Results tagged ‘ Nationals ’

The future’s open wide

When I was 18 years old I was in a high school play. To conclude my senior year a few friends and I thought it would be a change of pace to finish off four years. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was a blast, I was the camel. 

At 18 Bryce Harper is making $10 million and living every kid’s dream of playing professional baseball. 
Harper and his Hagerstown Suns visited Charleston, West Virginia this week to take on the Power, class-A affiliate of the Pirates. Of course, I had to see the phenom for myself. 
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Appalachia Power Park is an intimate place to watch a game with just a single level of seats wrapping around home plate and down the lines. Situated just off of downtown, the park is fairly new and modern. 
It was my first time here and really one of my first times spending an extended day in the WV capital. I had a job interview down there and made a day out of it touring my potential new home. I could think of no better way to cap off a productive day than at a ball game. 
I was coming to the game regardless, so having the chance to see Bryce Harper live was just an added incentive. I was not alone. About 20 people were waiting near the clubhouse for Harper, specifically. I was worried he would bypass the autograph seekers as I heard stories that he was a jerk and already at 18 he carried himself with the arrogance of Barry Bonds. 
He exemplified a bit of cockiness but was still cordial as he stopped to sign for everybody.
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I got him to sign a Baseball America cover from March in which he leads a listing of baseball’s top 100 prospects. After the game he stopped to sign again and I had him sign my scorebook.
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In the game, Harper looked like the kid he is. 

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He went 0-for-3 with a walk and was caught stealing. In the walk, he showed bunt on every single pitch and was walked in four. It was a move my little league coach had me do to draw the pitcher off and get on baseball easily. Harper’s trick paid off for him, too. He did make a nice sliding catch in right field to rob a for sure double, maybe triple.
The Suns were victorious 3-0. Offense was hard to come by for the Power. 
It was a fun time just being at a minor league game. The crowd, as a whole, was sparse but I still had a great time. The quirkiness of of games like this are the real draw for families and casual fans. The quality of baseball is still high, but many miscues were made across the diamond. That’s what minor league is for. Some of these prospects will never sniff the big leagues and in all honesty will flash out very soon. But players, like Harper, have a legitimate shot to be major league stars. 
The Power also had a future big leaguer on their roster in pitcher Jameson Taillon. He was chosen just one pick after Harper in last year’s draft. He made his debut two nights after I was down there and walked Harper in a rain shortened game. Taillon is just 19 years old but consistently was clocked at 100 mph in his 2 innings of work. 
I’m a good four years older than these guys, and I would give anything to be in their shoes. 

Pitt Peas tours the beltway

I couldn’t take it any more. 

Watching the first two Pirates games on Pittsburgh’s recently updated Root Sports Channel, had me very pumped up. Both games were competitive with great starting pitching. It’s safe to say myself, along with many others, are pumped up about the now 2-1 Buccos. They head to St. Louis for three games with the Cardinals and arrive back in PNC Park Thursday for the home opener.
That is too long. 
My friend Andrew and I packed up and ventured to Washington, D.C. for the rubber match between the Braves and Nationals and our first taste of big league ball this season. 
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Our nation’s capital is really hopping this time of the year. For good reason because it may be the prettiest spot in America in the springtime. The cherry blossoms were out from every stretch of the city. In full bloom, they were beautiful. It was a great way to welcome us back to a place where all citizens should visit at some point in their lives. The trees were also a perfect gateway to a great day of the national pastime. 
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Adorning my Expos shirt to honor the fallen franchise, we arrived at Nationals Park right as they gates opened.
It was a beautiful day for a game. 
Temperatures flitted with 60 degrees but remained fairly enjoyable. There was a slight chill and a majority of shade in the stadium but it was the perfect setting for a game in early April.
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Our first view of baseball batting practice from the stands in left field. Nats Park is very underrated when spoken of comparing it to other ballparks. In my opinion, it is the fourth best place for baseball behind St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, San Francisco’s AT&T Park and, obviously, Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. We stayed for a lot of batting practice, and while I’m not into the ballhawking scene it is entertaining to see others lay out for balls. The best part is seeing the happy faces of small kids receiving a big league ball. 
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Every Sunday in D.C. is “Signature Sundays.” There was a sparse crowd that early for the 1:35 game so we thought, what the heck, let’s chat it up with some ballplayers. Relievers Tyler Clippard, Brad Broderick, Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Burnett were waiting for fans on the dugout. This is me with former Pirate Sean Burnett. He was very outspoken, trashing the organization from his time with Pittsburgh. I confirmed it. He did say he enjoyed his time, but its not a baseball town. Come on Pirates, change his mind this year.
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Like I said, Nationals Park is a great place to watch a game and an even better museum for the great game of baseball. Honoring their former comrades of Montreal, Joe Carter and Andre Dawson are forever engraved in the walls of the stadium. And in a very cordial move, it honors a slew of Hall of Famers on the polls around the main concourse. As you can see, I had to grab a pic of “The Great One,” Roberto Clemente.
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Milwaukee has the Sausages. Cleveland has hot dogs. San Diego has Friars. Colorado has dots. Of course Pittsburgh has pierogies, but no racing item in Major League baseball is more politically correct than the presidents of Washington. Now, I am a loyal homer, but the race here is very anticlimactic. The jumbotron pre-race video is very funny but the race itself does not correlate with the goofy antics of the presidents, themselves. Come on, look at Teddy Roosevelt. 
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Andrew and I noticed the crowd in Washington is very intelligent. And we’re not necessarily referring to baseball smarts. A majority of the crowd looked like college professors and there were many people wearing local university attire to attest to that. Some fans even brought books to read during the game. We had great conversations with some people at the game. D.C. is a melting pot for many people across the country so being a Nationals fan looks to mean that they play second fiddle in many hearts.
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The game itself was a laugher in the home team’s expense. For the Nationals, the most rewarding part of the game may have been the Virginia Harmonizers who sang the National Anthem and God Bless America in the 7th inning. They were a great male vocal group who performs for the president. The game was an 11-2 shellacking. The Braves we
re paced by a six run 8th inning where they batted around. There was great production from top to bottom. Tim Hudson also pitched a gem. He surrendered just three hits in seven innings.
The baseball fun didn’t stop there.
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We jumped on the beltway and made the 45 minute trip to Camden Yards. There was not a game there as the Orioles were finishing up a series in Tampa, but there was still much activity in the stadium’s vicinity. I felt like we were in the opening scene of “Rookie of the Year” as workers were hustling preparing the ballpark for the team’s home opener against the Tigers.
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Andrew is a Yankee fan. His family is embedded in the pinstripes and their loyalty never wanes. Being in an AL East foe’s stomping grounds didn’t stop him from enjoying himself, though. As Babe Ruth’s birthplace, Baltimore is a historically rich baseball town. The statue honoring the Babe proves just that. 
After a lap around Camden Yards we called it a day and left the area making the three hour trip back to Morgantown, West Virginia. It was a little somber leaving a day that was filled with baseball, but it served as a prelude to the glory that this Thursday will hold. It’s opening day in Pittsburgh. The faith is still growing for fans across the nation. If your team is undefeated, congrats. If your team has yet to win a game, that’s why they play 162 games. The season is still young but many eyes have opened with sparks of hope seen inside. 
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This really is the most wonderful time of the year.

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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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
 

Back from vacation and boy was it a good one

I’m back from one of the best weeks I have ever spent in recent memory. If you read my blog entry from last week you would know that I was on vacation in Florida with my family. It was a great break from reality filled with baseball, great Cuban food, white sandy beaches and a boatload of Disney magic. So jump in and hold on tight ya’ll are going to help me relive my seven days in the Sunshine State.

outside stadium.jpgOur main priority of the trip was to visit Sun Life Stadium. Now who in their right mind would make it a priority to go to Sun Life Stadium for a baseball game? The Peaslees! For the past 10 or so years we plan our family vacations around baseball games. We plan to hit each ballpark around the Major Leagues. Sun Life was number 25 in terms of team’s home ballparks we have seen games in. We just need both New Yorks, Toronto and Seatle and we have hit all 30!

 

We arrived at the stadium at 5:30 right as the gates opened for the 7pm start of the Marlins and Nationals. Stephen Strasburg was on the mound for the Nats and my little brother Zach proudly wore his number 37 Strasburg t-shirt. Parking was not an issue outside the stadium as it was completely empty. It was nice that we somewhat had priority parking as the lot surrounding the stadium was the only place to park for the game and all that is really ever needed.

family.jpgThere is completely no atmosphere building up to the game outside the stadium. The only fun spot was this huge inflatable of Billy the Marlin. In my opinion the second best mascot in the MLB, behind Pittsburgh’s Pirate Parrot of course. We walked up to the ticket booth and purchased a great deal. Upper level behind the plate tickets, four hot dogs and four pops for 68 bucks. Not too shabby. It was a decent promotion on a gloomy Friday night.

Once entering we were greeted by the sound of salsa music.

music at start.jpgQuite different than the tradional soft rock you typically hear at PNC Park. From here on out we realized we were in for the most unique baseball experience we have ever experience. Is that a good thing? Maybe, but it this case not really.

 

escalator.jpgSun Life Stadium is a huge structure. After all it has been home to numerous college bowl games, the Super Bowl and of course the Miami Dolphins. Our seats were right behind home plate buuuuut in the nosebleeds in the 400 level. This escalator escorted us to the tip top of Miami. If you have a serious case of vertigo I recommend splurging on lower level seats.

Once at the top the seats really were not that bad.

sun life.jpgAs you can see we had a great view perched from our seats. A great view of brightly colored orange seats. A group of business men behind us remarked on how great these seats were. Must have been their first baseball game and they surely have never been to PNC Park. As I told my dad it is a crime baseball is played here.

Since we did make it to the game early, while batting practice was still going on Zach and I
ball.jpg ventured to the outfield in an area called the “Fish Tank” in hopes of retrieving a ball. Because he was wearing his Nationals gear, reliever Joel Peralta tossed a ball up to Zach.

The crowd in th eoutfield had to be the most uneducated group of baseball fans ever. It really was a reflection on the whole crowd at Sun Life that night. These “fans” could care less about the game and are only there for the extra circular activities. And there are a bunch. I will compliment the fans on being the quickest to start a wave, however it happened in the 2nd inning. I hate the wave but these fans ate it up as it went around the park at least a dozen times.

fiesta fridays.jpgIt was a Fiesta Friday! Complete with mariachi bands roaming the outfield stands, four DJ’s spinning tracks on the concourse and a grape soda chugging contest. It was the most random assortment of events I have ever seen at a baseball game. But the crowd ate it up. Everyone on their feet was dancing, screaming and enjoying the culture. It was the most diverse crowd I have ever been involved with at a game. To accomodate the very large Hispanic crowd the PA anouncer announced the batters and lineups and most announcements in English as well as Spanish, first time I have ever heard that at a baseball game. Florida also adorned their “Los Marlins” jerseys.

I did meet a new friend on the concourse level at Sun Life Stadium.
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He looked friendly as we walked towards each other and I simply asked if he was a Pirates fan with my hand extended ready to shake his hand. He looked at perplexed and gave me a stern “No!” Taken aback I said “why the jersey?” In a loud booming voice he goes, “I’m a CLEMENTE fan. I do not like the Pirates anymore.” I told him I still am a Pirates fan, which gave him a good laugh and he reluctantly snapped this photo with me.   

Stephen Strasburg earned the win for the Nats. He was shaky to start but still managed seven strikeouts in six innings. The crowd was over 20,000 for the first time since Opening Day one fan told us. In 2012 the Marlins will be awarded one of the most beautiful ballparks in baseball. They waste no time in marketing it. Pictures are plastered all over publications, outfield walls and even in the background of the scoreboard when players are up to bat.

It was a unique experience at the game. I enjoyed myself and really would like to go back when the new stadium is opened. It is needed, baseball should never be played in an outdoor barn like that. But quite frankly the fans and citizens of Miami do not deserve it.

Outside the park there is some even more crazy stuff going on.Artwork like this decorates the
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Thumbnail image for pirate flag.jpgI was most happy with the Marlins when I saw this flying at the main gates of the stadium. The Pirate flag was a perfect segway to the second half of our vacation in Disney World.

We milled around all four parks and had a great time as children at heart. My favorite ride at the Magic Kingdom is of course Pirates of the Caribbean. I do like the movies and the musical score as it is often played at PNC Park. After riding the ride multiple times my brother and I had a heyday in the giftshop.

dreads.jpgRocking our Jack Sparow dreads, more like Andrew McCutchen in our book. We looked the part of true Pirates whether we be of the Carribean or Pittsburgh.

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Hey, Hey!

Raise the Jolly Roger!

Since I haven’t been home with my family all summer this week was definitely welcomed and the perfect opportunity to bond and catch up. It was unforgettable with memories I will carry on forever.

 

 

famdisney.jpgI am now ready to make my way back to PNC Park to see my Bucs take on the Padres. In my hiatus the Pirates have been hot, red hot. Everyone is hitting the ball putting up almost 50 runs since the All-Star break. This here is the future of the Pirates and it seems to be shaping up beautifully.

 

Week in Review

I was absent from the blog last week, for good reason. It seemed that the Pirate’s were absent from their talent as well.

My beloved Bucs suffered a 12-game losing streak from June 6th through this past Saturday. I think it was all my fault.

I went to that game on the 6th and witnesses a heartbreaking extra inning loss. Delwyn Young belted a pinch hit homerun to send the game to a tenth inning, but Octavio Dotel just could not hang on to the lead.

From that moment Pittsburgh fell to the Cubs in a one game makeup series. Were swept on the road in Washington as well as at home against the White Sox. Then my most most hated professional sports….

 

 

 

hateindians.jpgThe Cleveland Indians. The Indians came into PNC Park on Friday and beat the Pirates 4-3. It was a pitcher’s duel til the seventh inning when the Tribe jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Pittsburgh manufactured runs the very next inning getting their three, but it just couldn’t answer when needed. I attended that game and the most thrilling moment may have come before hand when I met local FSN Pittsburgh reporter Dan Potash.

I honestly think Mr. Potash was more thrilled that I recognized him. He was overjoyed, very friendly and carefree with me. I bet he called his mom and said “Wow, somebody wanted a picture with me!” Ok that may sound a bit harsh, he was top notch and first class.

Take a look at my shirt there. Better yet, i’ll zoom in for you.

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It is a hot item in the ‘burgh these days as the Milledge People are taking over. The shirt features the bodies of the famous Village People of the 1970′s with super-imposed faces of Lastings Milledge with a Pirate hat on each of them. It is hysterical I think, plus at some games six college kids sit in teh outfield dressed in Village People fashion. Unfortunately for me, Milledge did not play on Friday.

However, Saturday was a much different story. For one I was not watching. I was in Washington D.C. with some friends representing WVU. It was a fun day and an even funner night, that blog will be coming in the next entry.

But anyway, the Pirates did manage to break the dreaded streak thanks to a 3-for-4, 4 RBI performance from Lasting Milledge.

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Milledge has been recieving spotty playing time ever since the arrival of youngster Jose Tabata. Tabata has been holding down the fort in left field, the original position of Milledge, because of that number 85 and Ryan Church have been splitting tim in right field. The lack of playing time must have lit a fire under his butt and hopefully that gave him a spark and a reason to finally deliever how he was expected to do. He has still yet to hit a homerun, a necessity on this team that lacks any power threat

That is until now.

The arrival of highly touted prospect Pedro Alvarez occured this week.

pedro.jpgHe’s going to be something special, at least that is what Bucco fans have been told. It is no secret that Alvarez has been called the best Pirates prospect since Barry Bonds. Lofty shoes to fill and I know it will take time but it is something, really the only thing that has given Pittsburgh fans hope in quite some time.

 He is a lefty, power hitting thrid basemen. The Pirates have lacked all three for many years. To get it all in one package really fills that void.

He has yet to get the ball rolling collecting just one hit in 16 major league at bats. He had a stellar minr league career as he flirted with a .300 avergae while belting 40 homeruns in just two seasons.

I for one do believe the hype.

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At Friday’s game I went off the deep end before he even earned his innagural major league hit and dropped $27 bucks on an Alvarez shirt. Way too much for the time being but I do think I am the only one who has bought one yet, I loved being distinctive. However, that was probably trumped on Saturday when he did get his first hit. He has a long career ahead of him, I just hope it is fruitful.

Speaking of fruitful my favorite fruit is pineapple. Sorry for that irrelevant tidbit. I do think I will sign off on that note. Stay tuned for my next entry recapping the Pitt Peas’ visit to Washington D.C. and Nationals Park!

photo credits: horridindian.com, fanball.com, kentucky.com

Strasburg’s encore

I hate Cleveland.

I do. The city, the sports teams and the atmosphere. It is weird, a little dumpy and just plain weird.

Progressive Field isn;t bad, but still its weird. Nonetheless I along with my brother Zach, and good friends Eric and Andrew ventured up to the ‘mistake on the lake’ for a Sunday game between the Indians and Nationals.

 

strasburgday1.jpgNow something really has to be happening to get me to go to Cleveland for this irrelevant ballgame. A 21 year old pitcher named Stephen Strasburg made me do it!

sday2.jpgWe were excited to see the baseball world turn their heads on to Cleveland to see if Strasburg could provide and encore performance to last Tuesday’s 14 strikeout spectacle against the Pirates. Going only 5.1 innings, walking five and striking out eight wasn’t exactly the powerful performance we were hoping for but shoot any team’s fans would take an outing like that from their starting pitcher.

Strasburg started out the game masterfully. These numbers were common on the speed gun.

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We counted a grand number of seven times where Strasburg hit 100 up on the board. Whew, blew all 32,976 of us in attendance away. The crowd was very into catching a glimpse of the pitching prodigy.

sday6.jpgThere hasn’t been a crowd this big to watch a young pitcher since Henry Rowengartner made his debut with the Cubs. The Indians even went as fas as selling Strasburg gear inside the park’s souvineer stands.

sday7.jpgHowever, not all Clevelnaders took kindly to the rookie. Now Andrew, Zach and myself were cheering for the Nationals and Strasburg, the other in our group was not. Eric is not that big into baseball but knows how to have a good time at the ballpark. When Strasburg first walked out of the dugout he began an “Overated” chant. He also was ragging on Strasburg the entire day hoping to see the Indians light him up. He wasn’t alone. While there were many Nats fans in the park, many made the trip from the DC-Virginia area, most people were quick to boo Strasburg. There were three seperate occasions where boos were thrown down from the Progessive Field rafters. Twice he requested the mound be looked at forcing groundscrew to touch up his footing area and he was booed loudly as we was taken out of the game in the fifth inninng.

There were many memories made this game with a majority occuring before the game actually started. Seeing Strasburg warm up was a novelty in itself but on top of that we saw and met many cool people.

sday8.jpgNumber 25 there is Stetson Allie. Former pitcher of St. Edwards High School in Cleveland. Why do I care about Stetson Allie you ask. Well he just so happened to be the second round pick of the Pirates in last week’s draft. His high school team was being honored pre-game for winning the Ohio State Championship. I’m tol he is a hard throwing righty but has control issues, a younger Strasburg perhaps? I hope the Pirates offer him a lucrative deal and he signs. I shouted a “Let’s Go Bucs!” to him and he seemed a little creeeped out.

 

sday9.jpgThe national spotlight was still on Strasburg for start number two and ESPN was well represented. Field reporter Pedro Gomez wa son the field pre game trying to avoid our obnoxious calls to him. After he was filming he posed for pictures with all four of us. We were the original spotters, after our pics a throng came down to the field level forcing Pedro to retreat to the dugout. So thanks Mr. Gomez, I hope we made your trip to Cleveland fun as well.

You may be able to tell that I am wearing a San Diego State shirt. It was in honor of Strasburg who went to school there. The only guy in the park to notice it and give me kudos on it was Pete from clevelandfrowns.com. He was a nice guy and was great to have a ten minute conversation with. If you are a Cleveland fan it is a cool blog site to check out.

Andrew also took part in honoring the past in noteable fashion. Rocking the Expos hat he was very vintage in showing he was a die-hard fan of the Nationals franchise (even though he lives and breathes the Yankees.) He also bit the bullet and purchased a Strasburg T-shirt.

 

sday10.jpgWhile I was pretty much happy all day this pair of pictures really brought a smile to my face.

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And they said Lastings wasn’t loved in Washington. This guy is keeping the funk alive rocking his Milledge jersey.

 

 

 

 

 


 

And if that isn’t a sight for sore eyes in Cleveland I do not know what is. Peeking out on the railing is indeed an Andrew McCutchen jersey and Pirates hat. Just beautiful. I never like to wear an obscure team clothing item to the park when that team isn’t playing but that guy obviously doesn’t follow my rules and I’m frankly okay with it. It was refreshing.

I say farewell on that note. The Pirates lost 4-3 today. My freind Erin was keeping me up to date with all that was happening via text. We were swept by the Tigers as Octavio Dotel gave up a three run home run to Miguel Cabrera. Despite that frustration I will be back at my home, PNC Park on Tuesday as the Bucs host the White Sox. Even though teh Pirates struggle through it, I love interleague play!


The future’s open wide

strasburg.jpgThe hour building up to the debut of Stephen Strausburg against the Pirates may have been the most excited I have been in quite sometime.

His every move was watched as 44,000 in Nationals Park and millions around the world were focused on this kid who is only six months older than myself.

It was like a presidential procession as he left the dugout to warm up in the outfield as a handful of security guards surrounded him as media and fans attempted to get a glimpse of the hurler.

With all the craze and hype developing since he was drafted as the first overall pick in 2009 Strasburg handled the moment the best way he knew how, striking out 14 Pirate batters.

It was the most unique way I personally have ever watched a baseball game as I focused solely on the 6’4 220 pounds pitcher. He is straight up Nasty, with a capital N.

 

He throws so hard hitting the upper nineties like it is nothing. His changeup clocks in at 91. His changeup! His sinker and curveballs would make Pedro Cerrano cry. They are simply unhittable.

He gave up a two run homerun to Delwyn Young and Andy LaRoche recorded the first hit off him in the third inning. Strasburg will be great, time will tell if he will be mentioned in the same breath as the Randy Johnson’s and Roger Clemens’s and if he will end up on the Yankees. But I think it is safe to say he will be the 2010 Rookie of the Year.

A much less hyped up debut of a pair of major leaguers will also be occuring soon.

The Pirates’ outfielder Jose Tabata and pitcher Brad Lincoln will make their first appearances sometime this week.

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jose-tabata.jpgBoth have been hailed as saviors for the big league club and will also have to fight the adversity Strasburg is going through in order to prove they can belong.

Lincoln was the Buc’s first round draft pick in the 2006 draft, 4th overall. He’s had a solid minor league year at AAA Indianapolis going 6-2 with a 3.16 ERA. It has been his best year since returning from surgery in 2007. He has the potential to be a number one starter in the rotation but alsi has to develop himself into that role. Soemthing that homegrown Pirates pitchers fail to do.

Tabata is a unique story. He came over to Pittsburgh from the Yankees in the trade that sent Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to New York. The Pirates also recieved Ross Ohlendorf in that swap. Tabata is best known for having a 35 year old wife who kidnaps children (long story). His on the field reputation is good as he has great potential at the plate. He is batting just over .300 with three homeruns this season. His best year came in 2008 when he arrived in AA Altoona. He hit for a .348 average. Tabata will split time in the outfield with Ryan Church, Lastings Milledge and Garrett Jones, when he is not manning first.

Both players will get early playing time by being thrown into the fire right away, I like that. That kind of development and on the job training is necessary to succeed. That is why they are up here anyway, to play.

The Pirates and the rest of Major League baseball all took a step in the right direction towards their future.

I was pleased with Pittsburgh’s draft class as I have been the past two years. It picked up who Baseball America called the two hardest throwing pitchers in the draft in 2nd overall pick Jameson Taillon and second rounder Stetson Allie. Not only do they both have sweet names, they have sweet pitches. Both can hit the 100mph mark which I think is ridiculous for both of them coming right out of high school. I still have doubts that the Pirates will be able to sign eitehr of them. They will demand a boatload of money and I am sure the Bucs will short change them. I can only hope owner Bob Nutting is ready to open up the checkbook.

I was most ecstatic about former West Virginia short stop Jedd Gyorko going 59th overall to the San Diego Padres.

 

Gyorko-Header-6810.jpgI have covered Gyorko and the Mountaineer baseball team for the past two years and he is head over heels the best collegiate player I have ever seen. He leaves WVU as the best hitter in school history with a .404 Batting Average and 35 home runs. He will help the Padres up the middle as well with a good gloves and wide range.

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Kaybee and Hyun Young; enjoy him. He is a pleasure to watch and an even greater guy. He stabnds just a generous 5’10″ but plays much bigger. He does have a stocky build and natural raw power. He was definitely picked up because of his bat and will be able to transition from aluminum to wood nicely. He is such a nice dude who was a pleasure to talk with and develop a trusting relationship. Yesterday was a big day for him and his family yet he took time out of it to do an interview with me. You guys can read my article about Gyorko here at The Daily Athenaeum website, the official school newspaper of WVU.

photo credits:

postgazette.com

insidepittsburghsports.com

media.scout.com

msnsportsnet.com

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