December 2010

Merry Christmas

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From the Pittsburgh Peas to you; Merry Christmas! May this time of year be blessed with great joy and happiness as you all celebrate your own customs and traditions with your families. This is my favorite time of the year and my wish is that everyone can remember the reason for the season and experience all the goodness that comes from it. 

Merry Christmas to all!

PNC Park-just as beautiful in December

The bustling winds, fluffy white snow and bone chilling temperatures do not scream baseball. However, for my brother, Zach and I, a trip to PNC Park was just what we needed to cure our national pastime blues. 

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Just last week I pulled the trigger on a 20 game package for the 2011 season. For just $140 dollars I will be able to see 20 Pirate games in pretty darn good seats. 
We were allowed to go to the park last Saturday because of a special Christmas event for season ticket holders.
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Notice in the picture to the right I am not wearing that fresh Pirate jacket. This is the first picture we took in the day as we entered the park. The event was a shopping blow out sale for season ticket holders. Many items were available for purchase at heavily discounted prices. After a lot of shopping for others at this special holiday time, I splurged on myself for the jacket at a mere $40 bucks (it usually sells for $99). 
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We were greeted in the Pirate locker room by Santa Pirate Parrot! If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times, he is definitely the best mascot in all of sports, put a Santa costume on him and he becomes the most festive mascot in all of sports. The Pirates locker room is the second largest clubhouse in all of Major League Baseball, fun fact for ya. It is behind just the New York Yankees. 
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Another ballpark mainstay graced us with his presence. Joe Klimchak, game day host at PNC Park and regular on Pirate commercials was there spreading cheers of Christmas and baseball. We all shared a productive conversation with topics ranging from gift ideas to new manager Clint Hurdle and from the current core of players to my own career aspirations. He is a guy that would be great to have a beer with.
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Now the Parrot and Joe are great. The Peaslee brothers must be great as well because the Parrot took a liking to us as you can see. Well, Kent Tekulve, famed Bucco pitcher from the 70’s was also there reminiscing about the golden age of Pittsburgh baseball. You can see in the background banners from the 1971 and 1979 World Series Championships, “Teke” was a part of those teams. He was also festive in his Christmas sweater.
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We were able to troll around the locker room and yep, we had a good time.
Some of the items up for sale, including our new jackets, were Pedro Alvarez T-shirts (he is changing his number from 17 to 24, so that may have been a driving force behind the price drop), other jackets, hoodies, Fatheads and many game used items. We also picked up dugout lineup cards from various games we attended. The cards are simple items but add to our priceless collection of baseball goods. Bats, jerseys, bases and balls were also there, including, for some odd reason, a Lastings Milledge autographed baseball for a mere $100 dollars. In all honesty, a ridiculous price, but nonetheless it took everything in my power to withhold buying it to honor a fallen comrade. 

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On our way out we were able to give well wishes to Hurdle on a dry erase board sitting outside his office. It may have offended some but I told him how I truly feel. My message read: “Go Bucs and goodl luck Clint from all your friends at West Virginia University!” 
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The time came to bid adieu to PNC Park but with only about 100 days left until opening day, we knew that before we know it, the day will come. The glorious sport of baseball will again be upon us and a rebirth of a season will come. 

From Over-Bay to Overbay

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Jason Bay will forever be one of my favorite MLB players. His time in Pittsburgh gave fans a small glimmer of hope that a superstar was among us. 
We are seeing now that he is just a puzzle piece to the larger picture of a more productive team (if you want to call the Mets a productive team). 
Anyway, it has been a couple of years since Bay was dished to the Red Sox, but it has taken some time to get over the slugger who played left field ever so well. 
Not necessarily an attempt to rid Pirates fans of the thoughts of Bay, but management has brought in another power hitter for 2011 that has long ball potential. 
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Lyle Overbay will be manning first base for Pittsburgh this coming year.
For 5 million dollars the Bucs picked up the viable bat. Now to some that may seem like a steal, in fact some off-season projections had sights set on Overbay at being a deal worth at least 6 million. The Pirates, however, cannot afford to be throwing that kind of money at a guy that isn’t going to be earth shattering. 
In fact, in my opinion, Overbay is a step back for this organization.
General manager Neil Huntington has long said that he will not sign in to the long, money hindering contracts former GM Dave Littlefield was notorious for offering to below average players. Joe Randa, Jeromy Burnitz and Ty Wigginton all quickly come to mind. 
Overbay is a glorified version of all three.
photo credits: cbc.com, getty images

Piecing it all together

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The select few of you readers who have stuck it out during my extended leave of absence know I have five passions in life. Three of them were on display last week at the Winter Meetings. 

Baseball
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Christmas
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Disney World
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By now you know that the Annual Baseball Winter Meetings were held at the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World complete with Christmas decor and good tidings. MLB Network was on my television nearly 24/7, that is when I wasn’t studying for finals or writing papers. Chris Rose and Kevin Millar were great on emceeing the entire week with great interviews and top notch reporting on the latest news. While the Pirates didn’t draw much of the attention, they surely made a splash for those that care in Pittsburgh. 
The Pirates were able to sign a pair of talented pitchers who will take a stab at making the rotation.
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Kevin Correia and Scott Olsen are now members of the Pirates. 
Yawn.
But in reality, a moves like these needed to be done. Starting pitchers were in short supply this offseason and the Cliff Lees of the world will not be patronizing PNC Park as their home anytime soon. Correia and Olsen complement each other and the team the best they can. 
Remember that superb pitching staff the San Diego Padres had last year? Yeah, Correia wasn’t a part of it. With an ERA upwards of 10 he was demoted to the bullpen throughout the Padres run to the playoffs that eventually fell short. He seemed to have improved towards the end of the year and will work, most likely, as a 4th or 5th starter in the Bucs rotation.  
Two DUI and assault cases later Olsen is gone from the Marlins and Nationals and is looking to revamp a brief successful career. When he’s been on the mound he has been effective but elbow injuries to his throwing arm have hindered him during the duration of his major league stint. He too will fight for a back of the rotation spot.
General manager Neil Huntington also did his part to bolster the offensive lineup. 
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Matt Diaz, former Brave, now looks to be patrolling right field for the Pirates in 2011. He will fight for playing time along with Garrett Jones. A strong spring could land him in a full time position, but the bench with spot starts may be his most useful position. 
The Pirates also had the first pick in the Rule 5 draft where they selected former Cleveland Indians prospect Josh Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a shortstop who can swing the bat, exactly what Pittsburgh needs. He’s in his mid 20’s and will probably remain at the AAA level. Some disappointments have arisen as other infielders such as Jason Bartlett and J.J. Hardy, both on the Pirates radar, slipped away to other teams. J-Rod may just be the perfect fit, though. A diamond in the rough, so to speak. 
WIth just over two months remaining until Spring Training other moves will surely be made. The Pirates have goals of adding some relievers and another bat is a necessity. 
photo credits: tbb.com, rhapsody.com, momknowseverything.com, piratesprospects.com
 

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