The Hall calls to the deserving and snubbed

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Last spring the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown welcomed me with open arms for a glorious day.

On Tuesday the Hall opened its doors to Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar to forever be immortalized in its hallowed shrine.
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One of the most colorful characters in Major League history sits atop his rightful place among pitching legends. Blyleven’s career spanned six teams and two World Series appearances, including one with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
This was his 14th year on the ballot with just a year remaining for his eligibility it was nearly a make or break campaign. He earned the needed percentage of votes by a fair margin and becomes the 60th player enshrined. 
Notoriously seen as a “Happy Gilmore” type player, Blyleven has made a name for himself in the pop culture realm. His famed “I Heart to Fart” shirt and off the cuff tangents in the broadcast booth never really hurt his image, but presented him as a hard nosed party boy. His mound presence was seen with the same intimidating sense. 
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Seeing Roberto Alomar get the Cooperstown call makes me feel old. He made his way onto the big league diamonds right around the time i was born. I do remember his Padres and Orioles days and although he will be adorning a Blue Jays cap on his plaque I think he will most be remembered by his time in Cleveland. With him at second and Omar Vizquel at shortstop they formed a double play combo that will forever be looked at as a benchmark for infielders. He brought fire and energy to the Indians during their glory days of the late ’90s and fans of the franchise still bask in those special years. 
Alomar is one of the first players that introduced me to baseball. Of course, there are a host of others, most notably irrelevant Pirates, but he was a centerpiece in developing my love for the game. It is exciting to see him be rewarded for an astounding career.
This years ballot consisted of many other players, much like Alomar. Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez and Fred McGriff. It is hard to believe that these stars of my childhood are being recognized with the ultimate baseball blessing. I knew at the time they were all the best of the era, but far from Hall of Fame performers. Maybe its just that my mindset of the Hall consisted of the legends. The Roberto Clementes, Hank Aarons and Sandy Koufaxes of the world, not players such as Bagwell, Larkin and McGriff.
While this is a feast day for the baseball world it is also a time of despair for some. Dave Parker missed his chance to be forever seen as baseball’s elite.
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The Cobra was snubbed for the 15th and final time and will see his name removed from the ballot and will never again be considered for Cooperstown. 
This is a shame. 
Now I never saw Parker play a game in my life, aside from the 2006 All Star Game Legends and Celebrity Softball Challenge held at PNC Park, but from what I hear he was superstar. Not only does being part of the famed “We-Are-Family” troop bring instant notoriety, but being an integral part of it gets you rewards. Parker was a two-time batting champion, all-star and league MVP, yet future generations will never know it. JIm Rice, inducted last year, but up less stellar numbers than Parker and got in. Parker had no such luck. In fact, he received a slap in the face as he was presented with just one measly vote. The same number as former Baltimore Orioles outfielder B.J. Surhoff.
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B.J. Surhoff? Honestly. 
It had to be depressing for Parker and it surely is for me. I want to be able to go to Cooperstown in the first weekend of August and see a player I fell in love with as a fan get inducted. While today it is an eye sore to even see a Pirate eek his way onto an All-Star roster, I don’t believe I will ever be granted a special moment to see one of my guys get enshrined. 
I still offer my congratulations to Blyleven and Alomar and will forever be grateful that we are fortunate enough to witness a great sport like baseball and see its stars properly honored. I cherish it, I really do. 
But I don’t think I will ever experience it with the proper boyhood joy.
photo credits: minnpost.com, apacktobenamedlater.com, corbisimage.com, baltimoresun.com

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
 

Clint Hurdle is the man for the job

 

clint1.jpgIn what Pirates President Frank Coonelly called an “exhaustive search process,” the Pittsburgh baseball club has their man.

Hurdle comes to the Steel City after being a part of two of the last three World Series. The batting coach for the Rangers, who happened to have the league’s highest team batting average is notoriously known for his tenure as manager of the Colorado Rockies. He was at the helm of the Rockies from 2002 until the beginning of 2009. In that time span he oversaw the development of young prospects such as Brad Hawpe, Troy Tulowitzki, Clint Barmes, Garett Atkins and Matt Holliday. That litany of potential is rivaled by that of the crop of youngsters the Pirates currently have now and the likes that are rising through the system.

clint2.jpg The experience and track record of Hurdle are one thing, but there are plenty more characteristics to attribute to this well rounded man.

Hurdle exudes confidence.

Even the harshest critics of the Pirates buy into the demeaner of Hurdle.

Ahem, Ron Cook.

Cook said, “He’s better than the franchise deserves.”

Hurdle has already implemented catchphrases that the Pirates marketing team needs to play on.

Describing his team as a “wolfpack,” Hurdle said he plans for everyone involved with the organization to go “all in.”

I’ve been all in 21 years of my life, Clint. I’m ready for more to join me.

Aside from his on the field duties, Hurdle is a family man.

His family of four is a tight-knit groupe for good reasons. His daughter suffers from Prader-Willi
clint3.jpg syndrome, a disease with 1 in 25,000 probability. Hurdle said a big reason why he chose the Pittsburgh job was to be close to specialized medical facilites in the city that cater especially to patients with the rare syndrome.

All in all, Hurdle took the job to meet objectives. He wante dto get back into managing and had a chance to take the Mets job. Both New York and Pittsburgh are in rebuilding situations but there is just something lucrative about bringing a forgotten team back to prominence. Hurdle sees that and wants to be the man to right the ship.

He has already began a grassroots campaign in Pittsburgh since it was announced he would be hired. Hurdle was seen Sunday at the Steelers game and Monday at the Penguins games. The Pirates play third fiddle in Pittsburgh so its good that Hurdle is petitioning for some noteriety. In the business thats called good public relations.

The Pirates really haven’t seen that in the last three, make the 18 years.

photo credits:postgazette.com, yahoo.com

 

Celebrities in the wake of greatness

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The Giants are taking the world by storm.

After the remarkable World Series win, San Francisco seems to be the mecca of baseball these days.

Rightfully so.

giants.jpgThese guys sure know how to party.

A reported 1.5 million were on hand last week for the parade celebration. Talk about coming in with style. Keeping with the famed cable car tradition of the beautiful city the team rode in on cable cars among ticker tape flowing by the thousands. Without a doubt a lovely display of black and orange.

The honor didn’t stop there.

Probably the most recognizable of all the champions is “The Beard” Brian Wilson.

brian_wilson_fear_the_beard_black_tshirt.jpgAlways notorious for his outlandish behavior, the playoffs gave him an outlet to let loose and get recognition. Described as a “real life Kenny Powers” by the good folks at TMZ, Wilson found his way into the mainstream after the World Series.

brian wilson.jpegWilson has helped bring in a new wave of baseball fans to the sport, in my opinion. His mentality and persona is unlike that of any player in the game today, really. It is refreshing to see a Rick Vaughn type “Wild Thing” take the mound to close out a game.  Let’s just hope he doesn’t flame out or end up in the California Penal League.

Another hero made his way to late night, my man Freddy Sanchez.
freddy.jpgI honestly got chills as I sat watching him take shots of Jameson on Lopez Tonight, with George Lopez. Aside from a cheap latino joke, Sanchez handled himself very well and looked like he embraced the limelight. In nearly every interview I have seen with him he always speaks at length about his time in Pittsburgh. He talked about how much he enjoyed being a Pirate after Lopez took a shot at the club. Lopez’s main objective was to divert attention away from Pittsburgh to talk about Sanchez being a Los Angeles native. Nonetheless, it was a brilliant five minutes and hopefully people begin to relaize once again that a Freddy Sanchez type human being are a dime a dozen.

Another classy Giant has to be MVP Edgar Renteria.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for er.jpgRenteria turned down an offer from his native Columbia. His country had asked to throw a parade for him honoring his MLB achievements. He respectfully turned it down and asked the money, time and effort be put towards that of helping flood victims in the area.

The Giants may not be where they were this year, next year. It will be hard to forget the memories and characters from the improbable victory, though.

photo credits: sacbee.com, yahoo.com

Messin with Texas

 

bumgarner2.jpgI spent my Sunday night on my couch, eating popcorn, drinking chocolate milk and eatching TV.

Fellow 21 year old, Madison Bumgarner took his evening to the mound of Rangers Stadium and made it his own.

Bumgarner coasted through the Rangers’ lineup in game 4 en route to a 4-0 blanking thanks to his offense. Hs three hits over eight innings drew the nation’s attention as Bumgarner may have found his spot in the record books as one of the most dominant, youngest pitchers in any postseason.

Hard to believe we are the same age.

Although the Giants lost game 3 on Saturday, they were competitive.

Losing just 4-2 I still feel somewhat responsible because I did not watch the game due to Halloween festivities. I saw many clever costumes out and about, but this little guy in Texas may have taken the cake.

lilron.jpgLil Wash has taken the internet by storm and got his spot in the limelight Sunday with the play ball announcement. Camera crews surrounded him but I was totally impressed by the 7 year olds demeaner. He was enjoying it all.

Great attire and perfect humor. In a series that has drawn some of the lowest ratings in postseason history he provided a dash of entertainment.

Although I strongly disagree with the people who aren’t tuning in.

Developing right in front of us we are seeing a dynasty take place. Buster Posey joins Bumgarner as two of the most talented younger players in the game. Juan Uribe has revived himself and the outfield core is combining speed, power and chemistry.

The most exciting player of the series is non other than Freddy Sanchez.

 

 

freddyyyyy.jpgSanchez has been getting his uniform dirty, climbing the ladder and making plays. His inspired defense has been a sorce of energy for San Francisco.

His bat has been thunderous as well providing key hits out of the two-hole.

Game 5 takes place Tuesday night.

Eric Karros said whoever won Sunday will win it all.

Looks like the trophy is coming to the Bay Area

photocredits:athbaseball.com, deadspin.com, wltx.com

2 out lightning

 

 

caint.jpgPitching was going to be the dominant force in this series.

That was well documented.

Matt Cain breezed through the Rangers en route to a 9-0 beatdown.

It was Game 1 that was pictured as a pitches duel but when Cain faced off with C.J. Wilson. Both pitchers looke dominant until WIlson suffered a finger bruise and was forced to sit for the remainder of the contest.

That’s when it went downhill.

The heralded bullpen of Texas went haywire and surrendered seven runs. The wheels successfully fell off.

The left side of the infield was the saving grace for the Giants. Juan Uribe was the hero in game 1 and shorstop Edgar Renteria followed in game 2 with a solo shot to get San Francisco on the board in the fifth inning.

edgarsi.jpgHe’s been in this position before.

In 1997 he downed the Indians in Game 7 of the World Series with a sharp line drive that brought in Craig Counsel for the winning run.

I love a good walk-off and they just seem more special in the Series.

Renteria finished the game 2-for-4 with 3 RBI.

Nealry every Giant reached base and hero awards could be given to many players.

Aaron Rowand delievered a key, pinch-hit triple that brought in a pair of runs.

Uriber continued to contribute with a double that brought in two as well.

 

There is no doubt the game ball goes to Cain. He really is in line for playoff MVP after scorching through round by round. He has yet to give up a run.

That’s history book material.

Now not every event that occured by the bay tonight was good.

Freddy Sanchez laid an egg going 0-for-5. A horrific display after garnering four hits and three doubles the night before.

Despite the struggles he was featured in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette column by Ron Cook.

 

freddyhappy.jpgTranscribing the tribulations throughout his life Sanchez said playing major league baseball was a miracle. He was born with a foot deficiency and overcame the inability to walk, to play professional baseball. Cook concluded the article with a quote from Sanchez that brought tears to my eyes.  

“I just hope Pittsburgh gets to experience this one day.”

He hasn’t forgotten the little people!

photo credits: espn.com, mccoveychronicles.com, getty images

 

 

The Giants hearts are in San Francisco

 

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Juan Uribe has been the Juan Uribe America has seen throughout October.

Freddy Sanchez has been the Freddy Sanchez I have seen since 2004.

Wednesday’s 11-7 lopsided victory for the Giants was not only dominant, it was nostalgic.

I have been cheering for the Giants all October long. They have been my “second team” for a few years now. After visiting AT&T Park and the city of San Francisco I fell in love with the Northern California mentality.

Not only are the girls warm, the ambiance is as well.

I like to say I’ve adopted San Fran as a place of my own and the Giants followed.

WIth my favorite former Pirates, Freddy Sanchez a key member of the National League champs, my fan hood grows deeper.

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Look to the left. That is what I wore this evening, Representing the Bay Area in Morgantown, West Virginia I got chills when the starting lineups were announced and went nuts when I heard the soulful sounds of Tony Bennett sing before the game and God Bless America.

This game was great for baseball and set up for a great World Series. Yes it was a blowout and yes a closer (Brian Wilson) entered with a non-save situation but it was a fun game to watch.

Sought of as a boring World Series or not relevant in some minds I think tonight showed that other teams are deserving and th Giants mean business.

PS How bout Freddy?

 

 

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3-for-4 and a sparkplug the entire night. FOX gave him player of the game honors. The three doubles were a world series record. If the champagne is bubbling notch up Sanchez for the MVP.

I still miss these days…

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GO GIANTS!

and

FREDDY!

 
 

 

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