection of select categories, some personal, that make baseball tunes special.

Best pump up song: Right Now-Van Halen

Resonating through the stands at Milan Puskar Stadium, the home of the Mountaineers, when the team forms its final huddle before the game, this song is not just a football anthem. I have heard it at PNC Park numerous occasions. “Don’t wanna wait till tomorrow. Why put it off another day?” lead singer Sammy Hagar sings to begin the song, it definitely builds the anticipation for something special. What is more special than attending a baseball game? While the vocals are powerful it is the special tune of the song that makes this one of the best.

Best Song for a baseball montage:Running Down a Dream- Tom Petty

Quite possibly my favorite time of a Pirates game at PNC Park is the inning break leading into the bottom of the first. A monatge of clips is played, usually coming from the previous game and exciting moments such as a double play, diving catch or monstrous homerun. This song was played at one game I was at a few years ago and I just loved the way it meshed together. The flow of the song is perfect with the “oooo’s” and killer guitar solos. The monatge focused mostly on the Pirates defense with Jasck Wilson and Freddy Sanchez turning highlight reel double plays.

Best Soundtrack from a Baseball Movie: Angels in the Outfield

I get chills everytime I see this heartwarming adventure and a lot of it comes from the score. The orchestral sound is great coming from harps, violins, cellos and such. It makes me happy and I agree with little J.P.’s famous catchphrase “It can happen”-the music helps make this movie happen that is for sure. Even though it is excellent on its own.

Best Song from a baseball movie: Hardball- Lil Bow Wow, Sammie, Lil Wayne

While hip-hop is a controversial genre, I still enjoy it. For those of you who are iffy out there, I can assure you this song is clean as a whistle. It is a great hook and shows that these young kids are enjoying playing the game of baseball, a rarity in the inner city these days. The baseball references are very clever as well. My favorite happens to be from Lil Wayne: “Pitch on the block like Nolan Ryan.” Lil Bow Wow’s part is also ingenious. “We need back to back hits, they call me little Sammy Sosa.” and “Understand I’m like Griffey I hit ‘em to the wall.” I guess you can say this song is a guilty pleasure of mine. I have it on a CD in my car and my buddies make fun of me everytime it comes on.

Best batter walkup song: Jumpin’ Jack Flash- Jack Wilson

For a good eight years Jack Wilson was known for his quick wits, long range and flashy gameplay from the shortstop position. And for everyone of those eight years one song described him to a T- Jumpin’ Jack Flash by the Rolling Stones. Maybe it was the way PA announcer Tim DeBacco said it and timed it to the intro but whenver you heard it, you knew Jack was coming to the plate. It was a nice long intro too without any vocals, it really did signify who was coming to the plate as Jack was a symbol of Pittsburgh baseball for the past decade. I did enjoy Derek Jeter’s “Empire State of Mind”-Jay-Z diddy last season but this decision was solely based on my bias.

My personal walkup song (if I was a ballplayer):You Can Call Me Al- Paul Simon

I’m a big fan of the walkup songs. I think it is a great idea that has been around for a while. Some people do not like it but like I said before it really does signify a player and it keeps the fans attentive. Any time I hear I song I like, I attempt to put a PA announcer spin on it and announce as if I am stepping to the plate. “LEADING OFF AND PLAYING IN CENTERFIELD NUMBER 15 MATTTTTHEW PEEEEASLEE” Yes I am a centerfielder and yes my number is 15-roll with it. Anywho, You Can Call Me Al is a personal favorite of mine. I like the tune, but honestly I do not understand the lyrics at all. I like the trumpet and hear it alot at college basketball games. It rolls perfectly and as a 20 second instrumental intro, which would not allow for any of the confusing lyrics to be heard. It is perfect, now I just have to hone my baseball skills and make the majors!

Best Closer intro song: Enter Sandman-Mariano Rivera 

Quite possibly the best closing pitcher in baseball history has the most intimidating tune to run out too. Let’s face it a closer has to be intimidating-it his is job and really the main role. He wants to get out there, mow down the batters preferably in 1-2-3 fashion, high five teammates then get the heck out of there. Rivera does just that and Enter Sandman is the perfect song and perfect nickname for someone as nerve-wracking to the opposition as him. Trevor Hoffman’s “Hell’s Bells” come as a close second.

Best 7th inning stretch song: Thank God I’m a Country Boy-John Denver 

Call me a homer once again again, but I always give love to my boy John Denver. Played in Baltimore after Take Me Out to the Ballgame, this classic country song is a great tradition. Its a fun song to sing along with and clap to. I may catch some heat from this from Red Sox fans (Sweet Caroline) Rangers fans (Deep in the Heart of Texas) and Cardinals fans (Budweiser Jingle). I have been to all three of these parks and really enjoy hearing a catchy, traditional tune after Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Its something I think should be started in Pittsburgh. Maybe with the Pennsylvania Polka or Renegade by Styx (Pittsburgh’s famous football song).

Best song played during pre-game introductions: Swingtown-Steve Miller Band

I owe my good buddy Andrew Rush kudos for this song. The notorious Yankee fan is the mastermind behind this song. A few years ago he played this song while he spouted off the starting lineup for the Yanks. He had everything timed perfectly to the music and has an excellent announcers voice. I highly suggest that any team from any level of organized baseball play this song when announcing their starting lineups. It is simply perfectly an simply irresistable.

Best Team related song: A New Pirates Generation

A lot of teams have a local band or someone who is good with words and a guitar come up with a song about their local baseball team. Many times these songs are played at the ballpark, sometimes after a win or when the team is running out of the dugout. The team has stopped doing this a few years ago but A New Pirates Generation is a good song in any outlet. Alluding to the storied past of the Pirates while anticipating a good looking future, this song is a great package. If I knew how to post a video on here I would.

Best song that reminds me of baseball: Centerfield- John Fogerty

I can listen to this anytime of day, anytime of year and still imagine a baseball in my hand. If any song could be my personal theme song, this could be it. Nothing matches my enthusiasm quite like it. “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play” And I sure am, I mean come on I am the centerfielder, number 15. But it just excited me to watch a game, blog or read a baseball website. My favorite line happens to be ‘Rounding third and headed for home, It is a brown eyed handsome man. Anyone can understand the way I feel.” I’m not afraid to admit on several seperate occasions I have re-enacted this scene picturing myself as this brown-eyed handsome man (I have blue eyes by the way), but it excites me to come in hot around third, slide feet first, dodge the tag, scoring the winning run. I know all of you cancertainly understand the way I feel.

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There you have it folks, The Grammys of Baseball of come to a close. There were winners and losers. Kanye West Did not come up on stage, so we can call that a success. I am a fan of his music, just not his character. You want someone with good music and good character get a load of these guys.

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Country artists, Zac Brown Band, stole the stage at the show taking home Best New Artist awards. They surely deserve it. As one of my favorite bands I congratulate them and encourage you all to give them a try. I for one really do enjoy country music and their hit “Chicken Fried” along with “Toes” and “Whatever It Is” are good listens to anyone who is a fan of good music is general. The ZBB is coming to PNC Park this summer, opening for the Dave Matthews Band. I honestly find DMB to be annoying but Zac Brown woulds surely be worth checking out regardless.

picture credits: grammy.com 

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