Results tagged ‘ James McDonald ’

7/23 Pirates vs Chicago Cubs PNC Park

Never have I been this indifferent at a ballgame. I arrived late and thus had no time to stretch or throw. I had no reason to be fired up and it showed.

I was involved in a couple of scrums and just pulled up and shrugged my shoulder. James Russell, the lefty Cubs reliever helped me avoid the shutout by tossing me a ball and frankly that was it.

I also apparently had a Joel Hanrahan chin-stache from Spring Training according to some of the ballhawks. Oh well.

I was going to leave early but ran into fellow ballhawks Ian and Rick. I decided to stay with them to chase autographs for charity.

I started in the visitor entrance area to the ballpark. Right away, my targets Starlin Castro and Alfonso Soriano bolted without signing anything.

I was able to get James McDonald on the baseball I snagged earlier.

The three of us then went to the hotel.

We were able to see the Cubs come off the bus, but none of the players we wanted signed so we waited.

We would get Bryan LaHair who signed for all three of us.

Anthony Rizzo came into the hotel earlier and I went in with Ian for a minute, just to get his autograph. We made eye contact and he was reaching to take my baseball, but the security guard kicked us out. Great. I could have went the charity route or played dumb until he was finished signing, but at the spur of the moment, being indifferent, I just went outside.

The security guard then tried to bully again, but we held our ground despite his taunting after his shift ended five minutes later. Good riddence.

Finally around half an hour later, Soriano and Castro came out. Rick was waiting for “the perfect moment” but almost let them walk past.

Finally one of us spoke up. Soriano asked how many he had to sign and when he heard three, he stopped.

As he signed my baseball, I heard in a thick Dominican accent, “I feel so close to you right now…”. I immediately realized what he was trying to do and finished the lyric to the song, “Feel So Close” by Calvin Harris.

“Hey you got it,” He said.

I then managed to get him to sign for myself and Rick.

Ian wasn’t with it and when he realized it he ran across the street and halfway down the block for Castro. I cannot repeat what Soriano said when he saw him.

So unfortunately I only had one baseball with me, but it was still cool to get Castro, Soriano, LaHair and McDonald on a baseball.

Pirates vs Minnesota Twins 6/19 and 6/21 PNC Park

6/19

I was really excited to be back at PNC Park and although the crowds would increase just because of this, I was up for the challenge.

I started with the usual stretching. Then I went onto the bridge to throw and my arm was ready. I was making throws from about halfway across the bridge without any bounces.

Then it was time to brave the over 90 degree heat and try to snag some baseballs.

We all went in to look for easter eggs, I went into the second deck and there hiding under the seat portion was a ball for ball #1. It’s about time I found an easter egg over there. Ushers, prize wheel members and pizza shop owners have been going in and pocketing the baseballs for their own personal benefit. While some are being given to kids, many are kept and that is not right. Remember we are watching and if we catch you then you will have to deal with Dennis and that may mean termination. Think about that.

The highlight of Pirates BP for me was when Pedro Alvarez was hitting. He hit an opposite field ground rule double, and I was two sections over, but quickly ran over and got it for ball #2.

Pirates BP doesn’t usually result in too many baseballs since the first group which contains Andrew McCutchen has already hit.

Twins BP was more promising with their lefties.

Still it wasn’t 5:30 yet so I had to stay in left or play a crowded riverwalk. I went with the first option and since I was the only who knew who pitcher Liam Hendriks was, I got ball #3.

Ball #4 occurred after 5:30 in centerfield. Twins Alex Burnett and the other Twin who I think was Brian Duensing were generous with tossups and Duensing gave me a nice toss up. Assist goes to a random kid who asked them to sign the ball. It made Duensing turn around and got me the ball.

I tried my luck at first base, but it was not to be. So I went to the dugout. It was a packed area but I was the only one with a glove. Perfect.

Twins coach Joe Vavra had baseballs and he was looking for people to throw them too. Ball #5. Can of corn.

That would be it or Tuesday and the Pirates were able to get a win in Ryan Doumit and Matt Capps’ returns to Pittsburgh. I left after the first inning in order to beat the heat.

I would not attend Wednesday’s game due to an appointment and instead went to Greentree to watch summer league basketball.

6/21

I did the exact same routine as Tuesday and the throws were still great. In even better news, I finally got my camera so from here on in, you will get to see actual game pics.

I expected big things for this game but when I came in and saw no easter eggs, I looked on the field and the cage was not up yet.

Honestly, my first thought was, “You’ve got to be ******* kidding me!”

Jason Grilli could see the grim looks on everyone’s faces and told us it was hot and the Pirates would not hit. The Twins would though.

I would not get any of the relievers baseballs although I tried to solve a rumor. Quinn a commentor on here said that Doug Slaten would dougie during his time in AAA so when my water accidentally fell and Slaten retrieved it, I asked him and he said he didn’t. Interestingly enough it led to an enjoyable conversation.

Randomly my buddy Euclides Rojas at the very end long tossed me a baseball that landed in the glove for ball #1.

Taking a break from ballhawking I have set out on a mission. I am trying to get my glove signed by as many Pirates as possible. Why? Barring a setback, I intend on this being my last full season of ballhawking. While I definitely enjoy it and would continue doing select road trips, my passion is journalism and I would love to work as an intern with them or cover the team from that perspective all season. I think this will be a cool way to remember what has been a part of my life since July 2009.

Here was the progress thru this game:

Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan are the first two to sign the glove. Both have been understanding of the charity and happily signed it.

Back to the ballhawking portion of this entry. I tried the first base area and was able to get Jared Burton to throw me a ball for the second snag of the day.

That was it for Twins BP so I went to the dugout and try a Joe Vavra toss up again. He tossed a high one so I looked back and judged and made a circus catch for ball #3. Thanks Joe!

From there, it was off to the bullpen for James McDonald vs Liam Hendriks.

Here is a random shot I got. Poor Euclides. I was trying to take a picture of him and this happened.

Meanwhile in the Twins bullpen, Hendriks was still warming up but the relievers were all already in the bullpen and apparently fans of Fifa Soccer as evidenced by this photo which reminded me of the wall in soccer. Also as a reference the first reliever on the left was Burton who threw me ball #2.

Ultimately, Rojas threw me another ball for ball #4 which was awesome.

The bullpen then came in.

Then I heard some singing

Speaking of awesome, the Pirates got off to a fast start, and I left early again and left any hope of the Twins winning with me.

All in all, not a bad series and the Pirates took care of business against the Twins and James McDonald pitched his first ever complete game. McDonald has been a different Pirates pitcher this season and even when I watch him from the bullpen, he is much more confident in himself and his stuff and it is a complete transformation. I would say that getting McDonald at the deadline a couple years back was Neal Huntington’s best move as Pirates GM.

As for me it was on to the Tigers series and more triumphs and frustrations.

Speaking of frustrations, I have decided to challenge myself. PNC Park is considered by many to be the “Best Ballpark in America” however no ballpark is perfect and PNC is far from it. I have decided that for each of the remaining home games starting with the Tigers game on Friday, I would come up with one thing about the ballpark that digusts me and will put it in the entry. At the end of the season there will be a master list compiled. These opinions are mine and mine only with no outside influence.

Well I guess you’ll have to wait for the next entry to see the debut of that as well as how I did in the first game of the Tigers series.

Erik Bedard the right man to start the home opener?

Earlier this week, Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle announced that Erik Bedard will start the home opener April 5th vs the Phillies. He also named his four man rotation, which is as follows.

1. Erik Bedard

2. Jeff Karstens

3. James McDonald

4. Kevin Correia

There definitely are positives and negatives to Bedard starting:

Positives:

1. Bedard will be starting his third opener, which means he knows what to expect and can tune out the distractions that surround the opener. All of the players and coaches from both teams will be introduced and things tend to run long, as the Pirates have all kinds of honors and awards and thus Bedard may be the right man for the job.

2. Bedard has looked impressive during Spring Training and Hurdle is awarding him for this. You can’t go wrong with going with a hot hand.

3. Bedard is a ground ball pitcher which favors the Pirates well. Clint Barmes and Neil Walker are a solid defensive middle infield and should have no problem handling any of the grounders that are hit their way.

4. Bedard could be a silent leader, and has had successful seasons. A great start and a win over Roy Halladay could be what this team needs. It could fire up a young pitching staff and be what makes this team finally become consistent winners.

5. Phillies hit .247 against Bedard with 19 hits in 77 at-bats. Jimmy Rollins hits .182 against Bedard with two strikeouts in 11 at-bats. Jim Thome is a .263 hitter against Bedard in 19 at-bats. While he does have a homer and two RBI against him, Thome has struck out six times against Bedard. Shane Victorino has zero hits in two at-bats against Bedard. Ty Wigginton is a .259 hitter against Bedard and has struck out nine times in 27 at-bats vs Bedard.

Negatives:

1. Hurdle brings a lefty out to start the opener. The Pirates do not have another lefty in the rotation, and that means that teams will face four righties in a row often times. It is not a great balance and could come back to haunt the Pirates.

2. Roy Halladay is the starter and Halladay does not make many mistakes. Bedard had a rough 2011 season which included injury. With no Ryan Howard or Chase Utley in the lineup, and Raul Ibanez on the New York Yankees, the lefty power bats are all gone. Starting Bedard would have been ideal last year, but now those lefties are gone and that strategy is out of the window.

3. Jeff Karstens had the best 2011 of the Pirates pitchers and is one of the longer tenured Pirates. Despite a few too many walks, he has been solid this Spring Training and has been consistent much like last season. It makes no sense that the Pirates do not reward Karstens by having him take the mound on the home opener. Not to mention that Karstens survived a tense atmosphere and had a very good start against the Phillies at PNC Park last season.

4. His injury history still is a concern. Yes it is a concern no matter when injuries happen, but if Bedard gets injured on the opener it would be disaster. With A.J. Burnett out and Charlie Morton likely not 100% ready for the season right now, this could put the Pirates in a downward spiral. The Pirates pride themselves on quick starts, and they already may have the toughest opening month in the majors.

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.”

 

 

Four Players Cut and Other Notes

 The Pirates have made four cuts today, and here they are:

.Andy Marte- Marte was one of the team’s first signings this off-season. He once was a highly regarded prospect however in 2010 with the Cleveland Indians, hit only .229 with five homers and 19 Runs Batted In. Mind you Marte only had 170 at-bats, this was enough for the Pirates to sign him to a Minor League contract. This Spring, Marte batted .364, however this was not enough for him to earn a spot on the team. Marte had a shot at making the Big League roster, however lost out on the corner infield battle to Steve Pearce.

.Corey Wimberly- Wimberly to me always seemed like a cheap Nyjer Morgan. He was acquired by the Pirates for righty Ryan Kelly. Wimberly at short during Spring Training was not a great idea as he kept bouncing his throws. He never played a position that well, and hit only .212. It took him a while to even get a hit, but finally got one, but too little too late.

. Brian Burres- This was the most surprising cut, as it had appeared that the Pirates wanted two relievers that were left-handed. He had been solid all spring, but his start earlier in the week against the Astros perhaps did him in. Still, Burres was widely expected to have a role in the bullpen and had proven his worth last September as well.

. Dusty Brown- This cut made sense as essentially Brown was the odd catcher out. The Pirates may bring three catchers with them when they play Chicago, and Brown was not in their Major League plans. He was signed to a Minor League deal after playing for the Boston Red Sox last season. He hit .321 this spring.

. Another announcement was made with this move that Steve Pearce has essentially clinched the backup corner infield job. Pearce made an adjustment in his swing where he eliminated the leg kick. Hopefully he can improve the timing of his swing. Manager Clint Hurdle said this is not 100% confirmed yet because there always in the possibility of a trade.

 . The last backup infielder job is between Pedro Ciriaco and Josh Rodriguez. Ciriaco has proven himself to be the better player, however Rodriguez is the Rule-5 Draft pick. If Rodriguez does not make the team, he will have to be offered back to the Cleveland Indians although General Manager Neal Huntington has said that in that case he would negotiate a deal to get Rodriguez back, a la Evan Meek a few seasons ago.

 .Chris Snyder remains to be hurt. He was scratched again from the lineup due to more back soreness. He is getting treatment but his status for next Friday’s opener is up in the air. If he cannot go, Ryan Doumit likely will be the Opening Day catcher with Jason Jaramillo the backup. Snyder will have to condition himself and get the proper at-bats if he should be ready to go. If he is injured for too long then only two catchers would be heading north and perhaps John Bowker could get than final roster spot.

. The bullpen has become an interesting battle, as Scott Olsen and Joe Beimel both will be unable to start the season, and with Brian Burres not making the club, Jeff Karstens will be the long reliever. This opens up the bullpen competition. Three relievers in Chris Leroux, Mike Crotta and Garrett Olson will compete for two spots. It is widely assumed that Olson will get a spot. Jose Ascanio is not faring well as Pirates Prospects blog says his fastball topped out at 91 miles per hour, slower than normal and also lacking command. If Karstens has to start in the rotation due to the injury to James McDonald, then Olson, Leroux and Crotta will all make the team.

. Clint Hurdle also seemingly made his final lineup official making Jose Tabata his lead off hitter. Andrew McCutchen will hit third, while Lyle Overbay will hit fourth. Pedro Alvarez will hit fifth.

. The Major League roster is now at 32 spots, and needs to be cut down to 25 in time for Opening Day on Friday.

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.

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.

PirateFest Part 2

 There will be a part 3 for a break down of these features and a part 4 when the autograph schedule comes up, but the press release on information of the year’s PirateFest has been released. I actually got the press release in my email and thus found out about this before it was released. Here are the features:

 

Details for PirateFest 2011 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Saturday, Jan. 29 and Sunday, Jan. 30 have been announced.

PirateFest hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 29 and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 30.

New in 2011, Pirates season ticket holders will have exclusive access to PirateFest on Friday, Jan. 28.

Tickets for PirateFest are $12 for adults and $4 for fans ages 14 and younger and can be purchased in advance online, or by calling 1-800-BUY-BUCS or at the door at the convention center.

This year’s event will feature the following:

• Free autograph sessions with Pirates players, including Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Evan Meek, Garrett Jones, Jose Tabata, Paul Maholm, Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, Brad Lincoln, Kevin Correia, James McDonald and Charlie Morton along with new Manager Clint Hurdle, Bench Coach Jeff Banister and Pitching Coach Ray Searage (*).

• Autograph sessions with Pirates alumni Al Oliver, Doug Drabek, Bill Madlock and Mike Easler.

• Opportunity to purchase 2011 individual game tickets for the first time beginning Saturday, January 29 at 10:00 a.m.

• All fans attending PirateFest will receive a 2011 Pirates wall calendar, 2011 pocket schedule and PirateFest program upon entrance.

• A 60-foot replica baseball field to host Youth Baseball Clinics with Manager Clint Hurdle and coaches Jeff Banister and Ray Searage.

• Q&A Sessions with the players as well as “Ask Pirates Management” with Pirates President Frank Coonelly, Pirates Executive Vice President and General Manager Neal Huntington and Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle.

• The chance to join your favorite players in versions of Pirates “Minute to Win It” or “We Are Fam-A-Lee Feud”, take on Pirates players in “Guitar Hero”, play “Deal Or No Deal” and take part in Pierogie Eating Contests.

• Giant Eagle Kids Fun Zone, featuring many activities for children, along with nutritional information on a variety of foods available at Giant Eagle.

• Pirates “Lost Treasures” area to include game-used jerseys, bats, baseballs and more available for purchase.

• A charity silent auction with proceeds to benefit Pirates Charities.

• Inflatable rides, batting cages and carnival games.

• Information on 2011 Pirates Season Ticket Packages and Group Outings.

• Information on the Pirates 2011 promotional schedule.

*players, coaches and schedules subject to change

Fans can also make a canned goods donation at the Pirates Charities booth throughout the weekend. Fans making a donation of any kind will receive a Pirates decal.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.