February 2011

Pirates lose one of the family

 Yesterday it was announced that Pirates manager Chuck Tanner had passed away at the age of 82 after a long illness.

 There was reaction from many in the baseball world and all reactions were positive, as that was the kind of person that Tanner was. I never personally met Tanner, but from everything I have heard from people, he was just the nicest person and great to be around.

 Former Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda referred to Tanner as a “brother” when commenting on Tanner’s passing.

 Current Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm noted that he enjoyed every conversation he had with Tanner was a great and enjoyable experience.

 Pittsburgh-born Neil Walker understood Tanner’s impact as well, as he knew how important he was in Pirates history.

 Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig also remarked on Tanner’s legacy and what he will leave to the game of baseball.

 There was so much reaction and love from Pirates fans everywhere on Facebook, Twitter and other social mediums.

 If the Pirates do not observe a moment of silence on Opening Day and then make a patch on the jerseys with his name or number then it may be the lowest point in Pirates history.

 Again, I did not have the pleasure of meeting Tanner, he made you feel like you knew him with his kind nature and calling him Chuck just seemed so fitting.

 Shortly after the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh, where Tanner received a loud ovation from the crowd, Tanner had cancer and survived which prompted Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook to ask why Tanner could not live another 30 years or so.

 Regardless, Tanner won the hearts off all of Pittsburgh and he will always be remembered.

 Rest in peace Chuck!

Ross bosses Pirates in arbitration case

 Earlier this week the arbitration case of Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf was heard. Ohlendorf wanted a salary of $2,025,000 and the Pirates wanted $1.4 million. Those values aren’t significantly far but they were far enough for a case to be heard.

 The court ruled in favor of Ohlendorf and Ohlendorf will earn his desired salary of $2,025,000 for this, the 2011 season. Ohlendorf figures to be the number four starter for the season behind James McDonald, Paul Maholm and Kevin Correia.

 For the Pirates their record is three wins and four losses in the arbitration process. Ohlendorf in his own words says that he has a good relationship with the Pirates front office, and this salary increase is a huge increase from his previous salary of $439,000.

 This arbitration case was the first since Jack Wilson’s in 2004, when the court ruled in favor of Wilson.  

 Many people have argued that Ohlendorf does not deserve this raise as his record was 1-11 in 2010. While this may be true, that is not all that is taken into account. Ohlendorf was injured throughout the year and it affected his command, not to mention that all of his Pirates career is taken into account as well. Ohlendorf also pitched all kinds of quality starts and only racked up so many losses as he received no help from his team. Our offense seemed to always sputter when Ohlendorf made his starts, and our defense made all kinds of errors behind him. Ohlendorf also had an ERA of 4.07 which is right around Major League average.

 Ohlendorf will have a much better year this season, and will put this behind him and go out and prove that he is better than what last year’s record shows.

8/17 Pirates vs Florida Marlins on field pictures

 I told you that I would post the pictures of myself on the field on that wonderful August day. I finally have a few of the pictures and I hope to update the pictures as I get more. Here they are:

Zack Hample Book Review

I was pleased to receive a galley for Zack Hample’s third book, The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals and Secrets Beneath the Stitches. For future references I will call the book “The Baseball” to try and shorten things up.

 All in all, this was a very interesting book. The book itself is divided into three parts “Baseballs in the News”, “Historical and Factual Stuff” and “How to Snag Major League Baseballs” (not to be confused with the title of his first book).

After a brief intro, the book gets started with part one. Part one is five chapters and 77 pages and covers a lot of topics.

 Hample talks about early on in baseball history when teams only carried a few baseballs and that fans were not allowed to keep them as they would be used game after game until they became almost impossible to track. Hample further discusses owner Charles Weeghman who let fans keep baseballs hit to them. Weeghman saw that letting fans keep a baseball would bring more fans to the ballpark, and would earn a profit, as despite having to constantly pay for new baseballs, he was getting more money in return for eager fans who wanted to take home a part of the game.

Hample also briefly discusses what happened to baseballs in specific games. The most notable examples were of fans Steve Bartman and Jeffrey Maier. You all know that Bartman was the Chicago Cubs fan that interfered with a foul ball that then Cubs outfielder Moises Alou could have caught. Many blame him for the Marlins advancing past the Cubs and winning that year’s World Series. Jeffrey Maier was the fan who interfered in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) and caught a Derek Jeter home run. The New York Yankees were playing at home against the Baltimore Orioles and Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco had a chance at the ball. Eventually the umpires ruled the call a home run and New York treated him as a hero. Maier moved on to play college baseball.

Hample also discussed the evolution of the foul ball. Baseball used to have hitters that would hit all kinds of foul balls just to tire out a pitchers arms. In today’s game you see nine pitch battles but back in the early stages of the game, it was not uncommon to see hitters foul back 20 pitches. Hitters also hit the ball in specific places sometimes as well.

 Hample also talks about death in baseball. I found that interesting, because many fans view baseball as just a game but sometimes baseball can be a life or death situation. He also discusses former player Juan Encarnacion who had a foul ball strike him in the eye while he was in the on-deck circle and he never played the game professionally again.

 A highlight of the book was the “Baseball in Pop Culture” chapter. In this chapter, Hample breaks down instances in various television shows and movies such as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and describes where baseball came into play and how legitimate the scene was to real life. Very recently, an article was written about the actual game that Matthew Broderick who played Ferris Bueller in the movie and the game they attended to make that movie possible. It was an interesting read. Unfortunately that article came out, so Hample could not put it in the book, but if you read this part of the book then you should read the article.

 Another cool part of the book was the celebrity ballhawk part. This showed celebrities catching baseballs. While a negative of the chapter was the part about Justin Bieber and the picture that followed it, the chapter as a whole was extensive and showed things that the reader did not know as Hample had a chance to be a critic.

 The second part of the book came after this chapter. As a warning, it is recommended that you the reader do not read this whole part in one sitting. It is very detailed an extensive and is highlighted by how the baseball has evolved each year. The history lesson starts in 1847 and concludes in this year, 2011 with the current price of a baseball.

 The huge history lesson on the baseball takes up more than 59 pages of the book and Hample said that it was the hardest part of the book to write and understandably took the longest time to complete.

 After that is a part on what is inside the baseball itself and Hample’s visit to the Rawlings Factory in Costa Rica. There also are a ton of pictures here (always a plus) of many different kinds of commemorative baseballs.

 After another chapter is part three, which Hample is a professional at; ballhawking.

 I was pleased to see that Hample took the time to make a completely new section in ballhawking instead of just copying and pasting the entire contents of his first book. Hample told me that his outlook on ballhawking is different and he is embarrassed by that first book now as he feel that he came off as greedy and selfish. This is the ultimate guide on how to take home a baseball (or two, or three, or you get the idea) from any game that you go to. Hample guarantees that if you follow his advice, that there should be no reason why you do not go home with at least a baseball at every game that you attend. Hample teaches the reader what to do when it rains at a game, what the glove trick is, how to dress and much much more.

 Hample also talks to the ten most successful ballhawks and finds out about their life both in and out of the ballhawking world. It is interesting to hear some of the stories behind some of the people who have ballhawked for quite a while now.

 Hample also has some memorable moments in ballhawking and the best stadiums for ballhawking.

 For those who don’t understand it or even those who need a refresher, some ballhawking terms are used in a glossary.

 Hample hopes that with this part of the book, those who have not approved of ballhawking in the past will not consider it bad or evil any more and perhaps will gain an understanding of it.

 I understand that many people who will pick this book up will bypass the ballhawking aspect of the book as it may not be for them, but even without the ballhawking section, there still is a ton of information here. As mentioned earlier in this review, Hample visited the Rawlings Factory in Costa Rica, but also went to Coors Field home of the Colorado Rockies to check out the humidor where they store baseballs, found out how to rub baseballs at Citizens Bank Park home of the Philadelphia Phillies and visited many other ballparks he either had not attended or had not visited in years. He did all kinds of other research for this book and you can tell by reading this book. Hample told me in an interview that he bet that fans will learn a whole lot by reading this book and may not even know 10% of the material in this book.

 Despite the obvious fact that this book can be intense at times, Hample said that the reading age for this book should be ages 10 and up. I personally do not think a 10-year-old could not handle the second part of this book, but I have been proven wrong before. For everyone else, whether you are just a baseball fan or want to read a good book, this is the book for you. It also helps that the book is affordable considering today’s economy and the money situation.

Basic Information:

Price: $14.95 US Price; $16.95 Canada Price

Pages: 368

Paperback

Title: The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals, and Secrets Beneath the Stitches

Publisher: Vintage Original (division of Random House Inc.)

Date of Release: March 8, 2011

Other books written by Hample: How to Snag Major League Baseballs, Watching Baseball Smarter

PirateFest 2011 Sunday Recap

 Because the Pirates gave me two more free season ticket passes for PirateFest I decided that I would go to Sunday, the last day of PirateFest.

 I went to Sunday’s event with my friend Andrew. He arrived at my house a little late and thus when we went into line it was a couple of minutes after one, when the gates opened. His brother went with him, and when we went back into line where the line went as far back as the Convention Center would allow and then wrapped around. The line did not move as quickly as Friday and it took about 10-15 minutes to get in.

 We parted ways when we got inside and I immediately went back into the MVP Zone. I of course went to the autograph line fully expected to be surrounded by spoiled brats, as Sunday is usually kids day, but that was not the case, as I waited to get the signatures of Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf. Maholm apparently took the 28 off of his signature at PirateFest.

 Something I forgot to mention in Friday’s entry was that I had a brief conversation with him when I got my picture taken at the FanFoto booth. The Pirates had a few players there periodically throughout PirateFest and I happened to stumble upon Paul. We took a photo and chatted. I wish I could have received the photo as Paul and I both had great smiles, but it was $25 for two pictures. I am not paying that much for two pictures regardless of the size. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have enough money with me, the price was nuts.

 I ran into Val Kercher, my 10 pack representative two seasons ago. She was the one who first recommended me being a season ticket holder. We caught up a bit and then Ohlendorf overheard me saying that that past Tuesday was my birthday, and he said “Happy birthday” to me, rather loudly which was surprising.

 I then left the area and went over to the PirateFest Stage where Evan Meek had just finished a game and he was coming down the steps. I had on my new black and yellow/gold Pirates shoes and I went right to him. Meek said an enthusiastic “Hey Zac! What’s up?” He then offered a handshake which I took. We took this opportunity to catch up as about 10-15 other people came up to him. People were asking him for autographs and pictures and he ignored them in favor of a three minute conversation with Meek.

 We had a great conversation and he signed my PirateFest program before we parted ways. This is why Meek is my favorite Pirate, he is a great guy both on a off the field and I cannot say enough great things about me. Evan, if you are reading this, shoot me a text, I can’t wait to see you in April!

 After our nice conversation, we parted ways with another handshake and he signed for those who had asked before leaving.

 I then started to walk around and quickly my back problems resurfaced, but I ran into a ton of familiar faces again and we struck all kinds of conversations.

 A couple of guys that I talked to a lot were Anup Sinha and Matt Weprich of ProScout Magazine. They had a special magazine on Pirates Prospects and rankings of them and it was an interesting read. I do not know much about the prospects, which is something I will get to do soon, but we had a few nice conversations between the two days I was present about all kinds of things and it was exciting. The booth was never really that crowded which was a shame because it would have been great to see them get more business, but they were great guys and it was great to interact with them.

 I then went over to PirateFest field and caught the end of the Youth Clinic with Jeff Banister and Manager Clint Hurdle. I was just in time to see a kid ask Jeff Banister if he had any World Series rings. Banister kindly responded that he did not but showed the kid his minor league ring and let him hold it and pass it around. Hurdle then said that he had been to the World Series three times, once as a player, once as manager and once as a coach and he did not win in any of the three appearances. Hurdle then remarked that he heard somewhere that the “fourth time was a charm”, which drew some laughs from the crowd, which was mostly made up of parents and their children.

 Hurdle and Banister then signed some autographs, and I went over to talk once again to Joe Klimcak and we caught up and talked some Pirates baseball and it was nice, because we never have had a conversation just involving Pirates baseball and we also seemed to be in agreement. At that point Hurdle came over as he was leaving for the day and he thanked Joe for everything and then he shook my hand last before departing through the curtain and leaving. I guess I can say that I left a lasting impression.

 After that, Andrew and I caught up and walked around together. At that point Evan Meek was being interviewed by a radio station at the radio booth and after the interview was over, he signed some more autographs, and I introduced him to Andrew and his brother got Meek’s autograph.

 After a couple more minutes, I split apart from them in favor of the MVP Zone, where Doug Drabek, a past Pirates hero whose son Kyle is a current Toronto Blue Jay and Jose Tabata were signing autographs.

 While in line I saw ballhawk Erik Jabs, and exchanged hellos. I told him that I was going to talk to Tabata entirely in Spanish and checked with him to make sure I was saying a sentence right, which I was. Tabata was not talking to anyone and I figured that perhaps talking en espanol would break the ice.

 After one last signature, it was my turn. I wish that I had brought my camera today, but unfortunately I did not. I started off my conversation with Tabata, and I was right as I talked entirely in Spanish, and I could barely hear him, but as expected he talked quite fast but we held a conversation for a minute or two and then I said thanked him and said good-bye. I then got Drabek’s autograph on a separate PirateFest program, thanked him and left.

 I then ran into Danny a season ticket holder and Erik came into the conversation soon after. It was a nice 10-15 minute conversation and then we all parted ways.

 The wait was a little while so I caught up to Andrew who did see a part of our conversation. Nothing special really happened but it was cool to walk around and hang out.

 We then came to the West Penn pitching booth again which noticable looked worse for the wear as the top left part was not up and it was folded back because someone threw a hard pitch.

 After that I saw that Andrew McCutchen was by himself in the MVP Zone and the line was backed up past the entrance. I decided to go for it and sure enough I parted ways with Andrew and got in line.

 The wait was a little while, especially since my back was a mess. Still, I saw Matt Peaslee again and that made things better. We talked for a little bit and ultimately took a picture. Again please visit his blog, as it is a great blog about the Pirates. He also bought a Delwyn Young banner for $25 while at PirateFest. The banner is only one of two (Delwyn has the other) and are the banners that hang outside of PNC Park. Again please follow his blog at http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com.

 When I got up front, I heard McCutchen mutter something but I just could not make anything out.

 When I left I walked around a bit more and struck more conversation. I checked out some cards and some things that I never got to see on Friday such as the new batting practice jerseys.

 I also passed the new promotions again and took note of those as well.

 I finally decided that I had experienced enough standing and wanted to eat. I was around 3:30 and smack dab in the middle of Deal or No Deal where Jeff Karstens and Ross Ohlendorf were the bankers. You could tell that it was the end of PirateFest, because the offers soon became better than the grand prize.

 Finally it was the time of the day that I was really looking for, as after the last game, the freebies were given away. Announcer Tim Nevrerett was giving away Parrot dolls, the Pirates people were tossing baseballs which I could not get even close to as I was on the other side. I think Jeff Karstens gave away t-shirts and DVD’s but not sure. I was on Ross Ohlendorf’s side. I could not get the Pirates jackets he was throwing but he handed me a DVD. It wasn’t just any DVD though as it was the DVD of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series that just came out. The list price of the DVD is $29.95 and they were just giving it away. It is a two-disk DVD with 3 hours and 44 minutes of footage.

 A funny story about the DVD was that after the initial screening at the Byham Theatre was that there was a season ticket holder sweepstakes and I was one of the winners. The screening was at Lowe’s in the Waterfront, however I never made the screening because I never found out that I won until the day after the screening when I was talking to my season ticket holder representative. I was supposed to receive an email that I won but I never got it.

 We then stayed until PirateFest was over to try and get more free stuff and I ended up with a couple of goodies including a shirt. Andrew’s brother also got an autograph from Jeff Karstens before he left PirateFest. It was my first time staying until the end as I left early Sunday last year because I was under the weather that whole weekend. So it was interesting to see people put the stuff away and wrap things up.

 With that, PirateFest was over and I was sad because I will not see any live baseball action until April, but these two days of PirateFest reminded me how much I have missed baseball.

Prediction Pittsburgh Steelers vs Green Bay Packers

 I know this is an MLB blog, but this game has implications in Pittsburgh and thus I post my predicition. Tomorrow night the Steelers will try to win their seventh Super Bowl which would extend their lead for most Super Bowls done. To do it, they will have to beat a worthy and equally historic Green Bay Packers team. Here is how I see things turning out.

Quarterback: The matchup simply comes down to Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers. Both have had their troubles this season, as Ben Roethlisberger was suspended the first four games of the season due to a much publicized off-the-field matter. Coming back, it took him a game or two to get accustomed to his surroundings. The team did go 3-1 in his absense. Rodgers has already suffered two concussions and rumor has it that he suffered a third in the NFC Championship game against the Chicago Bears. Rodgers is a better passer overall than Rodgers, however he lost his running game for the entire regular season, and also lost his favorite target in tight end Jermichael Finley. Rodgers overall is the better passer, however Roethlisberger has two things on him. The first is that he has two rings. I know that Roethlisberger did not play well in Super Bowl 40 against the Seattle Seahawks, but he made the big throws when he had to. Roethlisberger had a clutch performance in Super Bowl 43 against the Arizona Cardinals and was the key to the Steelers win. Also, when the two minute warning comes, there is no quarterback in the league better then “Big Ben”. The game should be a close one and if the Steelers end up with the ball, then look out.

Edge: Steelers

Running Backs: This matchup is much closer than you would have expected. For Green Bay when Ryan Grant when down for the season early, you would have thought that the season was either over or close to it. People knew that Rodgers would have to carry the load. Many did not pick Green Bay to make the Super Bowl. This actually was what I predicted the Super Bowl Matchup to be from the beginning and I stuck with it. Brandon Jackson did not get the job done for Green Bay and in the playoffs James Starks has come up big. He has not faced a defense like Pittsburgh’s though and it looks like the James Starks bandwagon may finally come to an end. With Pittsburgh, the key for them is running. Green Bay has a great pass defense, and they will have to run the ball on Green Bay’s suspect run defense. Perhaps a similar strategy to the one they used in the AFC Championship game, where they ran the ball down the New York Jets and their throats early and often will be in effect. Also Issac Redman could be a huge X-Factor. You remember in Super Bowl 43 Gary Russell had negative yardage but he scored a touchdown. I really think that Redman could score a touchdown. I think that this is where the Steelers will win or lose the game.

Edge: Steelers

Wide Receivers: Wow, this is really close because the wide receivers are so similar to each other. Essentially Donald Driver is Hines Ward. Both are leaders, and possession receivers meaning they know where the marker is and they can get you a first down. Edge to Ward for leadership and that Driver drops the ball a little bit more. Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings are similar in that they are both the big deep threats for their respective teams. A rather larger edge to Jennings because he can go deep, but he also can be a possession receiver, which is a part of Wallace’s game that he does not do well. Both teams have good supporting receivers, as Jordy Nelson comes to mind for the Packers and both Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown come to mind for the Steelers. Brown came up huge against the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens making two clutch catches to seal the win for Pittsburgh in both games. Nelson is equally huge especially in that NFC Championship when he was making all kinds of catches.

Edge: Packers

Defense minus safety/cornerback: The Steelers have a huge defense with all kinds of players, as James Harrison, Lamarr Woodley, James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons among others really have come up huge this season. Green Bay has been led by B.J. Raji and Clay Matthew but their front is nowhere near as intimidating as the Steelers. It is only close because the Steelers have an offensive line that is devastated by injury.

Edge: Steelers

Safety/cornerback: I made this a separate category because the difference right now is dramatic. Troy Polamalu may be one of the best players in the game, but right now he is not even close to 100% and you can tell because he is missing tackle and is just not playing like himself. Charles Woodson has pumped himself up so much that he already envisions himself into the White House. The Packers have had their cornerbacks come up much bigger in the playoffs as they shut the Bears down. The corners are so much better prepared in Green Bay.

Edge: Packers

Coaching: The Steelers are led by Mike Tomlin and the Packers are led by Mike McCarthy. We all know that McCarthy has tied to Greenfield in Pittsburgh. He also was able to come in and move past the Brett Favre drama and move over to Rodgers who knows what to do know and is equipped with all of the tools to become a winner. Tomlin also is a winner and the youngest coach to win the Super Bowl in its history. Tomlin has to believe that he is in a good position to win again. The team has definitely improved in special teams and has Dick LeBeau as its defensive coordinator. He definitely has the edge over Dom Capers in that regard.

Edge: Steelers

Hair: Both Troy Polamalu and Clay Matthews have taken great hair to the next level. Polamalu has to get the edge because his hair is insured and his Head and Shoulders commercials are funny.

Edge: Polamalu

Prediction: I think this game will be a close one. Much like the BCS Championship, this game is expected to be high scoring, but I do not expect that to happen. I do think that the Steelers will miss Maurkice Pouncey and his replacement Doug Legursky will face early tests. The Steelers offensive line may not be able to hold it together, and I think that Roethlisberger will face a lot of pressure all game. I think when push comes to shove, the Packers will be leading at the two minute warning and the Steelers once again will have the ball. Two minutes is way too much time for the Steelers and as I said before, no one does the
two-minute drill better than Roethlisberger. I do think the Steelers will emerge victorious in the end.

Final Score: Steelers 28 Packers 24

MVP: Ben Roethlisberger

2011 PirateFest Friday Recap

 This is the second time I am writing this recap, so if I am missing something I apologize. I worked very hard on this entry the first time and then lost it all because I did not copy it incase something happened. Sure enough, the following page said that the internet could not display the page, so I am starting this entry from scratch again.

 I went to PirateFest with my friend Colston. Because I feared that the line would be long, I had Colston drop me off as he had to pick up his mother. I arrived at PirateFest at 3:45 all smiles and ready for the 4:00 start time.

 I did not expect the line to be as long as it was, but I did not expect 3,500 people (up 1,500 from last year’s Friday PirateFest) to show up on Friday for two reasons. The main reason was that it was season ticket friday, and the Pirates had limited the event to their biggest fans, their season ticket holders. There also was a Steelers rally which I thought would drag some Pirate fans away. These fans truly were the best of the best.

The 15 minute wait was seemingly endless, as I could not wait to get in there, as I was all the way at the back of the roped area, with a lot more people behind me. There were a few familiar faces that I saw in line though that passed the time a lot quicker. One of them was Matt Peaslee. Matt and I have had Facebook conversations and back and forth tweets and he like me has aspirations in the field of journalism. He also has a Pirates related MLBlog which you can follow here: http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com.

 Finally, I saw that the gates had opened to PirateFest and the line was moving. As I went in, I passed a Pirates arch which was over where my ticket was taken. I went in and immediately received a bag with a PirateFest program, a nice pocket schedule and a 2011 Pirates calendar very similar to the one they gave away a couple of seasons ago.

 When I went in, I immediately went into the MVP Zone where after checking in, I got into the surprisingly short autograph line where Garrett Jones and new Pirate Kevin Correia were signing. I had them both sign my program. I was surprised that people were not having Correia sign things. I was really looking forward to meeting him and that would have upset me if people did not want my autograph. I welcomed Kevin to Pittsburgh and he seemed to appreciate it. Garrett as usual was rather friendly and he always has been interactive with the fans.

 I then caught up with Colston and we went right across from the MVP Zone to the West Penn Allegheny Health System booth where we could throw a pitch as fast as we could. The radar gun was inaccurate though as the distance was not the proper distance and although my arm was rusty and I had not hit a gym in a month or so, there was no way that I threw only 36 miles per hour. Colston did worse than I did and he threw it sidearm, but the shameful damage was done.

 We then decided to walk around and see what all would be at PirateFest this year.

 We quickly saw the main PirateFest stage where it was set up for the Pittsburgh Pirates version of Minute to Win It.

We saw the usual games such as dart toss, chuck-a-luck and bean bag toss. The Minor League teams also all had booths as well to promote their teams. There also was the Pirates booth where you could show your Pirates pride in a video. It was a clever idea because when you entered your information you could spread the video over Facebook, Twitter and more. Mine for some reason did not work, but I saw others post videos on Facebook that looked great. Finally, there was a booth which if you entered your information, you received a card and this card could be shown at the Pirates Prize Wheels located throughout PNC Park and you could just show the card instead of filling out endless pieces of paper. You also were entered to win Pirates signed baseballs, jerseys and more.

 We then passed the Root Sports booth. Root Sports will take over what is now known as FSN and that switch will take place on April 1, just in time for the Pirates first game against the Chicago Cubs. I recorded my highlight there, which I have since posted to Facebook. The teleprompter was a little slow. When I was done, I collected a Root Sports bag, to hold my stuff and moved on.

 We were walking back to the PirateFest stage when we stumbled across the radio booth and Joe Bendel of ESPN 970 AM. He had Andrew McCutchen on as a guest and we lined up to try and get a picture. A ballhawk and his father then reunited and we both talked about how excited we were for the upcoming season. With that, the interview was over and Pirates people whisked McCutchen away before anyone could do anything. I managed to get a handshake before he left. For those of you who must know, his hand was a little sweaty,

 Before we took our seats, we visited the PirateFest stage where I saw my buddy Joe Klimchak. We had a nice handshake and I gave him a copy of the recent college newspaper where my article was in there.

 We then took our seats at the Minute to Win It stage and started to see failure in the first two contestants. The first was a seven-year-old kid, and he could not make it past the first contest which was to suck an M&M in a straw and transport it to the other side. Initially it was five M&M’s but because of his struggles, they switched it to one. He failed both times and got a hat.

 The second contestant wreaked of perfume and she failed the first time and she won the second time. She failed the next challenge though and she won a hat.

 The last contestant faced the pressure of Joe who said that if he failed, he would pick somebody that he knew would make it a few rounds.

 The last contestant’s name was Bob and he looked like he was in his mid 50′s and kind of looked like Santa Claus. He had his yellow Pirates Clemente jersey and his figure was Santa-esque and he had a mustache which rivaled Ray Searage. He won the first couple of rounds, and in fact, made it all the way to the final challenge.

 The highlight of the game was the Junk in the Trunk challenge where Bob had a tissue box on his behind with mini balls in the tissue box. He had to dance to get the balls out and it was quite funny as he did not dance that gracefully. Still, he won the game and won some fans in the audience.

 He risked all of the prizes he had earned to take part in the last challenge which was to keep three balloons up in the air for a minute. He had two chances to do this, as he never did lose before that, however he lost both times. He was barely able to hold all three balloons in his arms, and that was a bad sign. He did win four club seats though, and he might have won a hat too, I am not sure.

 I then told Colston that I was going to walk around, and sure enough I ran into a ton of people and had a ton of conversations. It was nice to converse with the people.

 At that point, the live taping of Inside Pirates Baseball was about to begin, and I had my camera ready as I was taking a lot of pictures of the goings on. I was going to take a picture of Stan Savran prepping to do the show, but without saying a word, Stan actually turned around and smiled. I knew that this was going to be fun.

 As the show started, Rob King came in, as he prepared to do the intro with Stan. At the start of the show, I was the lone person in the crowd and I was right behind Stan. A lot of people later told me that they saw me, and I had recorded the episode, so I was excited to see the result.

 As Rob and Stan were doing their intro, a familiar face started to appear, it was Evan Meek. I slowly walked over to him and we proceeded to have a quick conversation. He said to me,” Hey Zac, Squirrel Hill, right?”  We continued our conversation as he went for the pound, and it was great, but soon after he told me that he had to go sign autographs with Jose Tabata in the MVP Zone. We parted ways, and I was more excited than ever. In fact, it was cool to see the fans that started to surround me and give me surprised looks. They seemed shocked that I knew Evan and the looks on their faces were priceless.

 After that, Stan revealed who would be on the show and shortly after I saw Chairman of the Board Bob Nutting. I decided to pose for a picture with him. The picture ended up failing though as someone called his name at the last second and he did not look into the camera. We had to do a second shot, and that one went a lot better.

 I also got to meet Manager Clint Hurdle for the first time. He was very nice to all of the fans, and I was very impressed by the things he said throughout the night. I posed for a picture with him as well and we parted ways with a handshake.

 I stayed at the Inside Pirates Baseball show for a good 30 minutes before I went back over to the PirateFest stage. It was at this point where my back gave out because of the hours of standing.

I remained standing for Ask Pirates Management, as the area was crowded and soon after ran into Colin Dunlap the new Pirates beat writer. I found out that we shared many of the same concepts and beliefs about the Pirates. We both are optimistic about the future and think that Ronny Cedeno does not belong in the big leagues. We parted ways, as he was transcribing some of the Q&A alongside of Jen Langosch. We would meet again later in the day as he was getting ready to leave, and I believe that our paths will cross again soon.

 I then sat back down for the regular Q&A with all of the Pirates players (sans Jeff Karstens, Jose Tabata and James McDonald) and coaches. One little kid asked Andrew McCutchen for his autograph and McCutchen did sign for him, although soon after jealous others asked McCutchen for his autograph and he said “we’ll see” (he left immediately after).

 The weirdest question of the night was directed towards Garrett Jones. A man asked that of Jones, “Hypothetically if my daughter was to marry you (Jones has a girlfriend), which player on the team would be your best man?” After some laughter from the audience and some puases from Jones, the answer turned out to be Steve Pearce. The questioner then thanked Jones who whispered the word “awkward” into the mic. Also worth noting is that Neil Walker will use fellow Pittsburgh native Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” when he steps up to bat this season.

 After Q&A was over, I got to redeem the free meal that I received upon entry at PirateFest and got myself a hot dog, Cracker Jack and some lemonade.

 When I came back, I ran into Randy Page, better known as “Big Yellow” and we exchanged a handshake and a quick conversation. He ended the conversation, as he was going over to PirateFest field to partake in the Perogie Eating Competition, which he won. We caught up at the end of PirateFest where he told me about the win.

 I sat down and watched Deal or No Deal and saw Evan Meek and Garrett Jones as bankers. By the second game, they started going easier on the contestants. Again the prize was the 20 game season ticket plan, which was useless as we all were season ticket holders.

 The last contestant won the big prize and everyone was happy for her as she was an older lady and walk using a walker. She was helped up and down the stage by Meek and Bob Walk, the announcer of the game.

 With that, all of the stage games were over and things were wrapping up for PirateFest. A lot of the season ticket holders had already left, and the MVP Zone no longer was doing autographs, so kids were playing Wii Sports, while others played pool and relaxed on the chairs.

 My father was about ready to pick me up, and I was bundled up ready to go outside, but at the last minute took a picture with President Frank Coonelly before I left.

 I had a lot of fun at Friday’s PirateFest and would be back Sunday for much more. My next post actually will be my Super Bowl Prediction and then I will make a post for Sunday’s PirateFest.

 

Great MLBLOG Honor

 I would like to take this time to thank everyone who has stumbled upon or read my blog. My blog was ranked #50 among fans for traffic in January 2011! This was the first time my blog has achieved this honor.

There were so many highs that I accomplished in January as I interviewed Zack Hample who has a new book coming out next month, teased PirateFest and even wrote a couple of PirateFest posts. Thanks again every body. I have two more PirateFest posts and then I will review Zack Hample’s book. I look forward to hearing what you guys have to say. It is your support that keeps me going.

PirateFest recap Part 1: Photos

 My formal breakdown of PirateFest will come later, but for now I took all kinds of photos on Friday and these were the results. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @wewill1992 or friend me on Facebook at Zac Weiss. My profile picture is myself with Clint Hurdle

 

 

 

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