Results tagged ‘ Pirates ’

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
art.jpg walls of the gates all around the stadium. Like what the heck is it? What does it mean? Nobody could answer my pressing questions.

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.

 

Up in Smoke

Per my twitter I predicted a sweep in the Astros-Pirates series.

I recieved just that, just not as I predicted. In what was dubbed a “Battle of the Basement” the Astros outscored the Pirates 14-5 to deliever in a three game sweep.

Chalk up the broom company franchises to 11. Yep, the Pirates have been swpet 11 times this season.

Not to quote Rascal Flatts but “what hurts the most, was being so close.”

Close as in close to turning the corner. The Bucs had a great four game series against a much powerful team in the Philies over the weekend. Not that Pittsburgh had a chance to move up in the division but to be swept by a divisional opponent, especially the one that is in a race out of the cellar is anything but good.

The Brewers are up next.

I hate the Brewers much thanks to this man.

 

ryan-braun2.jpgNo that is not a “***** Eye for the Straight Guy” cast member it is Milwaukee’s own Ryan Braun. His attitude, swagger and downright slummy-ness overshawdows his decent looks and stellar talent. He has called out the Pirates for no good reason on many seperate occasions. 

The Pirates and Brewers have had a budding rivalry over the past three or so seasons. Always picking fights and being competitive. Alas, The Brew Crew almost always have the upper hand especially in a 20-0 beatdown of the Bucs earlier in the season in which I could say I had the pleasure of watching live.

To release my disdain of the Brewers my buddies Marc and Andrew assisted me in a ceremonial ritual that would hopefully send up bad omens to those residing in Miller Park.

 

burn brew.jpgI did enjoy that hat. It was comfortable and was a great companion to me on the softball field. However, I think we put it to much greater use. I can only hope it pays off and the Pirates can squeak out a win against the hated Brew Crew this weekend.

Bucs own Phils on a Halladay Weekend

 

halladay.jpgI owe that pun to my good friend Eric. Not only was it a Holiday weekend with the 4th of July celebrations heating up all weekend but the Philies were in town.

Now it was a four game series, a series in which I attended two games, but Roy Halladay did not even pitch. Still funny nonetheless, thanks Eric for the blog title.

I helped PNC Park open the series on Thursday with some of my favorite guys; Eric, my brother Zach and my dad.

zachericmatt.jpgWe had just amazing seats located just two rows back from the field.

We got there right as the gates opened in hopes of autographs and balls thrown from batting practice.

ryansigns.jpgRyan Howard was one of the players signing before the game. Actually just one of two players who we saw signing. The other was pitcher Jose Contreras. Howard was only out for about 30 seconds so neither of us had the chance to get something signed.

This would come back to haunt Howard as he struck out twice, much thanks to Eric, Zach and my chants of “Quiznos, Quiznos, Quiznos” in reference to his sponsorship deal with Subway. To tell you the truth I enjoy Subway more than Quiznos anyway.

The rest of warmups were fun as the players were animated with their stretches.

raulibanez.jpgRaul Ibanez tied his shoes with the Pirate Parrot. The Parrot would also steal the batting gloves and balls from the Philies as they were warming up. I don’t think theres a question that he is the best mascot in all of baseball.

Philies fans easily outnumbered Pirate fans in the crowd of 27,000. A very nice crowd in Pittsburgh especially on a Thursday so I do have to extend a thanks you to the Philies fans who helped pack the yard.

kruk.jpgExcept this chick in the John Kruk jersey. Now I’m all fro Krukky, I am a big fan, love his personality and he is from West Virginia believe it or not, but she was one annoying brat. Everything out of her mouth was delusional and downright stupid. I don’t want to say typical Philly fan but ehhhh. Compliments on the jersey girl!

The Pirates held on to a 3-2 victory.

The Bucs won on Friday, 2-0, thanks to masterful pitching from Ross Ohlendorf.

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I made my PNC Park debut of my Pedro Alvarez t-shirt on Saturday. It brought about much fanfare as Alvarez belted his first major league home run. It was an opposite field blast over the right field wall. Ryan Church would also add a homer but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Philies rolled the Pirates 12-4. The worst part was being serenaded with “Let’s Go Philies” leaving the ballpark. Citizens Bank Park West was what it was like.

However the greatest feeling in the world is being at a baseball game, enjoying a beer and hotdog (in my case a big helping of Quaker Steak and Lube wings) and fireworks.

 

 

 

 

Thumbnail image for fireworks.jpgThere is no place in this great country better for fireworks than Pittsburgh, Pa. Put to a grand score of American tunes the post-game firework show was awe-inspiring leaving the sellout crowd breathless.

This weekend brought over 120,000 people to the North Shore. It was much like a playoff atmosphere and the best feeling I have had at a game all season, aside from opening day. It seemed that the whole crowd hinged on every pitch as players and fans alike treated the games as a budding rivalry for state bragging rights.

I only hope I can feel this some October in the near future.

 

Pittsburgh Broom Company

 

brooms.jpgThe. Pirates. Stink. I do not think there is a better way to put it.

Just like the smelly floors of a junior high locker room and the janitor that cleans it up the Pirates know a thing or two about being swept clean.

Pittsburgh will leave the Bay Area having fropped its past six games in which it was swept by the Rangers and most recently the A’s.

The Bucs have dropped 19 straight road games and have been swept 10 times this season, five alone in the month of June.

Sunday was the best opportunity for the Buccos to earn a win. Just like finding a winning season these past 17 years, it just was not meant to be.

kurt.jpgOakland defeated Pittsburgh after a Kurt Suzuki 8th run solo home run to eventually be the deciding blow in their 3-2 victory.

Suzuki is flying under the radar this year just as he has throughout his career. He connected for his tenth homerun of the year to accompany a .264 batting average. Along with a team leading .442 slugging percenatge compiled with 31 home runs Suzuki reaps great production as a catcher. He is among the best in the league and should recieve a call to travel down the Pacific Coast Highway to Anaheim for this year’s All-Star Game.

 

The whole weekend was completely dismal for the Pirates. On Friday they were destroyed   14-4 while losing second baseman Neil Walker to a concussion he suffered during a collision. He has had some time off but will not be placed on the disabled list.

I for one have never suffered a concussion. Rarely do I even get headaches, it is a wonder because it does run in my family. But I would defintely need as much rest as possible and would not feel like doing anything for days. I do think watching the Pirates play this weekend made Walker’s recovery time have to last a bit longer, probably made his head hurt a lot worse.

Saturday night was an absolute disgrace.

 

dancutch.jpgIt was a turn back the clock night as the Pirates paid tribute to their “We Are Family” days of the 1970’s. They did so by only tabbing five hits in a 5-0 shutout. The Pirates of 2010 disrespected the uniform worn by so many legends of the ’71 and ’79 World Champions. Willie Stargell had to be looking down on Oakland shaking his head.

The living legends who played in the black and gold during the glory days have to be embarrased to watch the team play today. Living legends like Phil Garner, Dave Parker and Omar Moreno have to be proud of their play for the Pirates and probably take pride in beautiful PNC Park, but to have a team that stands at 25-50 lose games so handily has to be detrimental to their spirits. If I was one of them I would demand change and demand it now.

The first step needs to be the firing of John Russell. 
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He’s been quite the head scratcher since he was called upon to replace Jim Tracy some three years ago. The expression you see on his face to the right really is permanently tatooed on his face. His indifferent attitude and questionable moves should be reason enough to get him out of the dugout.

The long standing cry has been to fire Russell because he fails to light a fire unde rhis team. Yes, that is surely true. Amongst reports that he can go weeks without talking to some players, it is the baseball mind of Russell that truly is his Achille’s Heel. With the oppotunity to have a Designated Hitter this past week Russell threw Milledge into right field, he would committ a handful of errors. Now Milledge should be an everyday player but when there is that opportunity to have a DH it is best to give him a break from the field and put a stronger fielder, Ryan Church or Delwyn Young into the nine-position. His use of the bullpen, particularly his choice of relief pitchers in certain situations brings out his lack of knowledge. Being a former big league catcher the game management skills of Russell should not be this poor.

Whatever the front office sees in their whipping boy that is Russell is beyond me. The Pirates will not even come close to the promised land of a .500 season this year but why not make a splash. Show the league and the 25 men on the team that you do care and get Russell out of here. Something needs to be done and it looks like the only thing would be to fire Russell.

photo credits: itsonthelist.com, espn.com, postgazette.com/AP, nbc.com

A Deeper Look Inside…Pedro Alvarez

 

pedro1.jpgWhen I visited Washington D.C. this past weekend I met up with my friend Marc who is currently in the nation’s capital on an internship. Being a Cubs fan he and I talked about the NL Central and how far out our respective teams are in terms of games back from the Cardinals and surging Reds. We also talked baseball in general. I had told him

“With Pedro Alvarez up we should be a better team with better run production.” He responds with a “Who is Pedro Alvarez?”

Well, I guess to those outside of Pittsburgh the legend of Pedro Alvarez has not been regularly relayed. So it is my civil duty to tell his tale. A tale of a shaky past, current talent and simply the future. The future for himself and an entire franchise.

Alavrez hails from the street of New York City. An area mostly billed for producing basketball
pedro2.jpg greats, Alvarez is a rare gem to step from the baseball diamond. His talent allowed him to go to Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. Turning down an offer to be drafted right out of high school Alvarez went on to set records for VU and helped the Commadores win an SEC Championship. Alvarez continued his stories undergraduate career on the USA national baseball team. His power and handiness with the glove at third base allowed him to always be the target of scouts and high draft classification.

He would be picked up after his sophomore season. The Pirates jumped on him at pick number two, but getting him in a black and gold uniform would not be easy. Even getting him through the system would not be easy. Heck getting him INTO the system would be one of the hardest things the Pirate’s management had ever done.

Being picked second demands and deserves big money. After a back and forth volleyball match between Neil Huntington and Frank Coonelly with Alvarez’s agent Scott Boras both sides reportedly came to an agreement just minutes before the August 15th signing deadline. But it still took until September to make both sides happy with a $6 million dollar deal. It was a messy situation that really made the Pittsburgh organization and Alvarez look bad and downright slimey. However inking Alavrez prompted Pirates owner Bob Nutting to claim Huntington and Coonelly as the “best management team in all of sports.” Take that in for a moment. It’s a wonder that the “best management team in allllll of sports” cannot put together a competitive club or show the comptence to do so. However, that is a whole other argument.

 

pedro3.jpgAlvarez was watched under a tight microscope throughout his short time in the minor leagues. He helped the Lynchburg Hillcats win their League title and rose through to the AA and AAA levels with his resounding bat, most notably being a strong power prescence.

He was brought up to the majors on June 16th to an adoring PNC Park crowd of 15,000. He did recieve a standing ovation as he walked to the plate just to strike out at the hands of John Danks. He finished that game going 0-for-2. It would take three more games to cross that proverbial threshold where he would collect his first big league hit. From there he would collect a sac fly to cap off a victory over the Indians last Sunday.

pedro4.jpgHe still only has three major league hits but will always be regarded as the best Pirates prospect since Barry Bonds. I’m no scout but at the age of 23 I still think Alavrez needs a tune up and some extra time in the minors would not hurt him. He is playing along a host of other first time big leaguers like Jose Tabata and Neil Walker. The 2010 season is already a wash why not groom him for a month or two more then bring him up when he is ready?

It seems as if Alvarez is over swinging at pitches and not locating them off the pitchers hand. He definitely needs work in the batting cage to develop a keener eye at the plate. He has warning track power that will slowly come more and more with more repitions. He will strikeout; alot. But that is what power hitters do. I will gladly take 95 strikeouts from a guy that is going to flirt with 45 homeruns each season.

It is going to be alot of trial and error with Pedro Alvarez (he already has one in the field) but if he even comes close to living up to his hype he will have a prosperous career and the Pirates will gladly reap the benefits. 

photo credits: ducksonthepondkid.com, straybaseball.com, reclinergm.com, facebook.com 

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.

dan potash.jpgThumbnail image for mil peeps.jpg

 

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

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.

Gyorko6710.jpg

 

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

Sanchez? Who is Sanchez?

If you are one of my good buddies reading this you will know where I am coming from with that title. If you are not, I will briefly explain.

The year was 2006 and my family and I were on a trip to Washington, D.C. On this one specific day we visited the U.S. Mint. Now I can’t say I remember too much about our tour of the mint but one moment will surely stick out for many years, and it has.

sanchez.jpgI was wearing my Freddy Sanchez All-Star T-Shirt. No big deal right?

But to Julio Martinez, the Mint security guard, it was.

“Sanchez!?! Who is Sanchez?” he excalims to me.

After I explain who the Pittsburgh second baseman was he showed a slight grin and hinted that he hopes to hear more about the solid player. Some four years later I hope he has had his fill of Freddy.

Now that wasn;t the best story in world but shoot it is in my circle of family and friends, we always get a laugh out of it.

While Sanchez’s career in Pittsburgh is over, he has began to make his mark in San Francisco. After battling through injuries at the end of last season after being traded to beginning this season on the disabled list Sanchez has started to turn things around.

After going 3-for-4 against the Pirates Friday night he continued to have a big series and drove in the winning run on Sunday, a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning.

Sanchez is now batting .371 although he has appeared in just 17 games. He was said to have started to wind down in his carrer but still has that knack at the plate. I feel he will be swinging strongly for quite sometime.

 

sanchez1.jpgThere may not be a classier ballplayer than Freddy Sanchez. In interviews after the trade that send him to San Francisco in exchange for minor league pitcher Tim Alderson, Sanchez has been nothing but respectful of his former city and club.

. The way the fans treated me was just awesome,” Sanchez told Post Gazette reporter Dejan Kovacevic, “I can’t wait to be back there and play in that stadium again.”

He recieved loud ovation this weekend and rightfully so, he earned it. While it may have been dissapointing, yet fitting, that he drove in the winning run to break open a 5-5 tie on Sunday what he did the day before is entirely admirable.

After donating much more $50,000 dollars to Western Pennsylvania Charities and other outlets to build baseball fields for special needs children, Sanchez and his family showed up at one of those fields to play ball with those kids. The Post-Gazette and USA Today have picked up on this story and I am sure we will be hearing more of it. Sanchez the humanitarian is a fitting nickname that will stick because of his strong willed attributes. 

How many players, scratch that, how many visiting team players would do that the afternoon before a game, let alone the day after playing a game that did not start until ten o’clock and probably did not finsih until almost 1 a.m.

Sanchez enjoyed his time in Pittsburgh. He was a loser only because of his team’s win-loss
Thumbnail image for 21.jpg record but still through all of it remianed a good sport and wanted to be in the Steel City. He has taken the high road by only talking about the good of Pittsburgh and wanting to come back. Players such as Nate McLouth, Adam LaRoche, Eric Hinske, Sean Burnett and other who have recently been traded have come right out and said they were happy to move on. To quote Frank Sinatra, Sanchez’s vagabond shoes were longing to stray, just not in New York City, but in Pittsburgh, Pa. He now reps the number 21. A shoutout to Clemente and Pittsburgh? Maybe.

photo credits: fansedge.com, postgazette.com, bayareasportsguy.com  

 

 

 

It’s been a while

These past few days have been pretty busy for myself. I hate makng excuses for not blogging especially in the summer when school is out, but I have been bogged down by work and other summer activities.

While you all have read about these three stories I am about to report on from many media outlets. I just want to give my two cents.

 

2cents.jpgThere ya go!

Anyway, a baseball legend has stepped down, and it really is a shame it had to end this way.
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There is not a soul that does not like Ken Griffey Jr. He is often hailed as a favorite players and the face of baseball. In the 90’s and 2000’s Griffey made the game of baseball accessible to a new audience. Inner city kids who would much rather pick up a basketball than a glove noticed “The Kid” dominate a sport with superb athletic ability at the plate and in the field. His image will forever be tied to greatness as an amazing ballplayer but maybe an even better role model.

Griffey’s career should have ended last year as a 39 year old. He wore out his welcome this year as he flirted with the Mendoza Line and failed to add to his 650 homerun total. He was carted off the field in last year’s season finale in Seatle, that epic ending should have been the perfect way to shut the door on a nearly perfect career.

 

It is sad when athletes wear out their welcome. Michael Jordan should have retired right there after that classic NBA Finals shot in Utah. Brett Favre is the rare excpetion to this retirement rule. I guess Griffey made the right decison to end his horrid play of 2010 to help out his struggling Mariners.

Point two may just be the hot button issue of the 2010 sports world. 

 

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There are so many opinions on what to make out of this Armando Galarraga not-so perfect game. So I will make mine short and sweet. Jim Joyce should have called Jason Donald out regardless. On a play like that you have to know what was at stake whether Joyce thought he was safe. It was a bang bang play and the tie, even though it was not, should have went to not the runner, but Galarraga.  

That all being said, it was not a perfect game! What makes baseball so unique is that human judgement that controls the game. For almost 150 years the game has been played naturally under the control of umpires. It is how it has always been the controversy and discussions add to make the game of baseball what it is. Replay should not be brought in. I do not want to see robots over seeing the basepaths or managers in the dugout throwing out challenge flags. Keep the game traditional and pure. However, in that situation other umpires, especially the homeplate umpire, should have been able to over rule or at least meet up with Joyce to decide that the right call was made. 

Finally, the least important topic has to do with a Pittsburgh hometown hero, Neil Walker. 

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The former 1st round draft pick has been milling around in the minors for quite some time. He struggled a bit for the past few years but since being called up he has been blazing a trail and surpassing expectations.

Walker won the game for the Pirates on Tuesday with an 8th inning 2-run homerun to beat the Cubs 3-2. Walker is maintaining a .321 batting average while switching between third base and second base. If he keeps this up he will definitely be a cornerstone on the Bucs for years to come.

 

photo credits: AP/Gene Puskar, mlive.com, vivalavidro.files.wordpress.com,

 

Pitt Peas back in Pittsburgh!

It has been a total of 15 excruciating days since I was last at my summer home, PNC Park. On Friday night I met my best friend Andrew in Pittsburgh to help open the weekend series with the Braves. I’ve said it before that Pittsburgh is a de facto halfway point for Morgantown and Youngstown.

The traffic into the city was horrendous. Parking was hard to come by once I escaped the bumper to bumper mess. It honestly was the worst I have ever seen the North Shore set up prior to a Pirates game. I expected a packed house with a shot at a sellout.

It was far from that. The announced attendance was just 22,000, still a decent crowd but with most tickets $7 dollars and a sweet Andrew McCutchen canvas photo wrap giveaway there should have been more people.

Many of the people were college kids, around my age. It is weird to be a Pirates fan in and around Pittsburgh for someone younger than the age of 25. There really has been a generation of Pirates fans lost thanks to the 17 straight losing seasons. I really do wish it was cool to be a Pirates fan but until that happens I’ll be stuck surrounded by hooligans who only go to the game to drink, meet with friends and start the wave while not paying attention to the game at all. Baseball ignorant people rub me the wrong way when I go to the park to enjoy a couple hours of a ballgame and to escape the outside world. PNC Park is my santuary for peace.

Anywho, the Pirates lost 7-0 and only managed four hits. Nothing went well for the Bucs. I expected a strong performance out of starting pitcher Ross Ohlendorf, but this guy made sure that didn’t happen.

 

DSCN2098.JPGThe Jay-Hey kid (I really do not like that nickname, it is cool no doubt but Willie Mays is the only one who should have that rhyming distinction). The 20-year old (I still can’t get over the fact that I’m older than this guy, I should be a Major League player!) belted a two run homer and teed off for a double. He will be fun to watch as I have already dubbed him the next Ken Griffey Jr. He has the marketabilty and is easy to connect with.

 

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If only I had a better camera. This was the at bat in which Jason launchedhis homerun over the Clemente Wall in left field.

This was the at bat that Heyward went deep in. You always see those flashbulbs going off when a big player steps to the plate. While it seemed that I was the only one snapping a picture of the future star I’m sure that in a few years ballparks will be flickering when he is at bat.

The night didn’t end after the blowout.

I met up with my friend Erin who is a regular reader of the blog. She recently graduated from Pitt and yes I do old that against her. However, she is an awesome girl who rivals me in terms of Pirates knowledge and passion. She also is in love with Nate McLouth. A man that I can just not respect anymore. 

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 The reaction to McLouth’s return to Pittsburgh was underwhelming. It was almost unheralded completely but there were more cheers than boos. I missed his first at bat as Andrew and I fought for parking while we made the game in the bottom of the second inning.

I couldn’t think of a better way to end the night than drinking away my sorrows of a shutout. We went to the Hall of Fame Club located below the scoreboard in right field. It is a cool place to hang out before of after the game and even watch the game from the deck area outside. Every so often there are former players and local celebrities that come by the HOF Club to pour drinks for patrons. Customers were treated to an appearance by one of the most famous Pirates of the last 20 years, Andy Van Slyke.

DSCN2106.JPGI do not remember much about Van Slyke as I was just around the age of three when he played. He autographed my program and fielded questions from thirsty guests. He said “There’s no doubt Barry Bonds used steroids” and “He was a jerk and a terrible teammate.” I told him I was a fan of the Tigers because at one time he was a coach for Detroit along with my favorite manager Jim Leyland. Former Pirate managers Gene Lamont and Lloyd McClendon were also on that staff. Literally the Detroit Pirates. Andrew brought up the Tigers-Twins playof play in game of last year dubbing it “the bets baseball game of all time.” Van Slyke agreed saying “it rocked.”

Speaking of Van Slyke it was fitting we met him on that given night. A parking garage between Heinz Field and PNC Park notes their levels based on fmaous Pittsburgh athletes. We just so happened to park on the Andy Van Slyke level.
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Now that was not our only coincidence of the night. There was a second that also has to do witha Pittsburgh celebrity.

Remember Erin? Pitt fan. Back in the Hall of Fame club we ran into the only person I respect at that school, basketball coach Jamie Dixon.

DSCN2105.JPGAfter shaking his hand I asked for the picture and then told him that I may get in trouble for this because I am a die hard West Virginia fan. He showed nothing but class and laughed at me. He boasted about Bob Huggins saying he is a first class gentleman and a great friend. I wish I would have taken my jacket off to show off my WVU shirt underneath. It was a once in a lifetime chance but I guess I took the high road and displayed an ounce of respect.

Once again it was a fun night, as all nights are in Pittsburgh, as all nights involving baseball are. Saturday’s game was not televised and I’m actually glad it wasn;t as Pittsburgh fell to ATL again. However Saturday’s game was on and boy was it grand. Ryan Doumit hit a walk off home run in the tenth inning to avoid the sweep.

 

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