Results tagged ‘ Jeff Banister ’

4/7/11 Opening Day PNC Park

 I was getting over a nasal drip and allergies but despite being told that the game was “sold out”, I bought my ticket from Point Park University.

 It all came down to a good night’s sleep so after watching Survivor, I immediately went to bed to get that extra half-hour of sleep.

 I then fulfilled my obligations, and ended up contributing to a university radio show for two hours before getting some final preparations for the game in and then making the short walk from Point Park to PNC Park.

 I fully expected a line to back all the way until the street but the line was not nearly as long. I actually cut to the front of the line with all of the ballhawks, and no one complained which is great.

 I slowly but surely caught up with a lot of the ballhawks starting with Harold, Jim Saylor and Ian Weir before quickly jogging down the steps and trying to play homers off of the riverwalk.

 The Pirates had started BP early, because of the on-field activities scheduled for 12:40. The gates were expected to open at 11:30 so needless to say, us ballhawks were not pleased. During my couple of minutes down there after the long jog, I was beaten to a ball by both Erik and Nick and my reactions were not great.

 Still this was a game that I initially did not commit to, and thus this would be a strike (no pun intended) extra for me.

 Going into the game I want to snag at least three. That was what I snagged last season in my ballhawking debut, and I want an overall average of three or higher to make my ballhawking goal.

 Erik, Nick and I all went up early in hopes that the ballpark would open at 11 and it did. I got in just ahead of Ian and behind Erik and Nick. The familiar sprint was something I missed a lot and I started searching the lower portions of left field for easter eggs but was coming up empty. This was when the light bulb clicked. I decided to search the second deck as no one was up there.

 This ended up being a wise move, as when I went up, I saw a white speck and sure enough I was on the board with ball number 1. It was just too easy, and in fact I could not have asked for more. I was not feeling great and to get on the board like that brought a smile to my face. I quickly surveyed the ball and saw that it had a decent sized hole in it which meant that someone must have had a lot on their swing. I have no idea who hit it, but just for the heck of it will say Tabata.

 The first Evan Meek sighting of the 2011 season occurred after he threw a ball to Erik and Nick and actually said, “It’s 1-1 who’s going to come out on top”.He said that he would get us all later and I jokingly responded, “I thought what we had was something special” which drew a laugh out of him. He obviously knows/is more than willing to contribute to our collections.

 I did not get lucky though and he never tossed me up one. Also fans decided to sit in the most random places in left field and just blocked my path towards everything. It was very annoying and I swore quite a few times under my breath as it was clearly amateur hour. For obvious reasons, I will not repeat what I said on this blog, but it is ridiculous, we have gloves and moving around you just makes it that much harder and more likely for somebody to get hurt.

 I also was trying to take pictures for the blog and missed out on two snags which easily could have been mine, and at that point I thought that I was doomed.

 Pirates BP ended and I got nothing else, and I got quite upset as I changed into my Rockies gear. I knew that my chances of getting to my goal were getting more slim by the second as the sellout crowd of 39,219 fans filed into the stadium.

 I started out Rockies BP in left field and was coming up empty handed and decided to move my efforts to center field. After some time in center, nothing was happening and I was trying to figure out what to do. Left field was packed at this point and it would have been very hard to be mobile and right field was tough, so I decided to stay.

 Shortly after, an unknown Rockies player hit a ball to the warning track. I lined it up and knew that this was my chance. I had the corner spot in center and lined it up. Now I had a new glove and it was broken in very well but this was the first test of my new glove. I never had a chance to throw with anyone because I was sick and the weather was terrible. Also no one was throwing when I showed up. So this was it, and in short I blew it.

 The ball did a one hopper into my glove and it just fell out. To make matters worse, the fans in center let out a collective groan. The third bit of bad news was who saw it. Matt Lindstrom threw me my 64th and final ball of the 2010 season, and now he was a Rockies reliever. Would he remember me? No was the answer, but he provided another memorable moment.

 I asked Matt if he could help me out and toss me up the ball. He legitimately told me “You dropped it”. That was his actual quote and he mockingly sounded like a first grader. After the “grief” that Lindstrom gave me, he softly tossed up ball number 2.

 I then decided to go for the trifecta and challenge myself. I would ballhawk in right field. I only did this a couple of times last year and it did not go well. I think I will ballhawk a little more there especially with some of the hitters that the NL Central has. I first went up and chatted with Big Yellow, Randy Page. The last I had seen him, was when he came onto my radio show for a couple of segments to talk Pirates baseball, so of course it was great to see him.

 Of course once I went to right field, the Rockies hit a cold spell. I think maybe one of their hitters even made it over the wall during their entire BP time.

 I of course shifted my position and then of course is when that one home run came, right in a place where if I was situated in my previous spot, then I would have been able to snag it.

 Still a short time later, an unknown Rockies player had a ball close to the warning track and being the only person remotely close to wearing Rockies gear, I thought that I had a chance to snag it. It ended up that the player threw a terrible toss and it started to go down the stairway in the section I was in. I was closest to the steps and sprinted down the steps getting the ball ahead of five others chasing the ball and thus met my goal with ball number 3.

 I left right field after the snag, and moved back to center. I did contemplate chasing foul balls but the Rockies weren’t hitting many out. Troy Tulowitzki was hitting some balls out to left but not many people were able to move to try and get the snag so it got swallowed up by a sea of hands. I came close to a snag of a homer in center. It took a huge bounce and if the guy who snagged it had bobbled it, I would have made an easy snag, but it was not to be.

 Rockies BP ended a few minutes after and then the waiting game began. I clumsily looked for my bag that I had left in left field for five minutes until I found that it was moved down.

 I then headed to the bullpen, which ended up being my seat for the whole game, because I did not want to sit in my designated seat in the bleacher general admission area.

 I was able to watch Paul Maholm warm up which never gets old but he put the baseball in his back pocket and thus I did not get the toss up. I quickly grabbed my things, and moved over to the fenced area right by the bullpen as I knew how the whole move to that area thing would work and I looked quite smart as I got the closest spot that I could.

 Closer to the middle of the game, bullpen coach Euclides Rojas got my attention. He explained to me that he was going to throw me a ball but to give it to the little child standing to my left. I agreed and he threw me a nice easy to catch ball and I snagged it for ball number four. I immediately gestured a thank you with my glove and with him watching, quickly gave it to the child. I half expected him to throw another my way, but it was not to be.

 I then stood and enjoyed the game, and nothing else snagging wise came my way.

 Let me correct myself for a second, there was not much to enjoy about the game as the Pirates lost 7-1.

 The highlight of the game at least according to fan applause was a fan who in the ninth inning went onto the field. Two security guards responded a little late, but got on the field. I was surprised that only those two, who were stationed in right field were the only two out. The man encouraged the crowd and the ovation grew louder when he deked a security guard and made him fall onto the grass. Eventually though he was contained and the security person by the bullpen said that the man would be fined $500. The fans all cheered him amidst taking cell phone videos, and a minute or two later Pirates reliever Jose Veras mimiced the man’s actions.

 Lastly, the pregame stuff was all nice as the Pirates spent the majority of the time honoring Chuck Tanner who recently passed away. Also Jeff Banister was given the “Pride of the Pirates” Award. Former Pirates Manager and current Rockies Manager Jim Tracy, went out onto the field today with a mixed reaction although I would say that at least 80% of that reaction was in a negative direction.

 My next game will be on Saturday against these same Rockies, and Mr. Electric Stuff himself Charlie Morton is expected to go. I was supposed to be interviewed by my school paper but that will not happen. Hopefully I will be able to catch with the glove on Saturday before the game.

 

PirateFest 2011 Sunday Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 2011 Part 4

 I have heard a rumor involving the Friday autograph schedule for those season ticket holders attending Friday’s events. I forget the times and this is a projected list, so this very well may change.

Time #1: Garrett Jones and Kevin Correia

Time #2: Brad Lincoln and Clint Hurdle

Time #3: Evan Meek and Jose Tabata

Time #4: Jeff Banister and Charlie Morton

Time #5: Mike Easler and Bill Madlock

 These times were for the normal autograph lines and not the MVP Zone and again these could very well change, but with a week to go before PirateFest, it is a really exciting time to be a Pirates fan.

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.

PirateFest 2011 Part 1

The Pirates have released all kinds of information on PirateFest except signature schedules. I actually got my tickets Saturday and will be going to the Season Ticket Holder Day on Friday and likely Sunday. Here is my assessment of each day as well as some names for autographs.

 Friday: This in my opinion is the best day to go. If you are a true Pittsburgh Pirates fan, then Fridays have been the best day to go. This year, the Pirates made Friday all about the season ticket holder. From 4 PM until 6:30 PM, season ticket holders who paid in full by December 17 get to mingle with all of the Pirates that will be in town. This could be a great opportunity to get that autograph or even find out all kinds of stuff about some of your favorite Pirates. The actual PirateFest event for the night will go from 6:30 PM until 10 PM. This event is only open to season ticket holders, and those who were a part of the 4:30 event will not have to re-enter.

Saturday: If you are not a season ticket holder, Saturday gives you the most bang for your buck. Tickets are $12 for adults and $4 for kids 14 and under. Also season ticket holders get two  free tickets to use in addition to the event on Friday. I personally have gone all three days and hated Saturday the most. The lines are longer and it just seems like people are there just to be there. There are some nice things that go on there though, but they are rare. Last year, pitcher Charlie Morton sang songs in support of what happened in Haiti. It was a nice interactive experience and I donated some money. A lot of the Pirates were there to support him. Rocco DeMaro was tragically fired by 104.7 and he would do his Weekend Sportsline radio show from PirateFest each Saturday. The Q&A sessions are always packed, although the questions which are asked by fans, are either stupid or have been asked before. This year, it may be the only chance to ask questions of Neal Huntington, Frank Coonelly and Clint Hurdle in the popular “Ask Pirates Management” event. The line to get in on Saturdays has always been ridiculous. I advise you to stay away unless you want to take a lot of pictures.

Sunday: Sunday has always been known as family day and left over day. Sunday is when the kids come and thus the lines to get in are even more ridiculous that Saturdays. Still it is much more worth it than Saturday for me. The autograph lines which are ridiculous on Saturdays are more sane on Sunday and even more so for season ticket holders who get MVP Zone access. During the games that go on at the big stages, prizes which are not won are typically given away to fans. Also leftovers are constantly given by Pirates and last year I got a Ryan Doumit and Paul Maholm bobblehead as well as a shirt. Also as the day ends, the games get much more attractive as your dollar goes a longer way. It is prize city and prizes are just given away. Instead of one prize you may get three or four. The Pirates don’t want to keep all of last year’s promotions and thus they just give them away. While the hours are always shortest on Sunday, it is the most profitable of all of the days.

 With that being said, here are the players that will be at PirateFest. Just a reminder though, that these players will not be here all of the time, so if you are trying to get an autograph from a specific player go to www.pittsburghpirates.com , to find the times they will be signing.

 Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Evan Meek, Garrett Jones, Jose Tabata, Paul Maholm, Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, Brad Lincoln, Kevin Correia, James McDonald, Ray Searage, Clint Hurdle, Jeff Banister.

 I am sure that Neal Huntington, Bob Nutting and Frank Coonelly will all be there as well, and I am sure that other players will come as well.

 Pedro Alvarez is not likely to come as he is getting married the week before PirateFest. Also, Joel Hanrahan mentioned on Twitter that he will only be at Pirate Caravan thus meaning he will not be at PirateFest.

 I was surprised that Lincoln will be there and look forward to meeting Correia. I am also interested in why Charlie Morton and Ryan Doumit are not on that list.

 PirateFest part 2 will come up when I find out what the team’s final player list and autograph signings will be.

Entry on Pirates Promos, Caravan and Garrett Atkins

Here is some analysis on Garrett Atkins starting with the Wikipedia info:

Atkins was drafted in 2000 out of UCLA by the Colorado Rockies in the fifth round (137th overall). This time, he chose to accept the offer from an MLB club and began the process of reaching the majors.

Colorado Rockies

 2007 season

Garrett Atkins

Hit .301 overall, batting .349 at mile-high Coors Field, but hit only .254 in away games. However, one of the reasons for any substantial differences in home and road splits for Rockies batters is that they have to make adjustments in how they see pitches away from Coors Field – particularly breaking balls, such as sliders and curve balls – since those pitches act differently at Coors Field than on the road.

 2008 season

In 2008, Atkins spent much of the season playing first base in the absence of injured teammate Todd Helton, marking a defensive transition to “a more natural position for him.”

 2009 season

Prior to the start of the 2009 season, Atkins accepted a one-year $7 million dollar contract from the Rockies. He struggled in the 2009 season hitting .226 with nine home runs, and 48 RBIs. With the emergence of Ian Stewart Atkins became less of a priority in the Rockies longterm plans, he was thus non-tendered by the Rockies on December 12, 2009, officially making him a free agent.

Baltimore Orioles

2010 season

Atkins agreed to a 1-year, $4 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles. The deal includes a one-year club option for $8.5 million, with a $500,000 buyout. He is expected to be the starting first baseman.

On June 27, the Orioles designated Atkins for assignment.

On July 6, the Orioles released Atkins.

 Pittsburgh Pirates

 2011 Season

Atkins agreed to a minor league deal with the Pirates on December 23, 2010. It includes an invite to spring training.

 Atkins has a third base background, although he can play first base as well. As it was said earlier, he is on a Minor League deal and he is right handed. As a right-handed batter, Atkins can backup both Pedro Alvarez and Lyle Overbay if he makes the Majors. To me the signing was cheap, however confuses me. Here I was earlier this week singing the praises of the team signing Josh Fields and then the team goes out and wastes the small amount of money they have to sign a guy that could potentially become the next Delwyn Young on this team. I am not quite happy with this signing, although I still rank the Olsen signing as the worst of the off-season.

  Zac’s Grade: C+

Garrett Atkins Career statistics
Batting average     .285
Home runs     99
Runs batted in  

  488

 This came forth earlier in the off-season so here is the actual Pirates promotional schedule:

April
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Thu, Apr 7 Rockies Opening Day
2011 Magnetic Schedule All Fans
Fri, Apr 8 Rockies Free Shirt Friday All Fans
2011 Pirates Schedule Poster All Fans
Sat, Apr 9 Rockies Zambelli Fireworks
2011 Pirates Schedule Poster All Fans
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Apr 10 Rockies Kids Day
Kids Glove Kids 14 & Younger
Fri, Apr 22 Nationals Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Reusable Coffee Sleeve All Fans
Sat, Apr 23 Nationals Andrew McCutchen Action Figurine All Fans
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Apr 24 Nationals Kids Day
Kids Build-a-Bear Pirates Bunny Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Kids 14 & Younger

All giveaways and event dates are subject to change.

May
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Fri, May 6 Astros Free Shirt Friday FSN All Fans
Sat, May 7 Astros Pirates Cap Night All Fans
Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, May 8 Astros Kids Day
Kids Mini Bat Kids 14 & Younger
Mom’s Earrings All Moms
Fri, May 20 Tigers Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, May 21 Tigers Neil Walker Bobblehead All Fans
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, May 22 Tigers Kids Day
Kids Pierogy Beach Towel Kids 14 & Younger

All giveaways and event dates are subject to change.

June
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Fri, Jun 3 Phillies Free Shirt Friday Consol Energy All Fans
Sat, Jun 4 Phillies Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Jun 5 Phillies Kids Day
Kids Pedro Alvarez Replica BP Jersey Kids 14 & Younger
Fri, Jun 10 Mets Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Jun 11 Mets Skyblast featuring Zambelli Fireworks and Live Music TBD
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Jun 12 Mets Kids Day
Kids Pirate Parrot Cruise for the Cure Bobble Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Kids 14 & Younger
Mon, Jun 20 Orioles Blass/Sanguillen 1971 Championship Canvas Wrap All Fans
Tue, Jun 21 Orioles 1971 40th Anniversary Celebration
1971 Commemorative Ceramic Stein All Fans
Fri, Jun 24 Red Sox Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Jun 25 Red Sox Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Jun 26 Red Sox Kids Day
Kids Bucco Bands Kids 14 & Younger

All giveaways and event dates are subject to change.

July
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Mon, Jul 4 Astros Pirates Stars’n Stripes Reversible Floppy Cap All Fans
Fri, Jul 8 Cubs Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Jul 9 Cubs Skyblast featuring Zambelli Fireworks and .38 Special in Concert
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Jul 10 Cubs Kids Day
Kids Pierogy Wind-Up Racers Kids 14 & Younger
Fri, Jul 22 Cardinals Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Jul 23 Cardinals Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Jul 24 Cardinals Kids Day
Kids Jose Tabata Replica Alternate Jersey Kids 14 & Younger

All giveaways and event dates are subject to change.

August
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Fri, Aug 5 Padres Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Aug 6 Padres Skyblast featuring Zambelli Fireworks and Live Music TBD
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Aug 7 Padres Kids Day
Kids Drawstring Bag Kids 14 & Younger
Fri, Aug 19 Reds Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Aug 20 Reds Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Aug 21 Reds Kids Day
Kids Book Covers Kids 14 & Younger

All giveaways and event dates are subject to change.

September
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Fri, Sep 9 Marlins Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Sep 10 Marlins Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Sep 11 Marlins Kids Day
Kids Pirates Slippers Kids 14 & Younger
Fri, Sep 23 Reds Free Shirt Friday All Fans
2012 Magnetic Schedule All Fans
Sat, Sep 24 Reds Fan Jam featuring Steve Miller Band
2012 Magnetic Schedule All Fans
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Sep 25 Reds Kids Day
Kids Growth Chart Kids 14 & Younger
2012 Magnetic Schedule All Fans

 

Although this came forth a while ago as well, here is the Pittsburgh Pirates Winter Caravan Schedule:

Group 1

Featuring outfielder Andrew McCutchen, relief pitcher Evan Meek, and broadcasters Bob Walk and John Wehner.

Date Location Time Event Details
Mon., Jan 24 Pittsburgh, PA 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. Allegheny General Hospital Visit
(private event)
Mon., Jan 24 Pittsburgh, PA 11:15 a.m. – 12 p.m. Autograph session at
Allegheny General Hospital lobby
Mon., Jan 24 North Hills, PA 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Autograph session at PNC Bank
in McIntyre Square
Mon., Jan 24 Somerset, PA 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. VIP Reception at
Seven Springs Mountain Resort (private event)
Tue., Jan 25 Wheeling, WV 10 – 11 a.m. Triadelphia Middle School Visit
Tue., Jan 25 Wheeling, WV 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Event at Wheeling Island
Tue., Jan 25 Pittsburgh, PA 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Autograph Session at Dick’s Sporting Goods
at the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills
Wed., Jan 26 Freeport, PA 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. School Visit (Location TBA)
Wed., Jan 26 Pittsburgh, PA 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Carmalt Academy School Visit
Wed., Jan 26 Shaler Township, PA 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Autograph Session at Giant Eagle
Thu., Jan 27 Pittsburgh, PA 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Allegheny Traditional Academy School Visit
Thu., Jan 27 Pittsburgh, PA 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. School Visit (Location TBA)
Thu., Jan 27 Pittsburgh, PA
(Private Event)
6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Roberto Clemente Museum reception
(Private Event)

Group 2

Featuring pitching coach Ray Searage, starting pitcher James McDonald, infielder Neil Walker and broadcaster Tim Neverett.

Date Location Time Event Details
Mon., Jan 24 Washington, PA 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. School Visit (Location TBA)
Mon., Jan 24 Morgantown, WV 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Event at Damon’s Restaurant
Mon., Jan 24 Uniontown, PA 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Autograph Session at Uniontown Mall
Tue., Jan 25 Smithton, PA 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. Visit to Dick’s Sporting Goods
Distribution Center (private event)
Tue., Jan 25 Latrobe, PA 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Event at Giannilli’s Two Restaurant
Tue., Jan 25 Indiana, PA 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Autograph Session at Indiana Mall
Wed., Jan 26 Rural Valley, PA 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. School Assembly at West Shamokin Jr. High
Wed., Jan 26 Butler, PA 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Event (Location TBA)
Wed., Jan 26 Steubenville, OH 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Autograph Session at Fort Steuben Mall
Thu., Jan 27 Poland, OH 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. School Assembly at Poland North Elementary
Thu., Jan 27 Youngstown, OH 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Event at Butler Art Institute
Thu., Jan 27 Pittsburgh, PA
(Private Event)
6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Roberto Clemente Museum reception
(Private Event)

Group 3

Featuring bench coach Jeff Banister, first baseman Garrett Jones, relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan, outfielder Jose Tabata and broadcaster Greg Brown.

Date Location Time Event Details
Mon., Jan 24 New Castle, PA 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. School Visit at George Washington Intermediate
Mon., Jan 24 Meadville, PA 12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m. Luncheon Event at Allegheny College
Mon., Jan 24 Erie, PA 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Autograph Session at Dick’s Sporting Goods
Tue., Jan 25 Ridgway, PA 11 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. School Visit at
Ridgway Area Middle School
Tue., Jan 25 DuBois, PA 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Autograph Session at DuBois Mall
Wed., Jan 26 State College, PA 11:45 a.m. – 1 p.m. Luncheon Event at Damon’s Restaurant
Wed., Jan 26 State College, PA 1:30 P.m. – 2:30 p.m. Hospital Visit to Mt. Nittany Medical Center
Wed., Jan 26 Altoona, PA 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Autograph Session at Dick’s Sporting Goods
Thu., Jan 27 Ebensburg, PA 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. Ebensburg Center Visit (private event)
Thu., Jan 27 Pittsburgh, PA
(Private Event)
6 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Roberto Clemente Museum reception
(Private Event)

 

The Pirates Caravan will also visit Charleston, West Virginia, on Sunday, January 30 and Monday, January 31. The players traveling to Charleston will be announced at a later date.

  • Sunday, January 30: Charleston, WV – Hot Stove Banquet (Time and Location TBA)
  • Monday, January 31: Charleston, WV – Luncheon, Appalachian Power Park (Time TBA)

 

 

 

Pittsburgh Pirates Uniform Changes

Each year some Pirates change their uniform numbers and the new Pirates also got new numbers as well. Here are the changes:

. The major change is that Pedro Alvarez has changed his #17 for #24. Speculation is that it was his number in the minors and since Delwyn Young wore the number this past season for the Pirates, Alvarez had to choose another.

. Neil Walker will keep his #18. Walker wore #19 throughout the Minor Leagues but Ryan Church wore the #19 last season and thus Walker had to choose a different number. Walker chose #18 without thinking too much about it, but Walker who is a huge Andy Van Slyke fan never knew that Van Slyke also wore the #18 and that is a reason why he is keeping it.

. Manager Clint Hurdle will wear the #13 and thus Ronny Cedeno has chosen to wear the #5.

. Lyle Overbay will wear #37, meaning Charlie Morton has switched his number to #39.

. Alex Presley will now don the #44 jersey, which previously belonged to Brandon Moss.

. New Pirate Matt Diaz will wear #23.

. No Pirate will fill the “ocho-cinco” number as no one will wear the #85 vacated by Lastings Milledge.

Coaches Numbers:

 We already said that Clint Hurdle will wear #13, but here are the other numbers:

Hitting Coach Gregg Ritchie #58, Pitching Coach Ray Searage #54, 1B Coach Luis Silverio #39, 3B Coach Nick Leyva #16, Bench Coach Jeff Banister #55, Bullpen Coach Euclides Rojas #50, Bullpen Catcher Heberto “Herbie” Andrade will keep his #86 and Coach Mark Strittmatter #59.

 Interesting that Morton’s number is 39 and so is Silverio’s. Something has got to give.

Clint Hurdle to be Pirates new manager

 Just a short entry on the Pirates new manager. For those Pirates fans who may be living under a rock, the team has hired Clint Hurdle to be the new manager.

 

The good:

. Hurdle brings passion which previous managers (cough.. cough.. John Russell) did not bring. He is willing to defend his team and be an aggressor. Joel Hanrahan says on him, “It sounded to me like he’s not going to take any crap from anyone”.

. The young offense consisting of Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez can blossom under a manager who knows his offense and also was the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers who made the World Series this past season.

. Free agency may not be a bore any more, as according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, they will aggressively go after Jorge De La Rosa, Jeff Francis and Jeremy Bonderman. Any would be a welcome addition to a pitching staff that was decimated by injuries and inconsistencies last season.

. Despite being a hitting first coach, Hurdle does not overload his pitchers. In his time as manager of the Colorado Rockies, the average start was 93 pitches. This means that Hurdle does not give a quick hook to pitchers, but gives them a chance.

. Hurdle has already smiled more than John Russell, and it has only been one day in Pittsburgh for him thus far.

. Hurdle made the World Series managing the Colorado Rockies in 2007 and as previously mentioned when he served as the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers last season, so he is a proven winner; something the Pirates need.

. Since Hurdle possesses an offensive background, there is a chance for more batting practice which is great for a ballhawk such as myself.

 

The bad:

. At the beginning of his tenure with the Rockies, Hurdle had an affinity for the bunt. He would bunt a lot with his first two hitters. Bunting with Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata will not further them as players.

. With the Rockies he had proven talent such as a Troy Tulowitzki and a Todd Helton. With the Rangers, he had Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Vladimir Guerrero; also proven talent. You do not have that type of talent with the Pirates and you can only go so far, a manager does not make the difference.

 

This is the early scouting report on the hiring of Clint Hurdle. It is a little tough to say whether it was the right hire, as it was only him and Jeff Banister as finalists for the job (at least as far as we know), but out of those two candidates, the Pirates made the right choice.

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