March 2011

Spring Break photo album

Within 25 seconds of dropping our bags off in our St. Pete Beach hotel room my buddy Marc was out the door headed to the beach. It jump started an unforgettable week in Florida. We created lifelong memories and stories we can share for years down the road. It’s senior year spring break, we did it the best way we knew how. Enjoy some photos from our week in the Sunshine State.


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Our first stop was Gainesville, home of the University of Florida. It was a Sunday and the campus was fairly dead but we ventured out for a self guided tour. The campus is much more flat than what we are used to in Morgantown, but it was very nice, nonetheless. Right in the middle of campus, is a swimming pool. Can’t beat that.



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The Saturday night security guard must have been slacking because a gate to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was left wide open. We explored the 90,000 seat stadium through all its nooks and crannies. We were able to run on the field and climb about the bleachers. It is an impressive structure with plenty of college football history. 

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We checked into our luxurious St. Pete Beach hotel room on Sunday and immediately hit the beach. The white sand between your toes, cool water flowing up along the shore and the calm rays of a setting sun creating the recipe for relaxation. 
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Monday meant baseball. Pirates baseball. Bradenton was the destination and McKechnie Field was where the afternoon would be spent for a taste of spring training baseball. The Pirates hosted the Twins and I was giddy from the moment that I woke up my three groggy friends as soon as the sun rose.
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Not only was the promise of Pirates baseball enough, MLB Network was there filming its 30 clubs in 30 days hour long special. While may of the cameras and personalities were behind the scenes interviewing coaches and players, their broadcast truck was outside the ballpark for the fans. 
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Activities included the chance to film your own video postcard. Now, it wouldn’t be seen on MLB Network but it was a video to remember a special day. Introduced by a pre-recorded Harold Reynolds and Hazel Mae, the 45 second video was my chance to shine. I had a nice crowd of senior citizens around listening to what I had to say.
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The treats kept coming. A special first pitch was thrown by Twins commentator, former 1979 Pirate and 2011 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Bert Blyleven threw out the first pitch. 





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I took nearly 100 pictures at the game. Photos that ranged from players signing autographs (I was lucky enough to get a hat Andrew McCutchen threw up to the crowd which he signed for me), batting practice and great stadium shots. You can see them all on my facebook page. This photo, though, stands out. It is Pirate City which acts as the dorm for players during spring training. It is a state-of-the-art facility which is also the entry way to the five practice fields.




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In all honesty, I could have spent the whole week in Bradenton. But, the show must go on and if I had a second favorite place in Florida it would be Disney World, our next stop. The next spring training game on the agenda was Marlins Braves at the Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney. 
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I was never the biggest Nate McLouth fan when he was in Pittsburgh but I was totally shocked on that fateful day when he was traded to the Braves. He has underperformed greatly with Atlanta but seems to be breaking out of his funk. He collected three hits in the game.
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The atmosphere at the game was very electric. I was a hot and packed day with the temperatures nearing 90 and the attendance reaching almost 10,000. It was a first class operation and a rewarding experience. After all, its the Disney way. Also, it may have been the most unique game I will ever attend. The Braves trailed by one in the bottom of the ninth but a solo home run by Brandon Hicks would tie it up. It went to extras with the score remaining the same after 11 innings. Then, it was called. Yep, the game was tied. Ended in a tie. Highly doubt I will ever see that again. 
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We had one more game schedule for our spring training swing. Cardinals-Nationals was on the tab in Viera, but we got word that it had sold out quickly with it being a night game, fireworks night and Albert Pujols. A trio like that is impressive. Chris, Marc and Jared were surprised with the high turnouts at games all week. I wasn’t. People love spring training and I’m glad I finally got to experience it first hand. 
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We were down in the dumps about not seeing that final game but we took matters into our own hands. It was a hockey night in Tampa. Yes, I agree hockey is not meant to be played in Florida. We spent a full day in the Gulf of Mexico then go inside to watch guys skate on ice. It was a fun time, though. Free jersey giveaways and 12 dollar tickets made a guy who knows next to nothing about hockey a little happy. I’m talking about myself. The Lightning do know how to put on a good show despite them falling to the Islanders that night.
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Another stop included a race track. Actually, the best they come. Daytona Speedway has been the epicenter of NASCAR action for many decades. Now, if there is one thing, besides hockey, that I don’t understand its NASCAR. But, the infrastructure is just inspiring. The huge track is the mecca for race fans everywhere. There are a lot, and I do respect them. 
The rest of the week consisted of more beach time, swimming, good food and drinks, putt putt and meeting new friends. Basically we were living out the music that Jimmy Buffett sings about. It was a great, yet expensive week, but you can’t put a price on good friends and good times. I just hope to do it again soon. I will be spending a week in Bradenton! I can only hope.
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Spring Training Vacation

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Jealous?

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How ’bout now?
Well I will be posted up at these locations this upcoming week for Spring Break 2011. The glitz and glamour of the MTV party scene doesn’t really appeal to me so I will be spending the week the best way I know how. 
Bradenton, Beer, Baseball and Beaches.
A winning combination, right?
Four nights in St. Petersburg, three nights in Orlando. Traveling down for my last college road trip with three of my good friends may just be the perfect ending to my four year college career. I will be graduating from West Virginia University in May so this is a little R and R before the real world strikes. 
We have a full agenda of activities, forthcoming. So, keep in tune with the blog when I return. In the meantime, follow me on twitter (@pittpeaswv) for up to the minute details on my travels.
photo credits: cityofbradenton.com, pleasingvacations.com

Long history with Orioles continues in Spring and beyond

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The 1970’s were a time of puffy hair, bell bottoms, disco and apparently some funky golf carts. Not to mention some pretty good baseball as the legends of the day took the field throughout this legendary decade. Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson and Carl Yastrzemsk
were just a few of the go-to names of this era. Perhaps the greatest
players came from Pittsburgh and Baltimore, though. 


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The fun started in 1971 when the Pirates and Orioles met up in the World Series. Baltimore already had its foot in the door of 70’s supremacy as it won the 1970 world title. It was a legendary occasion during game 4 of the series. My father and grandfather were in attendance for the game in Three Rivers Stadium as it was the first night game in World Series history. Going the same route of many of his baseball cards and other precious heirlooms, the ticket stubs and other memorabilia from that game probably went by way of the trash can. 
Roberto Clemente would be named MVP as the Pirates won the series in 7 games. Perhaps the most beloved Bucco of all time, Clemente hit safely in all seven of the games not just in the ’71 series, but also in his previous World Series appearance back in 1960. A pair of other honored Pirates, who still have deep ties to the team, today, were integral in bringing a ring and trophy back to Pittsburgh.
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Pitcher Steve Blass and catcher Manny Sanguillen, currently the color announcer and special instructor, respectively, were battery mates in the classic victory which also equated to one of the most epic photographs taken on the diamond. Their dramatic pose is pictured above. 
These two teams would indeed meet again, this next time some eight years later. 
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In the 76th edition of the Fall Classic Pittsburgh and Baltimore again clashed for a seven game series with the Pirates coming out on top once more. 
Again, the game was clinched in Baltimore with the visiting team winning. Willie Stargell, Bruce Kison and Sanguillen were the only remaining members of the club that defeated the Orioles at the beginning of the decade. You could call these Bucs the original Florida Marlins of the late 1990’s early 2000’s, but not really. That’s just one comparison to a franchise that unloaded and rebuilt within a relatively short time span to win a pair of World Series titles. 
This game 7 for the Pirates was earned the hard way.
Pittsburgh found itself down three games to way so it took a valiant comeback to bring another Championship home to the Steel City. It was also a stunning year when the Steelers would do the same for Pittsburgh when they won their Super Bowl title. 
The decade saw a passing of the torch, of sorts, as one legend (Clemente) passed the reigns of the program to another (Stargell). 
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They had all their brothers with them, not sisters as Sister Sledge originally sang. Stargell lived up to his nickname of “Pops” and was the leader, father, of this team. Every player was easy to recognize and had his own flare and personality about him. They were a breath of fresh air to Pittsburgh as many were still coping with the tragic death of Clemente, much to soon from his still budding career. 
The Orioles and Pirates fail to live up to the plateau of greatness these teams before them have paved.
However, they still duke it on when possible.
It is the Orioles, this time, that have gotten the best of the Pirates. Already facing each other three times with Baltimore coming away victorious each time. The most recent loss for the Pirates came Monday, 8-2. The chance comes again, Thursday, to get off the snide. After that, one more game of Spring Training will come between the two old rivals but it will not be the last they see of each other in 2011.
The O’s come to PNC Park for an Inter league tilt on June 20, 21 and 22. It will be a homecoming of sorts as two games will commemorate both the ’71 and ’79 series. Promotional items to be given away include a canvas wrap of Blass and Sanguillen as well as a Ceramic Beer Stein with the 1979 “Fam-A-Lee” engraved. 

Let the Madness begin

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Greetings from Hartford, Connecticut!
Currently, I am here alongside some colleagues from the WVU student newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum, to cover the West Virginia women’s basketball team and the rest of the Big East in the conference tournament.
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After game one, the Mountaineers downed the Cincinnati Bearcats 66-41. From my spot on press row I am now watching the Pitt women square off against Marquette. 
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Thus far, the weekend has provided many great chances to watch some good basketball. The Big East, notorious for its men’s basketball dominance isn’t half bad 

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on the girl’s side either. 
Plus, girl’s basketball, in my opinion, is the game at its

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 purest form. There’s very little need for flash or over bearing skill moves. For young kids watching basketball based on set plays, tight defense and solid shooting; women’s basketball is where its at. 
It really has been a great opportunity to cover the series and wish the best of luck to the Mountaineers. I want to be in Hartford a while. Quaint, vintage looking town and the access is great. Look for coverage of the tournament on http://www.thedaonline.com.
The madness has indeed begun in Florida, too. Baseball spring training has heated up and teams are starting to come together in preparation for the real festivities to begin in late March and early April. 
The Pirates are no exception. 
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Lyle Overbay is not only hamming it up for the camera, he is, as the kids say, going ham on opposing pitchers. In the Pirates 4-3 win over the Phillies Overbay collected three hits, a double being one of them. The newly acquired first baseman also scored a pair of crucial runs. 
He isn’t the only one performing well.
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Neil Walker belted his first home run of the spring on Saturday.
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Jose Tabata has been blazing around the base paths with three steals in the past week.
Right now, Pittsburgh stands at 5-4 against Major League clubs. Its game tomorrow against the Blue Jays will be televised regionally on Root Sports. A national audience can catch it on MLB Network later in the day. 
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Well, its back to the basketball action for now. But not far from now the Opening Day decorations will be laid out among all 30 ballparks. 
You can see the XL Center in Hartford is already excited for the occasion. 
photo credits: bucsdugout.com, washingtonpost.com

Yankees silenced as Bucs continue Spring fling

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In 2008 actor Bill Crystal got his birthday wish as he signed a one day contract with the New York Yankees. 
In his lone Spring Training at bat he struck out at the hands of Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm. 
Three years later, six actual Yankees struck out against Pittsburgh pitchers. 
On Tuesday the Bucs blanked the Yanks 2-0 at McKechnie Field in Bradenton. 
Although the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixiera did not take the field, come one, they’re still the Yankees. 
James McDonald took the hill for the Pirates and lasted two solid innings, allowing just a pair of hits. Curtis Granderson tripled in the first inning and Eric Chavez notched a single in the second. 
Behind McDonald, Aaron Thompson gave up two hits. New York would only reach base those four times. 
Daniel McCutchen earned the win, his first of the Spring. He fanned two batters including Nick Swisher. Former first round pick Daniel Moskos was given the save and did not allow a hit in the 9th inning.
The Pirates now stand at 3-2 in the Grapefruit League. The other two wins came against the Tampa Bay Rays. The win against the Yankees was clearly the best performance from the pitching staff, thus far. 
But, there was bad news in the day.
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Relief pitcher Joe Beimel was ordered to be shut down due to discomfort in his left arm. He has undergone and MRI with results coming later Tuesday, or Wednesday. The newly acquired lefty was to be a strong hold in the bullpen. Working with Evan Meek and closer Joel Hanrahan, the back end of the pen looks to be one of the strongest in the NL Central. 
Beimel was once a Pirate before this spring. From 2001-04 he was a reliever in Pittsburgh. He was anything but spectacular and has since spent time with the Dodgers, Nationals and Rockies reviving his career. 
Just look at him. 
He brings an edge, a fire of sorts, that will be utilized. His recovery needs to be brisk for his untapped potential to come about.
photo credits: bleacherreport.com, yahoo.com
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