Results tagged ‘ Garrett Jones ’

Bowling With the Bucs 2012

I will start this entry off by saying that I missed this event so much last year after participating in 2009 and 2010. Despite the high cost, Bowling With the Bucs benefits various charities and is worth every penny. Why don’t I let this pictures do the talking, and then I will come back with comments.

Myself with Pirates bullpen catcher Herbie Andrade. He has been so great to me and I specifically wanted my picture with him first. He was in the lane next to mine for the second straight time which made me extremely happy.

Pirates starter Kevin Correia was in the other lane next to me. He was cracking jokes all night. He guaranteed a home run in his next start which was this past Thursday vs Stephen Strasburg. He ended up going 0-2 with two strikeouts. Oh well.

I wanted this picture so badly in 2008, so I was really excited when four years later, I could get this pic with fellow lefty Nate McLouth.

Here I am with Chris Resop, one of the two Pirates that chaired this event. Glad to see that smile on his face.

The next image was the one you saw in my last entry with Mark Strittmatter. Here I am with Andrew McCutchen. Yes, I am close to blinking but I had to get my picture with him since I did not get one yet.

Well I choked those last frame and lost game one by seven pins.

Who does not love J Hay? This guy is the underdog and a fan favorite. I love how he seemed so excited to be at the event. When he hit the walkoff on Mother’s Day, I was so happy for him.

Garrett was in my lane, which really pleased me.

With this picture of former Pirate John Wehner, I now have a picture with all of the current Pirate broadcasters.

I am with reliever Juan Cruz who was a great non-roster invitee and has only been scored upon once this season.

Posing with infielder Casey McGehee.

Bullpen Coach Euclides Rojas has been nice to me since he kept seeing me early last season. Lately in addition to our hellos, he said that he was glad to see me. I told him as well as Herbie about my charity initiative and they have been even more helpful. I don’t know what I would do without them.

Posing with Pirates reliever Jared Hughes.

Here with reliever and buddy Jason Grilli. We had a nice convo during the offseason and he interacts a lot with the fans on Twitter. Definitely someone to get to know. Infectious personality.

Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan, the other of the two chairs of the department along with Chris and Joel’s wives Kara and Kim. Joel surprised me when he knew my name and then said that, “I was everywhere”. That was pretty awesome if you ask me.

Yes my strained back was still 75-80% but still not please with my second game. I still won the lane though and beat Garrett Jones which is still cool.

All in all Bowling With the Bucs 2012 was great. It was worth every penny which is hard to do since I paid $137.50. I would recommend this event but not if you just want to bowl. I only bowled two games, so if you are going to meet/interact with players and fans and are willing to help out charity, then this event is for you. This event offers more access to the players than a PirateFest does. This also offers you access to almost all of the team, something you may get with only a couple or so players as a season ticket holder.

The Pirates off the top of my head that were not present were hitting coach Gregg Ritchie, pitchers A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard, catchers Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry and outfielders Yamaico Navarro and Jose Tabata.

Root Sports here in Pittsburgh will have a special for Bowling With the Bucs this coming Thursday at 6 PM Eastern Time. I know I said a couple of small things on there and filmed a less than stellar shot of mine so there is a chance I will make it on.

Finally, a couple of buddies and fellow season ticket holders sit in section 134 of PNC Park and write a blog. They interviewed me in a blog post entitled ‘Bowling with the Bucs’ a Success for Weiss, Fans.

Here is the link to a post, which includes more info on Kevin Correia’s home run guarantee, my charity iniative and how to follow me on various social media networks:

http://section134blog.com/2012/05/09/bowling-with-the-bucs-a-success-for-weiss-fans/

Pirates avoid arbitration with Hanrahan and Morton

The Pirates had an active morning starting with the signing of their all-star closer Joel Hanrahan. The signing means that the Pirates avoid arbitration for Hanrahan. The Pirates and Hanrahan agreed to a one-year deal worth $4.1 million with incentives based on performance totaling $50,000. Last season, Hanrahan went 1-4 but had an ERA of 1.84 and had 40 saves. Clint Hurdle seemed to make it clear that Hanrahan was to be used only to save games. Hanrahan also seemed to struggle with the four out save. The record is a little alarming and the ERA could have been lower had it not been for a regression in the second half of the season. Hanrahan still has that great fastball and I think he could be very successful. A very good and important sign for this Pirates team.

Hanrahan is on the far left in this picture

The Pirates also signed Charlie Morton to a one year deal. The deal is worth $2,445,000. I am sure the amount could have been higher had it not been for an injury Morton is working back from. The injury will force him to be unavailable for Opening Day and late-April is his estimated time of arrival back to the Pirates. Morton went 10-10 last season with a 3.83 ERA. Morton saw a delivery overhaul when he switched to pitching in a style similar to that of Roy Halladay. He earned the nicknames “Ground Chuck” and “Electric Stuff” for these efforts and while his control sometimes was off, the results were much better for both Morton and the Pirates.

Charlie Morton is on the far right of this picture

I got a chance to speak to both Hanrahan and Morton during the early stages of last season, and both were very candid with me.

Morton talked to me about the delivery and how it was started during Spring Training. This does not seem like a big deal now, but this was in April, before the media really picked up on the story and made it into (in the Post-Gazette’s case) a two part series. I found it telling that he compared this new motion to the old one.

“I think what happened was mechanically, I was showing the ball really early,” Morton said. “I may have been tipping pitches, I’m not sure, but I know that the hitters were seeing the ball really well. I adjusted some things, and release the ball a little later and as a pitcher, you can see the swings of the hitters. When I started seeing guys late on pitches after the adjustment, even if they were right down the middle, I knew was heading in the right direction, and that allows me to be confident.”

For Hanrahan, he was talking to me about that feeling of nailing down the save and having total control over any hitter that stepped up to the plate.

“That’s a great day any day you can do that,” Hanrahan said. “It’s a long season, long year, and the games are kind of long themselves, so once you get those three outs, everybody’s kind of relaxed a little bit more, and it’s one of the best feelings you can earn that day.”

As a side note, a quick congratulations to Joel Hanrahan on now being a married man as he tied the knot very recently with Kim.

The Pirates now have four arbitration-eligible players left, and they are Garrett Jones, Jeff Karstens, Casey McGehee and Evan Meek.

Pirates vs San Francisco Giants 4/26 PNC Park

 Before I begin, let me explain. This entry is written in a Times New Roman font, and that is because I typed it on my computer before I placed it on here. I had a tight timeline when I first typed this and I figured this would work just as well.

This day started with a lot of promise. I had read a post from Twitter from @BucsInsider and saw that the first 15 people to meet at the Pirates Clubhouse Store would get a pair of tickets to the Pittsburgh Baseball Club for the game. Naturally, I never had a chance to experience this, so I decided to go and sure enough I landed a free pair of tickets to the game. To be honest, with rain in the forecast I would not have taken it otherwise.

 Here is a photo of me posing with the two tickets that I was given.

            When I was in one of my later classes, I saw the rain and groaned as I knew that batting practice was cancelled immediately. I then got a text stating that the tarp would go on the field at four, an hour earlier and it confirmed my worst fears that there would be no batting practice.

            I went to this game with my friend Andrew, and ultimately got the first spot in line. I was just ahead of Ian Weir and Erik and Nick opted not to go because the tarp covered the field.

      Here’s proof of the line behind me. I know not much of a line, but that was the line just moments before going into the ballpark.

           

    And then this is Ian and myself.

When the gates opened, I charged in ahead of the pack. The gates actually took longer to open, because they were trying to work the scanner. I immediately searched thick and thin for Easter eggs and overran one which Ian got. I have mixed feelings about it as of course I wanted to add to my total, but the ball was soaked and was bigger. It essentially was a play that was similar to how I performed on Saturday.

            Evan Meek then came out to throw with a fellow Pirate. I was too far away to see who it was, but he waved to me. He ended up tossing the ball to someone else, and it was almost time for the other gates to open, so I was getting ready to change into my Giants gear. All of a sudden, Meek was walking towards the bullpen. I was well aware that there was a ball in the visitor’s side of the bullpen, and I pointed it out to Meek (something along the line of “Hey Ev I think there is a ball in the bullpen” “Really, where? Oh I see it. Here you go”). He appreciated it, and ended up lobbing it up to me and with no competition I snagged my first ball of the day.

            I then went into the outfield and was about to start searching but I had a feeling that Ian had already searched the area between my time of getting the ball from Meek, and thus I went to the first baseline, where various Giants pitchers were warming up.

            The tarp was still on the field, however there was no rain, nor any impending threat of rain. Various pitchers were warming up, and I ended up getting lucky. Ian was right next to me and had his Giants gear, but I had a leg up on him, as I had gone on ESPN’s website earlier in the morning, and printed up the roster and some pitchers. I was able to correctly identify Madison Bumgarner, and after he finished his running, he picked up the ball. Everyone’s attention was elsewhere, and Ian was motioning for the ball. I somehow got a “Madison” out and before I even asked anything, I was thrown ball number 2, as I made an easy backhanded catch.

            I then tried other opportunities, however those did not work. I decided this was a good time to take a short break. Tim Lincecum had just finished pitching in the bullpen and came out. He ended up signing autographs, and I figured sure why not. I had him sign the ball that Bumgarner threw me, and although his signature much like Ubaldo Jimenez’s looks like weird scribble scrabble, it was cool to have his signature. Thanks Tim for rewarding the few fans that were there!

            I also got to see Brian Wilson but he didn’t sign autographs and his toss up went to the second deck. It was cool to see his beard.

  As for the game, it did not start on time. The game did begin at 7:50 even though no rain even fell. While we waited, we got to see Matt Cain warm up.

 

I missed on Andrew McCutchen’s first inning toss up and Garrett Jones’s second inning toss up although I was in the right section in both instances. With Cutch’s third inning toss up, it was clearly meant for me, however it was underthrown, and I had no play on it and I tried to recover but could not in time and was not happy about it. I continued the trend in the fourth as I was not even close on the Jones tossup.

           Meanwhile Charlie “Electric Stuff” Morton was dealing and pitch six plus solid innings. Good for Charlie after a poor start in his previous outing.

            With no homers heading out let alone my way, I knew that I had thus far snagged two baseballs and thus tied my mark from Saturday despite not even having any BP. In the fifth inning, I set myself up in a similar position to the catch from the Thursday game against the Brewers. Ian was unaware of this position as he had not seen this and neither Erik or Nick were in play, so Cutch gave me a chance, and I made a jump similar to that Thursday catch, and sure enough caught it on the top of my glove again. It was ball number 3 of the day.

            That was it for the day, as despite a cranky back yet again, I was able to run throughout the Riverwalk and left field. I left shortly after nine with the game in the sixth inning.

            The listed attendance for the game was just under 10,000 however clearly less people were at the game.

            I have a big day tomorrow with my media interviews. As a side note, I have been told not to post any of the quotes onto the blog and thus will respect these wishes. I may post an impressions post onto the blog, but we’ll see. Looks to be an exciting day.

            Three snags is pretty good for a non rain day and someone who was tired and had four classes or so. I am now at 94 career baseballs, and thus 100 total should be coming very soon.

          Ballhawking Stats:

     Balls snagged: 25

     Balls given away: 15

     Games: 6

Why the Pirates have been slumping

Catcher- Chris Snyder just came back and is starting to produce. Ryan Doumit is still not the answer defensively and his hitting was not good either. Jason Jaramillo was sent down and was the best of the three thus far as Snyder was injured. Jaramillo continued his good hitting from Spring Training and defensively is a clear improvement over Doumit. It seemed like the team never traded Doumit and the three catchers either are good offensively or defensively but never both. Thus they all are missing a part of the game and it sets the team back.

First Base- Lyle Overbay has been a mixed bag. This “great defender” blew a play the second game of the season which cost the team a game. Overbay hit a nice home run against St. Louis, but hs hitting is not great. Much like Adam LaRoche, the lefty Overbay is known as a slow starter and this haunts the team. Overbay has not had a hit against lefties and in a power position, and he cost a good deal of money for not producing. He is going to have to do more, or else Steve Pearce may get some looks at first base.

Second Base- Neil Walker has been one of the best performing Pirates. He has picked up where he left off last season. The average is down and the strikeouts are up, however the power has improved and he is showing that he can defensively handle the second base positon. Walker will need to continue hitting like this, and he will have to hit better against lefties. He also struggled during the homestand and he will have to hit better for the hometown crowd.

 Shortstop- Aki Iwamura gave up his position to Neil Walker, and if Ronny Cedeno is not careful, he could be next. Pedro Ciriaco had no reason to be sent down, especially since we have seen Cedeno and Josh Rodriguez get off to less than stellar starts. Cedeno usually starts off fast, and offensively he has not done much and he just is not getting the job done. Rodriguez has also had some good looks and he is just as bad. He was kept for his power, and I don’t see any power and I see a lack of patience at the plate. Cedeno has made a couple of spectacular plays at the shortstop position, however the routine plays such as grounders and turning the double play are just not up to snuff. Every time a grounder is hit his way, I hold my breath as it is an adventure. The shortstop position will need to produce more offensively and defensively will need to field their position.

Third base- Pedro Alvarez is expected to be the next big thing here in Pittsburgh. He is expected to be a power hitter and as a free swinger, is being compared to Adam Dunn. This season he has not met expectations. He is a notorious slow starter and in AAA last year hit in the .220′s this season. Alvarez will heat up when the weather gets hotter. His fielding is another story. His weight is in question and his fielding is inconsistent. He can make the plays half the time, and his arm strength is strong sometimes a little too strong. Steve Pearce has had looks at third and offensively hasn’t done much and defensively hasn’t done anything wrong, but hasn’t been truly tested. For all we know, he can do well but otherwise is could be another Delwyn Young experiment gone wrong.

Outfield- Jose Tabata has been the most complete player this season. He showed commitment to the team by putting on muscle and playing in the winter. He has already stolen seven bases and has added the home run to his game. He did well hitting leadoff but last night was bumped to the number two spot in the order. Despite his speed, he seems unsure in left field when he has to backpedal. Andrew McCutchen is known as a slow starter, however fans expected more from him after he tore the cover off of the ball in Spring Training. It seemed initially as though it would work as he hit two homers to start the season against the Cubs, but has since slumped. Clint Hurdle has tried to get him going again batting him leadoff but he struck out four times and was not a part of the offense. Furthermore McCutchen has as many steals for the team as I do right now- ZERO. McCutchen said at PirateFest that he wanted to have that “Ricky Henderson mentality” and know that the base was his when he would steal a base. He has looked like Lastings Milledge out there as the other day he was caught in a run-down. He like Alvarez will heat up soon. The platoon of Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones has not worked out well so far, with Jones hitting the lone homer. Diaz has been starting more as of late and he got two of the Pirates four hits on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers. They need to produce now as that has been a part of the offense that has been missing. Finally we have not had a good look at John Bowker yet, but we know that he earned his spot with a solid Spring Training. He has been relegated to pinch hitting but has not done much with that. I say give him a start and see what happens.

 Starters- The ace has been Kevin Correia and minus one inning on his start on Wednesday, he has pitched magnificantly. Correia gave up that homer to Fielder and was unable to field a bunt on Wednesday and that cost him, but he was able to pitch well in his previous starts. He will have to continue to pitch well as he is the ace, but I am unsure as to how long he can keep this up. Paul Maholm had his second great start on Thursday against the Brewers but took the loss giving up two runs in the first inning and was not helped by the offense or lack thereof. Paul has looked like Zach Duke at times as he has looked very hittable. He will have to be able to pitch inside more like he is trying to do. Ross Ohlendorf was the weakest looking of the starters, as he pitched ok at best in his first start against the Cubs and now is injured and Jeff Karstens has been forced back into the starting rotation when he will pitch tomorrow against the Cincinnati Reds. Charlie Morton has been nothing but stellar for the team, getting a complete game win last night. He changed his arm angle in Spring Training and the walks are finally down. I believe that before he was tipping his pitches, and now is getting a ton of groundballs due in large part to that newfound sinker. James McDonald was slated to be the team’s ace until his injury in Spring Training. I don’t have much on him, but now he should be able to pitch deeper in the games. He just needs to stop those innings where he labors. He seems to pitch 30-40 pitches in an inning and it effects how far he can go in his starts.

Bullpen- The plesant surprise has been Mike Crotta. That new sinker has proven to be vital and he already is a staple in the bullpen. Chris Resop had some trouble against the Chicago Cubs in the second game of the season, but since has looked pretty good and has picked up from where he left off last season. Joe Beimel is back off of the disabled list and we soon will find out what he has. He can be used in many different capacities and is the lone lefty in the bullpen after Garrett Olsen was designated for assignment. He was ok at best, but he was a good filler. Beimel is in his second tour of duty with the Pirates. Daniel McCutchen was called up during the season and he will now serve as the long reliever with Jeff Karstens now in the rotation. His ERA was a bit high last season and he will have to limit the mistakes. Jose Veras slow the pace of play when he pitches and earned the loss on Saturday against the Colorado Rockies when he gave up three runs in that infamous sixth inning. He has good stuff but needs to place his pitches in more adventageous positions so that he can take command of the batter. Evan Meek is finally coming back after the shoulder injury and before had a couple of bad outings in a row. Meek was sick it cost him dearly as his placement was off. He would leave pitches up to where hitters had no problem hitting him. When he came back Wednesday against the Brewers, his fastball topped at 92 when it usually tops out at 96-97 so the arm is not 100% yet. Lastly, Joel Hanrahan has done a solid job. He is not being called upon to close the game as much as the team only won one of six total games thru the first homestand. Hanrahan is the only closer in the NL Central who has not yet blown a save and he just seems to have extra competitiveness when he squares off against the hitter. Hanrahan is showing the Pirates that the made the right decision when it came to who would close the game.

My interviews at PNC Park 4/13/11

 *Note: Before I begin, I do want to say that I left a couple of quotes out, but these do not affect what you are reading. Enjoy!

Pittsburgh Pirates Media Interviews

Pregame:

Manager Clint Hurdle:

1.      What does a rainout do to you, particularly the pitchers?

“It’s plays out in different ways. There’s times you really prefer to keep playing and there’s times when a day off is nice. We had the day off, and I don’t think that anyone was clawing or scratching and kicking their teeth or was going to walk out the door and head home.”

2.      On Evan Meek being ready for tonight’s game

“He’s fit for duty. He really well could be (in terms of is he still sick).”

3.      Lined up rotation for Cincinnati

“We still have a TBA (to be announced) on the 17th. Friday and Saturday will just fall in order with (Charlie) Morton and (James) McDonald.”

4.      On whether Jeff Karstens is available in relief for Brewers series

“He will be available thru the series.”

5.      Season breakdown in days or weeks?

“I usually break things down into ten game sets. It allows you to look at everyone a little bit.”

6.      Thru ten games now

“I think we have done some things right and some things wrong. There is room for improvement in some areas.”

7.      On Josh Hamilton’s slide and advising players against sliding headfirst

“Yes all of the time. There’s two players in the Major Leagues right now Rafael Furcal and Josh Hamilton that were hurt for sliding first.”

8.      Is there any leeway when a manager argues balls and strikes?

“You are not gone automatically. If you leave the dugout you have a good chance of being gone automatically. I have had running commentary with every ump since the start of the season, some more then others. There are a couple of umps that don’t even acknowledge the fact that you’re there, I’m sure for all the appropriate reasons. Most guys will say, ‘that’s it, any more and you’re gone’.”

9.      On Garrett Jones not being in the lineup

“Yesterday, I was looking at a lineup from the standpoint that we were going to play the three games series and that there were going to be two left-handers. Right now, Matt is swinging the bat better, so this Marcum kid he’s an interesting pitcher, his lifetime splits are reversed. Right handers are hitting 108 points higher against him than left-handers. I already am throwing three left-handers in the lineup today. I’ve encouraged people in the past to live outside the box and be creative and initially I did not do that yesterday and I got to sleep on it for a night, and I thought ‘let’s go do it’.”

10.  On getting switch-hitter Ryan Doumit to bat from the right side of the plate

“We’ve had the talk. I wouldn’t force anybody to do it.”

Charlie Morton:

1.      Where do you weigh in on the whole Electric Stuff groups online?

“Electric Stuff? Do I endorse it (laughs)? I mean I think I have good stuff, do I endorse it, sure (laughs). I appreciate the support.”

2.      On his new arm angle

“We actually started to tinker with it probably in the second week of Spring Training. It’s still kind of new. I think during Spring Training, I was so focused on competing and I hadn’t really adapted to it the way I wanted to. I think now, I’m getting used to it but the first couple starts, there’s going to be some control problems  but my misses are consistent, I’m missing down and in to a righty, and it just shows that I’m not making the adjustment but at the same time it is showing that once I do make the adjustment it will be consistent, I just got to work on it.”

3.      How do you plan on remaining confident and getting ahead of hitters in the count?

“I think what happened was mechanically, I was showing the ball really early. I may have been tipping pitches, I’m not sure, but I know that the hitters were seeing the ball really well. I adjusted some things, and release the ball a little later and as a pitcher, you can see the swings of the hitters, when I started seeing guys late on pitches after the adjustment, even if they were right down the middle, I knew was heading in the right direction, and that allows me to be confident.”

4.      Comparison of new arm slide to Roy Halladay

“An arm angle is one thing, results are another. Is it good that people like my arm angle? Yeah, it’s really good. If I can pitch like him, then I’ll be perfectly happy. I feel that when I can throw a ball down in the zone I’m going to get groundballs.”

5.      Rivalry with Brewers

“It’s similar to what we have struggled with in the past; winning the games on the road. We had a great first road trip, and I think we have something to prove. The key is not dwelling in the disappointment from things that have happened in the past. If we focus on those things, it’s going to bring us down.”

6.      On the fan incidents that happened this week

“I heard about it, I saw a picture of it and someone said it was on YouTube, I haven’t researched it. I heard about the usher that was killed, and stuff like that is more disappointing.”

7.      Anything to add?

“Go Bucs!”

Mike Crotta

1.      The sinker

“It’s got a lot to do with arm slot and just how you finish with your pitch. It’s a little easier for me to throw and Charlie’s pretty much the same way.”

2.      Is that your out pitch?

“That’s generally what I go to, especially being out of the ‘pen, You don’t want to get beat with anything but your best pitch, so I throw it more often then not.”

3.      Secret in terms of bouncing back from a rough outing

“You just need to have short memory. You can’t worry good or bad about what happened yesterday because obviously it doesn’t matter now. There’s nothing I can do about what happened yesterday whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, you just need to look forward and be ready for today.”

4.      What did do between this year and last year to make the team?

“I had the opportunity of making the team, and all I thought about was keeping my pitches down in the zone, and not really worrying about anything else.”

5.      How have you embraced the all-in call that Manager Hurdle has put out?

“You have to, you can’t do anything in this game halfway.”

6.      On his unique ritual before warming up

“I just want to try and get everything going”

7.      Trying to stay fresh for a 162 game schedule

“This is my first time in the bullpen, so it’s going to be a trial by error and learn by watching other people and how they do it and I’m going to try and take bits and pieces of guys that have had successful careers and see if I can mold that into something of my own.”

Postgame:

Manager Clint Hurdle

1.      On Marcum

“It’s what he does when he’s effective. When he left, truth be told, we may have barreled one ball, Overbay’s single, Diaz snuck a single through the middle of the infield, but there were a lot of miss hits along the way. He changes speed very effectively.”

2.      On Correia

“The one pitch hurt. The breaking ball- we wanted it down, and he left it up and Prince hit it to the biggest part of the ballpark.”

3.      On whether it is true that people make Kevin pay for his mistakes

“Yeah. I think that’s accurate. As is the case with most pitchers unless you have top shelf velocity or something like that. If you hang a breaking ball in this league, you’re more than likely going to be backing up a base or rubbing up another one.”

4.      On whether Correia had a play if he had gone after the bunt

“Well, we won’t know. We work very hard on our bunt defenses, we don’t have many of the ones we have. That one was a pitcher priority with a line. You all stood out there in Spring Training, and watched us go through our PFP’s all the time, and his priority was the line. If he gets to the ball, we have to throw to third in a nothing-nothing game. We had a chance of not facing three and four in their lineup, rather than having to.”

5.      Do you ever look at the .500 threshold in terms of wins and losses?

“No. It’s too early. My focus on us is playing with complete games and finishing games, getting better in every aspect every day we’re out there. We weren’t able to generate any offense tonight. We made a couple of mistakes on the mound, and paid for them and those are the things I am focusing on.”

6.      Evan Meek’s return back onto the mound and the bullpen

“It was very solid, I thought. I like the way that Crotta came back in and threw strikes, like the way Evan came in, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but it would be a big help to have him back in the back end of the bullpen again.”

7.      After being called back into Hurdle’s office for “not talking enough about the team losing the game”, the statement given by Hurdle:

“We’ve optioned Jason Jaramillo back to Indianapolis and we will activate Chris Snyder for tomorrow’s game.”

Kevin Correia

1.      The pitch to Prince Fielder

“I just hung it a little bit.”

2.      Overshadow five good innings you had?

“No, it was a bad pitch but it never should have gotten to that. I should have been out of the inning before that, and just one play with the pitcher. I didn’t field the ball the way I needed to, so it is what it is.”

3.      Think that bunt was going to go to Pedro?

“I had the line on that play, we’ve worked on it and worked on it. I threw the ball and I got over there, and I don’t know what, I think he just bunted it hard, and the grass kind of ate it up, but I’ve got to field that ball.”

4.      What do you make of your first few innings?

“I was pitching well, just getting outs. It only takes one inning, and I had a bad inning at a bad time.”

5.      Enjoying the pitching battle

“We had a good game plan and it was working, and I kind of went against it that inning, and I got hurt. I was staying with hard pitches down, and then I just flipped a curveball up there and I hadn’t thrown him that pitch yet, he was just on it.”

Jason Jaramillo

1.      Snyder

” I didn’t really pay attention to what was going on, obviously they had to make a move, so I’m going to go do my job, and try to get back up here as soon as possible.”

2.      Benefit for playing more

“I’ve feel like I’ve shown that I deserve to play here, and was doing a great job.”

3.      Take out of spring training

“The atmosphere and just what Clint has rubbed off of all of us and how much fun it is again. I’ve had a lot of fun here and learned a lot.”

Lyle Overbay

1.      On Marcum’s repertoire

“You don’t get to see what it does exactly, but I kind of have an idea of what he’s trying to do and he doesn’t make mistakes and when you’re down in the zone, you’re going to get a lot of groundballs, and he did a pretty good job tonight.”

2.      Did Marcum do anything differently than what you prepared?

“No. He’s going to throw that pitch down and away or he’ll mix it in, mix the cutter in, and throw the changeup and he’s got a good changeup. You’ve got to see it a couple of times, and realize how good it is.

3.      On Marcum’s velocity possibly being down

“Usually that’s where he’s at, 84-86. That’s just one of those things where it looks good coming in, and then all of a sudden, he gets such late movement that by the time it gets to your barrel, it’s moved off the plate and you’re hitting it off of the end instead of barreling it up.”

Joel Hanrahan

1.      How does it feel to be the closer?

“I feel good about it. Obviously, it’s an important three outs at the end of the game, and I feel like I can handle the job, and look forward to the opportunity.”

2.      How do you feel that you’ve matured as a closer?

“I think it’s a little early to tell that, but obviously my mindset is to go out there and have fun and not put too much pressure on myself, when before every out was a pressure situation where I kind of take that pressure off myself and just go out there and have fun.”

3.      What is the most important thing for you being in the closer’s role?

“Well there’s 24 other guys and eight coaches that are depending on me to finish the job and I just want to go out there and do it for everybody. It’s a team effort, and as long as we can all hold the lead in the ninth.

4.      Any more exhilarating feeling for you than just the 1-2-3 ninth inning?

“That’s a great day any day you can do that. It’s a long season, long year, and the games are kind of long themselves, so once you get those three outs, everybody’s kind of relaxed a little bit more, and it’s one of the best feelings you can earn that day.”

5.      Embracing Manager Hurdle’s all-in philosophy

“When I have a pair of pocket aces, I go all-in. You can tell that he’s definitely got our back, and that’s a big thing to know that a manager has your back, and it makes you want to play a little harder for him. We’re just trying to embrace everything that he’s trying to teach us, and use it out there in the game.”

6.      How have you guys have struggled at home but done well on the road, a change from the past couple of seasons. How have you changed your success on the road ?

“Back to the home part, it’s been a tough home series for us, where got in late Wednesday night, and then turn around and play on Thursday morning where that was our first time coming to Pittsburgh, and half the team it is their first time being in Pittsburgh, and the adjustment period of being settled into your apartment, and trying to get back to the normal life is not easy. Our goal on the road, is to go up there and change the things that we did last year, and we started off good with the first road trip, and obviously we need to both at home and on the road.”

7.      In your time, what have you made of the Pittsburgh-Milwaukee baseball rivalry?

“Well it’s kind of been one-sided and we need to do our part to turn that around. They’re a good swinging ballclub over there, and they’re going to play hard all of the time and we just need to step up a little bit against them.”

8.      What do you make of the incidents that happened at the ballpark this home stand?

“It’s stupid. There’s no reason for anybody to go on the field during the game, and I’m not going to come into your office and streak through your office, that would be just stupid, right? It puts us in danger, because you never know what could be happening. The thing that happened the other night, apparently the guy was drunk, so it’s not safe for anybody. Better him going home with the cops then getting behind the wheel of a car.”

9.      Anything else that you would like to add?

“No, I gotta go home bud.”

 

 

State of the Pirates Union 2011

Men,

 You have worked blood, sweat and tears for this organization this Spring, and you should be commended for your efforts. Tomorrow is Friday, and thus your first game of the season. Let’s take a look at yourselves as a team.

 Catchers-

 Chris Snyder. You are injured and thus you cannot start for us, and we are upset. Now we have to trust Ryan Doumit who we have wanted out of here for the longest time. You are defensively capable but offensively incapable. When you come back you need to be consistent.

 Ryan Doumit. Who made Jack Black our team’s starting catcher? Your offense can be good but your defense is TERRIBLE. Throwing out less than 10% of runners trying to steal base is an atrocity, and you do not belong in the Major Leagues, but here you are not only in a Pirate unform but starting. Charlie Sheen thinks that you are winning, but that does not amount for much anymore. In the words of Princess Leia, you are our only hope, because Jason Jaramillo as a starter is just as bad.

Second base-

 Neil Walker. The Pittsburgh Kid. Considering that you had to adapt to play yet another new position is tough enough but at times you showed Gold Glove capabilities. Bill Mazeroski a Pittsburgh legend helped you with mechanics and you tried to soak it in. It is important that you do not have a sophomore slump and the city is your for the taking, and this is your make it or break it season.

Short stop-

 Ronny Cedeno. What can I say about a man who draws Sharpies and calls them mustaches? Well you can’t hit, you can’t field, what can you do right? You give us fits and there is no one better? Why don’t we have money for a real shortstop? Here, I am going to drop a baseball. Just like i thought, through the legs. Why are you still even here?

Third base-

 Pedro Alvarez. Your weight is an issue, but that was even before this season. You are outgrowing your position and thus the plays that separate a good third baseman from a great one and Alvarez is only good at best. You are our offense, you mash the ball but do not get frustrated by your average as that is the way you play and you should not change that.

Left field-

 Jose Tabata. You have packed on the muscles and we can tell. Your speed is a must as we expect you to run around the bases all of the time. You need to mash the homers and be a part of this offense. You are a part of the future, so failure is not an option.

Center field-

 Andrew McCutchen. We can tell that you want to win. You are the best CF in the majors but we have some concerns. Off the field, you are a scumbag, conceited and careless. You need to start driving people in and that is a glaring part of your game. You are the future and already are a good player, but it is time to become great, don’t you think?

Right field-

 Garrett Jones. You can mash righties on a good basis, but based on your rookie campaign, your power numbers are down. Please hit for a good average, and who knows, maybe you or this next guy could get traded.

 Matt Diaz. Time to speed up and buy into the program. You can hit lefties, but some more power needs to be seen. Let’s find out if you can handle that right field wall, no one really has.

Starters-

 I am calling all of you out. Along with defense, you are the main issue on this team. Ray Searage can only do so much. He doesn’t pitch the baseball, he only gives you the advice. It is your job to listen to what he has to say and to pitch with confidence. The bullpen cannot win games all by themselves (I’m talking to you Ross, Charlie and Paul) and that means you actually have to suck it up and pitch. There are no more excuses.

Relievers-

 Despite what I just said about the starters, no one is perfect. We have been losing for 18 seasons now and you will have to come in at tight spots or when the outcome of a game has already been decided. Regardless, pitch strong and attack the hitter. Joel, please prove to us that you can choose games. You failed to do that in Washington and were a mixed bag last season. Pitch with a purpose.

Bench-

Josh Rodriguez. What are you doing here? Neal said that nothing about you was special and the fact of the matter is that your precious rule-5 status is keeping you here by a thread. Our infield stinks defensively and you do not help that at all. Even in Spring Training everyone from the top of the organization to the bottom said you weren’t anything and normally would be one of the first to be sent down. You better perform or you will be let go faster than we can say bobble head.

 Steve Pearce. You made the Opening Day Roster for the first time so congratulations. You were persistant and eliminated the leg kick from your swing which will help you in the log run. Best of luck on sticking in the bigs this season.

Manager-

 Clint Hurdle. You need to stick to your guns. This team has a ton of personality and you can handle it, but do not lose the locker room. They are completely buying in to what you are saying and that means that you need to stay relevant to them. Practice what you preach. Make sure they run and let that know that losing is NOT an option.

 Tomorrow is the big day men, Opening Day is upon us in the windy city. You have worked all off-season for this. No one expects us to contend, but why can’t we? These fans deserve a winner, and it’s time to go all in and get the job done. 

 

MLB 11: The Show Simulation

 This is a very small entry, however the video gamer in me had to post this. I played in and simulated the 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates season. As a disclaimer, because I know what is coming, I did not alter the level of any players and did not cheat in any way. I even did not trade anyone away at deadline, with my only pick up being reliever Clay Hensley.

 Although the manager for some reason was not Clint Hurdle, the Pirates had a lot of success going 83-79. Yes this means that according to this simulation, the Pirates streak of 18 consecutive losing seasons will stop this year. Still despite the winning record, the Pirates did not make the playoffs. Still the season was not a total failure as history was named and there were a couple of honors to be had.

 All-Star selections: Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen

 I found this interesting, as more than one Pirate made the team. I do not remember specific stats, although Cutch had 16 home runs at the break, and Jones was already at 20. Both of these numbers are unrealistic but nice to see that the folks at The Show think so highly of our guys.

 I also found that Jones made the Home Run Derby. Under my control, Jones defeated Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees and it was cool to see other National League Derby participants Brandon Phillips, Ryan Zimmerman and Xavier Nady bow a la a “we’re not worthy”, although maybe of the three only Zimmerman could participate in the Derby.

 I just thought it would be interesting to post this entry to say that according to The Show, the streak is over at last.

Pirates Pre-Season Forecast

 Pitcher with the most to prove:

 1. Ross Ohlendorf- Ohlendorf is a great guy, but he only had one win last year. He pitched quite well last season but never received any run support. This year he got a huge raise in $2.1 million and he will have to pitch well and stay healthy.

 2. Kevin Correia- Correia pitched himself out of the San Diego Padres rotation while they were in the middle of the playoff race. Correia pitched with a heavy heart as his brother passed away and this season will have to prove that the Pirates made a smart decision in signing him. Thus far, it has not looked like a great investment as he has looked overmatched in Spring Training, but only time will tell.

3. Charlie Morton- Morton is expected to be the team’s fifth starter, and if he pitches the way he did early last year, then the team will struggle mightily. Morton has shown that he has been capable of pitching well, bouncing back from an Andrew Jones home run earlier this week and then calming down to take down the Yankees. If Morton can control his emotions and his pitching, then it could very well inspire his teammates.

4. Joel Hanrahan- Hanrahan has emerged as the closer, but he has to prove to management that he can handle the job. He was traded from the Washington Nationals due to his inability to close games. He “shared” closing duties last year with Evan Meek, although he closed almost all of the games. He blew a few games and thus I am concerned that he cannot finish the job.

 Winner: Charlie Morton

  Morton showed a lot of promise as a September call-up and even further by his willingness to go to the Dominican Winter League to work on his makeup. I think this season could be the season Pirates management expected from Morton in 2009 but if he does not succeed, then the Pirates may lose their patience with him.

    Hitter with the most to prove:

 1. Matt Diaz- Diaz was signed during the off-season and will be splitting time in right field with Garrett Jones. This experiment happened before when the Pirates got Lastings Milledge. Milledge like Diaz said the right things, but ultimately underachieved. At this very moment, Diaz is hitting .308 this Spring and will have to perform well.

 2. Jose Tabata- Tabata came up and at least in my opinion underachieved. I expected so much and his playing of left field was not great and only had speed. This off-season he has clearly bulked up and hopefully will have a much better season. He is in the Pirates future plans, but this season could be an indicator to how he does offensively.

 3. Pedro Alvarez- Alvarez was rumored to gain weight this off-season in what was considered the biggest no-big deal story of the Pirates off-season. Pedro is being compared to Adam Dunn and will need to rack up the home runs and have moments like that walk-off home run in Colorado. He a huge part to the Pirates offense so if he fails, so does this team.

 4. Ronny Cedeno- Cedeno is an average defender and a below average hitter. He is hitting .217 this Spring and is only starting because there is no one who can replace him, although Pedro Ciriaco is having a nice spring. Cedeno needs to have a good season, or else there will not be any real reason to keep him in the lineup.

 Winner: Matt Diaz

 Cedeno is right up there but Diaz is going to be a big part of the offense especially since we could always use help hitting southpaws.

 Finally here are my thoughts for 2011 season predictions.

 Team MVP: Andrew McCutchen

 Cutch is the best all-around player on this team and should put up similar numbers to last season.

 Ryan Doumit will be released and not traded.

 Paul Maholm will be traded to the New York Yankees and either Matt Diaz or Garrett Jones will be traded.

 Pirates will have another winning April and will once again fall apart in May

 Charlie Morton will have the most wins on the staff followed by Ross Ohlendorf, although no starter will have double digit wins

 Jeff Karstens will somehow get back into the starting rotation

 Brad Lincoln will come up to the big club and perform well

 Rudy Owens will struggle when he comes up a la Brad Lincoln. He will be Brad Lincoln 2.0

 Chris Snyder will continue the catching curse and he will get injured and Dusty Brown and Jason Jaramillo will platoon a la Jaramillo and Robinzon Diaz from a couple seasons ago.

 Pirates will steal bases left and right… and will largely be successful

 Cutch will be the Pirates lone All-Star this season

 It will be the Pirates hitting that sets them back as Ray Searage will do a good job as Pirates pitching coach

 The Pirates will have a 42-39 record at home and thus will have road issues once again.

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.

 

PirateFest 2011: Grading the players, managers and others

Baseball experts grade trades, but obviously there has not been a big trade in Pirates baseball lately. PirateFest is a way of players and coaches saying thanks to the fans and some players do it better than others. This entry is meant to grade the players on their off the field activities and behaviors and in Christmas terms show who was naughty and who was nice.

Manager Clint Hurdle Grade- A+: Clint Hurdle gets it; he knows that Pirates fans have dealt with a losing team for 18 seasons and he knows how hungry this city is for a winner. I was at PirateFest on Friday and Sunday and both days Hurdle was active. Friday he endured two consecutive hours of questioning from fans (Ask Pirates Management which he also participated in on Saturday and Q&A involving all players and coaches) and also had interviews with Joe Bendel of ESPN 970 AM and Stan Savran for Inside Pirates Baseball. I was at the Savran interview, and before it, he posed for pictures (including one with me) and signed autographs. He really is the anti John Russell as he tells you what he thinks and tried to make an effort to talk with as many fans as possible. He was very active on Saturday as well I heard. A small complaint was after his obligation of participating in the Youth Clinic on the baseball field, he left. Still, after the clinic he signed autographs for as long as he could and talked with some fans. Before he left he thanked host Joe Klimchak and shook my hand and left. Kudos to Hurdle for making us all huge believers in his philosophy. Here’s to hoping, he can keep the players motivated and build a winner.

Jeff Banister- Grade A: Banister had a tough role, because if you did not identify him, chances are that not many Pirate fans would have known who he was. He had only one question directed towards him at Friday’s Season Ticket Q&A so it was tough on him there. Also, when the players were escorted to the break room, I saw Banister being escorted and no one ran after him for an autograph or anything. Banister was a big part of Saturday’s and Sunday’s Youth Clinic. I saw a part of the Sunday event and Banister seemed to be a big hit with the kids. One kid asked him if he had a World Series ring and Banister said that he did not, but he took off his Minor League ring and let the child hold it and pass it around. The fact that Banister trusted a kid with a valuable possession of his and also was able to interact with parents and children really speaks a lot about him as a person. Banister stayed longer for autographs than Hurdle after the Sunday clinic. Banister still will not be a household name, but remember, he almost became our manager and he showed glimpses of being able to handle the job.

Ray Searage Grade C-: This grade would be lower if he did not participate in Saturday’s Youth Clinic. Searage got a lot of questions thrown at him at Friday’s Season Ticket Q&A. One such question involved whether Searage or Chris Snyder should receive more credit for the pitchers improving their numbers. Searage immediately replied “Sny-rich” which drew some laughs. Searage was not used much and I did not see him at all on Sunday which was a shame as I would have been interested in talking with him. Still, I am taking it a little easy on Searage, especially since fans have not been too high on pitching coaches in the recent past.

Garrett Jones Grade B+: Jones was at PirateFest on Friday and Saturday. Jones made an immediate impact on Friday as both him and Kevin Correia were the first to sign in the MVP Zone which was exclusive for season ticket holders. Jones was active throughout Friday as he participated in two games, autographs signings and the season ticket holder Q&A. Someone asked Jones a question and said, “hypothetically if you were to marry my daughter, which Pirate would be your best man?” Jones paused as the question was an awkward on all counts and then answered Steve Pearce as he was a good friend. After the question, the audience could hear Jones whisper awkward into the mic. Still, not many would answer that question. Jones is really nice to the fans and if you ask him for an autograph, he is one of the nicest guys to get it from. Jones is an engaging guy. He got some points taken off for not attending Sunday’s festivities as I know a lot of kids love Jones. Still, he made an impact on PirateFest.

Jose Tabata Grade B+: Tabata was a huge hit at his first PirateFest. The fans loved Tabata and his charm, as well as his willingness to sign countless autographs for fans. The fans loved when he said “Black and Yellow” when mentioning that he would root for the Steelers. Tabata needs to be less shy and show more of his personality. I was able to break through because I spoke to him in Spanish, but he is not completely comfortable with English yet and that forced him to be a limited and that is why he did not get an A.

Neil Walker Grade B-: I know that I am grading Walker harshly, but he is “The Pittsburgh Kid”. Walker was sick for two days although he did appear Friday on Inside Pirates Baseball and the Player Q&A. He agreed to use “Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa as his new at-bat song in order for one Pittsburgher to support another. Despite being sick, Walker tried to make up for lost time by making appearances on Sunday and it was noticed by parents and kids, but still regardless of the excuse, I was a little under the weather Sunday but I still showed up.

Andrew McCutchen Grade D: I have a huge problem with Andrew McCutchen and it is his off the field attitude. I am a huge fan of his on the field play but off the field he is conceited. I had a similar problem with Nyjer Morgan as both shine when a camera is in their face, but when it is off, they seem to care less about being anywhere. I first encountered this with Cutch at Bowling With the Bucs. I don’t know how to describe it, I mean he signed stuff, but he just felt indifferent and didn’t really feel like talking. McCutchen started out Season Ticket Q&A by signing a kid’s baseball, but soon the autograph requests came in and he kept saying “we’ll see”. Cutch fled quickly afterwards. Fellow ballhawk Erik Jabs also put up a Youtube video of McCutchen at a Caravan stop rolling his eyes at someone who was talking to Ross Ohlendorf because he was taking too long to get to him. At PirateFest on Sunday, he was in the public autograph signing wearing just a black shirt. All of the Pirates wear their home jerseys and it has been that way for years, the problem was corrected during Sunday’s MVP Zone signing session. McCutchen will have to improve his attitude, and fans need to see what is going on.

Paul Maholm Grade A+: Maholm is always good with the fans and if he does go at the trade deadline, then it will be a true loss for Pittsburgh. Maholm posed in photos with fans at a booth on Friday and also signed a ton of autographs all three days. He was a part of games such as Minute to Win It and the Perogie Eating Contest and he is a clear fan favorite. Maholm also was one of the Pirates with which it is easy to communicate with. Hopefully, some of his teammates will take note.

Brad Lincoln Grade A: Lincoln put himself out there, signing autographs for the public and even signing in the Pirates team store. It is easy to root for Lincoln to turn himself around after a disappointing 2010 season in the Major League level. Lincoln was at PirateFest all three days.

Kevin Correia Grade A: Correia told Rob Biertempfl of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he went to PirateFest to meet his soon to be teammates but he was very social with the fans as well. He put himself out there right away signing for the season ticket holders on Friday in the MVP Zone. There was a video of him released showing a child how to release when throwing the baseball as part of Saturday’s Youth Clinic and he offered encouragement to the child. Correia also signed autographs even when he did not have to and also was willing to talk with the fans. I really hope that he has a nice season, and I believe that if he has any run support, that he will be the breakout player of this team.

Jeff Karstens Grade A: Karstens was at PirateFest all three days and he was active during all of these days. Karstens signed countless autographs without complaining and also participated in a lot of games. He was not a part of Friday’s season ticket Q&A as I believe he was signing autographs elsewhere at PirateFest. What is holding him back a little bit is that he is shy and he is not that engaging when it comes to interacting with the fans. Still, like Maholm, Karstens is very active in Pirates initiatives in the community.

Ross Ohlendorf Grade A+: Ohlendorf easily could have stayed home. I mean he is having a disagreement with Pirates management over his contract and it could take him to arbitration. Freddy Sanchez missed PirateFest a couple of years ago because of this and Doumit missed both the Caravan and PirateFest over a loss of favor in the organization. Ohlendorf could have pulled a Doumit and not come, but that is not Ohlendorf’s style. Not once did I hear Ohlendorf complain, and he signed many autographs and even on Friday when he was supposed to leave the main stage right away, he still signed an autograph and allowed me to take a picture of him. Ohlendorf is one of the nicest players on the team.

James McDonald Grade D+: I heard that McDonald was very nice on Saturday, but still because of illness he was not at Caravan stops and he was only at PirateFest on Saturday. This is supposed to be the ace of the staff and to not have him consistently represent the team gives him a low grade.

Charlie Morton Grade B: I did not see Morton much if at all on Friday. It seemed like he laid low unless he had an autograph signing. I know he played the games, but not much of his personality came out either. Still he did show up and did not complain at all, and for that he deserves a lot of credit.

Evan Meek Grade A+: Meek was great on all three days of PirateFest. He did not complain when signing autographs and he hosted a ton of games while at PirateFest. He made a funny banker at Deal or No Deal and at season ticket Q&A on Friday he really let his personality shine. After games and radio interviews, players are normally whisked away as soon as possible and not allowed to sign autographs, take pictures or sometimes even shake hands. Meek frequently made sure that he had time to do this. This review is unbiased although he is my favorite player and we had a couple of nice genuine conversations. Still, Meek is a great person and should have a great season.

Bob Nutting Grade B+: Nutting was very engaging with fans, myself included on Friday before his appearance on Inside Pirates Baseball and thanked all of us for coming. Nutting takes a lot of heat from fans, and a lot of the criticism he receives is unfair. I know it is easy to blame Nutting, but it is not all his fault. I am not saying that he is doing the best job ever, but still he obviously is doing something right if there is a record breaking crowd at PirateFest. I know that he was there on Sunday to speak to Suite Holders, but compared to Neal Huntington and Frank Coonelly, he was not out enough talking to the fans.

Frank Coonelly Grade A: The only thing preventing him from an A+ is that I did not see him on Sunday. I grade Huntington, Coonelly and Nutting harsher than others because they are expected to be out and about more than the others at PirateFest. On Friday, Coonelly was out and about all day talking to as many of the 3,500 fans that attended as possible. He posed for all kinds of pictures, answered questions at both Ask Pirates Management sessions, signed countless autographs and also tried his best to talk to the fans. The job he did is very commendable and Coonelly understands the need to talk to the fans to find out what they like and don’t like about what he is doing and the direction of the team. Here’s hoping that Coonelly will take in the fan’s opinions all season long in good times and bad.

Neal Huntington Grade A: Neal also took a beating from fans as like Coonelly, he had to answer questions in Ask Pirates Management. I did not see him make the rounds on Friday but he did make the rounds on Sunday and I was one of his many stops. For Huntington this is a make or break year as if the team does fail this season, he very well could go.

 I will have recaps of my Friday and Sunday adventures at PirateFest as well as pictures from Friday’s proceedings up later this week.

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