Well, the fun kept coming last week as Pirates baseball remained fresh on everyone’s mind.
The annual Pirate Fest occurred Friday through Sunday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. In fitting fashion I was there for the weekend’s grand opening and grand closing. It was an event filled with non-stop action lifelong memories.
At least enough to hold me over until Spring Training, that is.
Friday night there was line to get in as the doors were not opened until 4 p.m. In Black Friday style the crowd ransacked their way into the Center as if they were in search of a Doorbuster Deal on ipads.
While a few friends and I were some of the first ones in, we didn’t rush over to the autograph lines like a majority of the die-hards. Instead, I signed up for a subscription to the Tribune-Review. I was told they could deliver the paper to me on Sundays, so I said why not?
Just doing my part to sustain my dying industry.
We would eventually find our way to the autograph lines. They seem to stretch for hours, because they do. Sometimes, though, I just don’t see the point. I mean, it’s just a signature. Nonetheless, I still got some pretty cool things signed by players and coaches.
In my opinion, nothing is cooler than a picture, much like this one on the right. New manager Clint Hurdle and I shared a quick discussion and handshake.
Let me tell you, he means business.
While Hurdle has been a hot topic in Pittsburgh recently, the 1960 World Series team is, too.
Pictured left is pitcher Bob Friend who was a hurler on that classic team. As I’m sure most of you are aware footage from that historic game 7 was recently discovered. Found in Bing Crosby’s wine cellar of all places, it has since been copied into DVD and widely distributed throughout the city and baseball circles.
Current players were signing, too.
Here is my brother, Zach, getting right fielder Jose Tabata’s autograph.
Tabata bulked up over the winter and was visibly larger. He is quiet as he is shy, and not so fluent in English, either.
Hearing him say Jersey might be the funniest thing in the world.
Jeff Karstens, remember him?
He was signing Friday, as well. But unlike the rest of the players he kept his interactions with fans to a minimum.
As you can see, he already zoomed through his stack of cards just merely handing them out to passers by.
He was like that mean old lady at the end of your street that just left a big box of candy on the porch on Halloween.
Of course, they don’t call it Pirate Fest for nothing. There are a plethora of other events go on in this winter baseball epicenter.
Zach and I took our skills to the broadcast booth as we love to share off our speaking talents. I’m not one to toot my own horn, but we have great banter and chemistry on the mic.
We called the highlights of this year’s Pedro Alvarez walk off home run to down the Rockies in extras on August 7th. We were very Greg Brown and Steve Blass-esque.
Speaking of family, it was great to run in Zach, as well as my dad on Friday. If it wasn’t for my old man I wouldn’t be writing this blog in the first place, simply because I wouldn’t be a Pirates fan.
I recall one game when I was no older than 10, we witnessed a beat down of our Bucs and Three Rivers Stadium. Upon walking out, he just turns to me and says ‘I’m sorry.”
There’s no doubt a majority of my 21 years have been a disappointment, but thats what will make the impending turn around so much better.
Sharing the victories with my dad.
I haven’t been the only one suffering from baseball withdrawal. Driving up from Morgantown with my friend Marc was a great time, even if he truly is a Cubs fan. But meeting up with two of my best friends, Erin and Craig, who are indeed die-hard Pirate fans was refreshing.
We shared a nice night in the ‘Burgh.
Friday night wasn’t over, though.
The fun was just beginning.
I ran into Joe Klimchak, in game host for games at PNC Park. He does a great job keeping a lively atmosphere at games and I try to compliment him any time I can. having been to many parks across the country, I am proud to say, hands down, Pittsburgh has the best host in all of baseball. His attitude and knowledge are inspiring and you just can’t help but feed off his energy. This was evident Friday as we chatted for a good 10 minutes. he had recognized me and called me “West Virginia.”
Heck, I don’t go by anything else!
Then things got a little somber.
The most hurtful thing that has happened to myself and the Pirates this off season was letting go of Lastings Milledge. Now, he didn’t necessarily live up to his lofty expectations.
In fact, he underachieved greatly.
But, he had promise and was a fun player to watch at the plate and in the field. He was my favorite player and I just feel the Bucs could fall victim to releasing a strong talent.
I don’t want the non-retention to hurt Pittsburgh, but I also wish Milledge the best wherever he ends up.
We will never forget.
Later on, my West Virginia act would bite me in the butt.
At the Q and A session players and coaches sat on stage fielding questions from fans.
Some questions were cute, others were stupid.
I had the honor of closing off the event. I asked who attended the recent wedding of Pedro Alvarez, just Neil Walker did.
It got a little dicey, though.
Introducing myself as “Matt from Morgantown, Let’s Goooo Mountaineers” may have been a bad move. I was serenaded by a throng of boos. There were some cheers, however, laughs, too. I was glad to showcase my two loyalties, though.
We ended on that note and came back Sunday. We were greeted by a huge line of people filling in right as the gates opened at noon.
Many jokes were passed by attendees saying “Where are all these people during the season?” Valid question, but in all honesty, they’ve been at PNC Park.
For the three day span an announced crowd of nearly 17,000 people came, the largest crowd for Fest since 2003.
Erin joined our crowd again Saturday, she’s great. Never thought I could meet a bigger fan of Bucco baseball before, I still have her beat, but sure sure is close. Then, two buddies from Youngstown met us. My longest friend, Andrew and Ed, Yankees and Cubs fan, respectively, donned their black and gold to escape the winter doldrums and get in the baseball spirit.
A new addition to the Pirates’ wardrobe was showcased Sunday.
A yellow batting practice jersey will be inducted into the normal locker room attire for this year.
I like it, I always like yellow anything and that includes my music.
Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” has been sweeping the country and the Pirates are jumping on board. Be prepared to hear it a lot this week, too, as its Super Bowl Time.
The best part about an event like this definitely the people. A colorful crowd attends Pirate Fest every years and it is a great opportunity to discuss baseball with other passionate fans. We mingled and met many cool people including a fellow Pirate blogger, Zac Weiss.
He is an inspiring journalist, too and you and see his work here on mlblogs. His blog is called “Breaking Down the Bucs.”
In what Erin calls, “The Cutest Thing Ever,” this picture on the left was a long time coming. It is pitcher Paul Maholm’s twitter picture.
Having asked him if I could print it out to have him sign on twitter a few days before, he obliged.
We shared a nice chat about his tweets and family. His so, Wyatt, is indeed the cutest thing ever. Come one, one look at the pic and all you can say is “aww.”
By the way, be sure to follow him on twitter, @Maholm28. He and his family are going to Disney World the week before Spring Training and will be tweeting and twitpic’ing up a storm.
For more Wyatt action, check it out.
If you think that’s cool wait until you get a load of this.
Jim Rooker, pitcher on the 1979 World Series team was signing autographs on a limited basis. He just wrote a series of baseball related children’s books. “Matt the Batt, Kitt the Mit and Paul the Ball,” are entertaining books and perfect for the youngest of baseball fans. He would only sign if you bought the book. Of course, I had to splurge on Matt the Bat. Being my namesake and all it will be a great heirloom to pass onto my kids.
Judging from those pictures, wouldn’t you say it was $14 dollars well spent?
Although Rooker would not give me his ring, he did have to say “Give it back, give it back,” I still did not come away from the day empty handed.
That my friends is a Delwyn Young banner than hung from outside PNC Park during the 2009 season. For just $25 bucks I one of two people that own one, me and Young himself.
Unfortunately, shortly after that it was time to call it a day. A wonderful baseball weekend was the perfect dose to cure the winter blues.
Is it Spring Training, yet?