Results tagged ‘ Nate McLouth ’

Bowling With the Bucs 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garrett was in my lane, which really pleased me.

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

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

Posing with infielder Casey McGehee.

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

Posing with Pirates reliever Jared Hughes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pirates early season preview part 8: Right Field

 Just to reiterate from my last entry, I apologize for a mistake that I made in my centerfield entrance. I forgot to mention the strong possibility of Jose Tabata shifting from left field to center as it happened a few times last season. It appears to be the most likely option should Andrew McCutchen get injured.

 Moving back to right field, here is the projected depth chart:

 1. Garrett Jones

 2. Matt Diaz

 3. Ryan Doumit

 Garrett Jones goes by many nicknames, G.I. Jones., The Legend, G(arrett) F(reaking) J(ones) (of Extra Innings With Rocco DeMaro fame) or even his preferred nickname of Bam Bam. He first got his chance with the Pirates when the team traded away Eric Hinske. He made the 2010 Opening Day Roster and on that Opening Day he homered in each of his first two at-bats, and then homered the next game as well. Jones finished the 2010 season hitting a lowly .247 with 34 doubles, a triple, 21 home runs, 86 runs batted in, 53 walks and 123 strikeouts.

 I have talked in previous posts Jones moving to the outfield is beneficial to the team defensively but it helps offensively as well. Jones does not hit lefties well but seems to do a good job against righties.

 Enter Matt Diaz. I have profiled Diaz in previous entries as well, and he is the opposite of Jones, as he does hit lefties well, meaning all signs will point to a platoon situation. Diaz could have signed for much more successful teams including the New York Yankees and had more money in salary and in performance and playoff money (and a World Series ring if he was lucky). Diaz signed with Pittsburgh for three reasons.

 Money was obviously not a factor in his decision but the first was approaching former Pirates and current Atlanta Brave Nate McLouth. McLouth was very well liked by fans, and trading him upset many myself included. Having interviewed McLouth, I can say that he was a down to earth man and a great interview. McLouth gave Pittsburgh a good review which helped Diaz and his thought process.

 Another factor for Diaz had to be the playing time. Sure Diaz would have received much more money playing for New York or a higher market team, but he would have had to fight for a roster spot that would not be guaranteed, and even if he made it be forced to ride the bench the majority of the time. In Pittsburgh, Diaz is in a platoon scenario and he can play both the outfield and first base, making himself extremely valuable to the Pirates organization.

 The final factor for Diaz was Clint Hurdle. Diaz mentioned when he spoke with Pittsburgh Media that he thought very highly of Hurdle, and when he heard that Hurdle would be the Pirates manager, that that would be a big plus for the team.

 I have discussed all kinds of other options in previous blog entries for the right field position so here is a run down.

 Ryan Doumit essentially is the third string outfielder, unless he actually does get traded. As I have written in the earlier catcher and first base previews, the Pirates have seemingly made all of these signings in an attempt to show Doumit the door. He has a huge salary (in Pirates terms) and the Pirates don’t really have any where to put him besides the bench. In a sense this is much like when the Pirates sent Ian Snell to AAA, however unlike Snell, Doumit does not lack accountability. For the past two years on FSN, you have heard the commercial in which Doumit says that “you will be in a dog fight” in reference to playing the Pirates. Doumit is likely on the bench come April as he still can play multiple positions, though not really that well.

 Just so I don’t make the mistake again, it is not insane to think that Jose Tabata could move from left to right field. It is an option and right fielders at PNC Park have had trouble fielding the balls that bounce off the Clemente Wall. Perhaps Tabata bucks that trend.

 Another option is John Bowker. Bowker did see some significant time in right field as a September call-up, and he did a respectable job at the position. Bowker could turn some heads this season.

 As I wrote in yesterday’s entry, Alex Presley is also a possibility.

 Lastly, I will throw out the name Gorkys Hernandez. He was a part of the unpopular Nate McLouth trade and will be a big part of future Pirates teams. He did get injured for a good chunk of last season though. Last season, Hernandez played in 92 games hitting .266 with 11 doubles, 4 triples, 2 homers, 26 runs batted in, 17 stolen bases and 95 strikeouts for AA Altoona. For Hernandez it has been a long road, and that road will continue for at least another season, but he definitely will be one to keep an eye (or two) on.

 With that being said here are my projected Opening Day depth charts with the first being with Ryan Doumit and the second being without Doumit:

 1. Garrett (insert nickname of your choice here) Jones

 2. Matt Diaz

 3. Ryan Doumit

 4. John Bowker

 5. Alex Presley

 

 1. Garrett (insert nickname of your choice here) Jones

 2. Matt Diaz

 3. John Bowker

 4. Alex Presley

 Nothing changes in either of these, although if Doumit gets traded, it will be interesting to see what happens to the team.

 Tomorrow will be my first of two entries on pitching. It will focus on starters. The Pirates have a ton of starters, but what is my projected rotation? You will have to read tomorrow’s entry to find out.

 

Pirates early season preview part 7: Centerfield

 As it stands now, here is the current centerfield depth chart:

 1. Andrew McCutchen

 2. John Bowker

 3. Matt Diaz

 We all know the Andrew McCutchen story and how he took over for Nate McLouth in centerfield. While McLouth did win a Gold Glove award, the criteria for the award is severly flawed and his range was not that great. McCutchen defensively is worth the price of admission, and a reason why I get centerfield seats as much as possible. He entertains the fans as a seemingly neverending human highlight real.

 Another thing that sets McCutchen apart is his offense. The Pirates love speedsters in centerfield, and Chris Duffy, Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth and others (obviously McCutchen) fit the bill. McCutchen goes against the grain however, because unlike many of these previous options, he has a bat to go along with the speed.

McCutchen also earned high praise from one of the best names in the game, Bobby Cox. “He’s an All-Star. This year, probably,” said Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox. “Hitting. Running. Defense. Throwing. He’s got it all. He catches the ball like Andruw Jones did when he was 19. You can’t hit a ball [past him] out there. He’s got lightning in that bat too.”

 The year started off slowly for McCutchen, however he slowly recovered and raised his batting average over .300. Both McCutchen and Garrett Jones had career days on May 14 vs the Chicago Cubs. The teammates were the first to both go 5 for 5 since Willie Stargell and Bob Robertson in 1970. “I guess we were just kind of competing against each other,” McCutchen said, laughing. “I don’t know. I’d get a hit, he’d get a hit. He’d hit a homer, I’d hit a homer.”

 The biggest surprise of the year was that “Cutch” was not named to the All-Star game. McCutchen was the most qualified of the Pirates to be named so it came as a little bit of a surprise to some fans that he wasn’t named to the team, but the Pirates usually only get one player on the team each year and Evan Meek made more sense as he was a solid reliever all season with a sub-one ERA for quite a bit of the time before the All-Star Game.

 McCutchen had a rough August hitting .226 but hit .326 after that. On his batting during these times, McCutchen stayed true to himself. “Honestly, I don’t think I’m doing anything any different right now. You swing, and the ball finds a hole. That’s it. That’s the game of baseball.”

 His second season with Pittsburgh was not a sophomore slump, as he hit .286 while hitting 16 home runs, batting in 56 runs and he also stole 33 bases.

 McCutchen is clearly the team’s starter in centerfield for this year, and for seasons to come. McCutchen did get a little banged up last season though so that could be a cause for concern.

 If Cutch does get injured, I have discussed a lot of the previous options in Matt Diaz, John Bowker, Josh Fields and Garrett Atkins. It is worth noting that Steve Pearce played the outfield as well for the Pirates, so there is a chance that he could play the position as well.

 One guy I have not talked about is Alex Presley. Presley was drafted in the 8th round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He was promoted to the Majors on September 7, 2010 and is a current member of the 40 man roster. Presley played in 19 games and got 23 at bats with 6 hits for an average of .273. He struck out five times and stole one base (and was caught stealing once as well). He often pinch hit for the pitcher during his time, and also would play the outfield in games where the outcome was essentially decided. He did start a few games due to injury or to give guys a day off, but he did not homer or drive in any runs. Presley was named a Minor Leaguer of the Year in the Pirates’ system. Presley would be able to play any of the three outfield positions which helps his chances, but it is likely that the Pirates want to see more of Presley in the Minors so that they can see what he has to offer, and plus he will get more at-bats that way as well.

 Here is what I see as the likely depth chart for the outfield:

 1. Andrew McCutchen

 2. John Bowker

 3. Matt Diaz

 4. Alex Presley

 It is likely that neither Fields nor Atkins could play the centerfield position and Diaz is more suitable for corner outfield position and Bowker has much more power than Presley.

 Tomorrow I will blog about the platoon scenario in right field. All signs point to Garrett Jones and Matt Diaz in a platoon but Ryan Doumit is waiting in the wings.

Pittsburgh Pirates Off-Season in Review Part 2

 The Pirates next move was to sign Matt Diaz (pronounced Die-as). The following is his Wikipedia biography:

 “Diaz attended Florida State University and as a two-year starter led the team to two College World Series appearances including the 1999 title game. In 1998, Diaz was named man of the year by Sporting News.

 In 1999 Diaz was drafted by the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 17th round. In the Minors, Diaz excelled, but struggled in the Majors hitting .167 in 30 at bats in his two years with the team. He was released by the team and then signed by the Kansas City Royals, where he hit .281 with 1 home run, 10 extra base hits and 12 runs batted in during a 2005 reserve role.

 On December 19, 2005 Diaz was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Minor League pitcher Ricardo Rodriguez. Diaz earned a backup outfielder spot for the Braves during Spring Training. Appearing in 124 games, including many starting assignments in the second half of the season, Diaz batted .327 in 297 at-bats. On August 14, 2006, Diaz had four hits for the second straight day and tied the National League record with 10 straight hits. He grounded out in the ninth inning to end the streak.

 Diaz had his first career two-homer game on August 29, 2007 against the Florida Marlins. On September 5, he hit a three-run walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth to give the Braves a 9-8 win. Diaz finished the season with a career high .338 batting average in 124 games.”

 Diaz has career numbers of .302 with 41 home runs and 186 runs batted in.

 Diaz provides the Pirates with a much needed right handed bat with some power, as the team has a ton of lefties in the line-up. What struck me was that Diaz turned down deal which involved more money and a much better chance at winning to sign the 2 years and $4.25 million with the Pirates so he could play more and also play for Clint Hurdle, a man that he really respects.

 “The more I talked with Rangers players, they started singing [Pirates manager and former Rangers hitting coach] Clint Hurdle’s praises,” Diaz said in regard to Hurdle. “Everyone was talking great about Clint.”

 Diaz also was on the 2010 Atlanta Braves which rallied for Manager Bobby Cox in what proved to be his last season, so Diaz will be a great influence in the locker room, as he can bring passion as well as a true winning experience to the young Pirates.

 Unlike other free agent deals in the past, the Pirates signed Diaz to a second year which struck me as quite interesting, but Diaz explained why he wanted a second year.

 “I said, ‘I would love to come in and help the young guys out as much as I can. But in 2012, I don’t want to be doing this all over again while you are having the time of your life,’” Diaz said. “We can have some fun in 2011 and really surprise some people with the plan they have in place. But I think 2012 can be special.”

 Diaz initially did select Pittsburgh because he would get at-bats, however former Pirate Nate McLouth probably was able to tell him about being on the Pirates.

“Originally I viewed Pittsburgh as a place to go get at-bats and prove that I’m healthy,” Diaz said. “The more I talked to them, the more I realized that I could get at-bats and be a part of something really great. It was just a comfort thing, just a peace thing.”

 Diaz is likely to platoon in right field with the left-handed Garrett Jones as both complement each other as one will hit against righties and one against lefties. This means that both players can be well-rested and even give Lyle Overbay a day off at first base if needed. Overall this deal is a pretty solid one for the Pirates.

Zac’s Grade: A-  

Pirates cut Duke, LaRoche and Young

Well the Pirates made some moves that had to be made one way or another by releasing these three.

With Duke, I remember the Opening Day 2009 start. It was his best outing in a Pirate uniform and he was really becoming a good pitcher until Joe Kerrigan messed up a good thing. Duke was great with the community as evidenced with his Bowling With the Bucs event this past season. Duke leaving leaves Maholm and Doumit as the only two holdovers from the earlier rosters. I interviewed Duke during the 2009 season and he was very honest, candid and even funny during our brief time together. My other interviews were with Nate McLouth and Matt Capps, so obviously Duke was the last one standing. When I gave Duke a transcript of the interview during Bowling With the Bucs 2009, he quickly remembered me. I will always remember that and how nice he was to me.

 

While the Duke cut put a lot of money off of the table, the Andy LaRoche cut had to be the most painful for the Pirates. LaRoche was the main part of the Jason Bay trade. With Brandon Moss now on the Phillies, the release of LaRoche finally shows that management officially agreed with the public that the trade was a failed one.  It probably took a lot for management to have to do that, and that makes me respect them. LaRoche had a lot of pressure as Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez were both ready to take his spot. Walker had a fast start to the season in Triple-A and Alvarez was showing the team his power as well. LaRoche had a couple of good weeks early in the season, however faded fairly fast after that. The team tried to move LaRoche to second base and first base, but it never worked out. LaRoche was a big part of the community as well winning the Pirates Roberto Clemente Award. I was frequently at PNC Park during LaRoche’s time with the Pirates, and almost every game he would sign autographs for fans. I first met him on the final game of the 2009 season when we were allowed to take pictures with the players. Our camera was out of memory and thus we had to boost it up, LaRoche was very patient about the entire situation. He may not be missed for his accomplishments on the field but he was a champion off of the field.

 Delwyn Young was a big part of the teams’ bench over the past two seasons. He would play third base, second base and the outfield, making him a very useful option. His glovework at third base was not pretty, but it would be expected as he was trying to learn a new position. Under Perry Hill in 2009, Young tried his hand at second base and did a decent job, however he was a bit slow in terms of turning the double play. His outfield work was average at best as well, and he was not the fastest of runners and had trouble dealing with the right field of PNC Park. Young hit the first home run off of Stephen Strasburg. He also hit a bottom of the ninth game tying home run against San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson with two strikes and two outs. Young’s bat was great, however the team cut him, as he just was not getting the job done. He also did a great job in the community.

 

 

9/6 Pirates vs Atlanta Braves PNC Park

 I decided to go to this game and upon walking up to the line, I saw the longest line I have ever seen. It was an alumni autograph day and tons of people were there for autographs.

 I quickly cut through the line and joined Nick in the front. No one raised a stink about it, and I was glad as I did not want to start a fight with anybody.

 I was coming off of my two best games and I knew that today was going to be hard. My “best friend” the sun was out and there was a lot of uncertainty between Nick and myself and we both were excited yet anxious.

 We both worried that we would get in and have a shut gate or that only one team would take batting practice. Just as we were talking about facing only each other as competition, Jim Saylor showed up and we all had a conversation.

 With that the gates opened and I ran ahead of both of them. I searched for easter eggs as batting practice had just started, however I was unable to find anything.

 I endured a slow start as not many home runs were hit. I just missed getting a Chris Snyder home run and Nick had a couple balls at this point. Jim got a Ross Ohlendorf toss up.

 I was frustrated as nothing was coming up and Evan Meek wasn’t tossing anything up.

 It wasn’t until the final group of the day that I got something. It was from an unlikely source, as I finally snagged a Lastings Milledge home run for ball number 1 on the day.

 I almost had ball number 2 off the bat of Jose Tabata but a kid made a great catch and it was the first of many bad breaks on the day.

 That would be all for the Pirates and their batting practice. Both Nick and I noticed that the Braves were getting set for BP and we both rejoiced. We quickly reminded each other of the challenge we had set for each other.

 In previous trips to PNC Park the Braves have not really thrown any toss ups up to fans during BP. We decided to see who could get more toss ups from the Braves.

 Things started off funky as Eric Hinske, a former Pirate was throwing balls to kids but Nick and I couldn’t get our hands on them.

 I moved to right field as I saw some action out there. Unfortunately once I got there, I got nothing. Jason Heyward wasn’t hitting anything out and because of this and some toss ups, I moved to center field.

 Not much action occurred there and batting practice was dead for quite a while.

 The lone Braves hitter that was consistently hitting baseballs out was surprisingly Melky Cabrera.

 I took an early lead on Nick in the Braves toss ups as I actually got Mike Minor to toss me ball number 2. It was a lead that I was able to hold and I won the Braves toss up game.

 This game in particular was the most frustrating game of my life. I’ll recap this part the short way.

 Failed toss up #1: Cutch toss up in my direction. Gloveless woman screams “it’s mine”, drops it and drops a couple feet from her.

 Failed toss up # 2: McLouth toss up in my direction. A little short.

 Failed toss up # 3: McLouth toss up in my direction. Gloveless hand comes up at last second. Ball is lost.

 Failed toss up #4: McLouth toss up. Right section, wrong direction.

 Failed toss up # 5: Cutch toss up. Under thrown and batted around.

 Failed toss up # 6: McLouth toss up. Wrong section

 Failed toss up # 7: McLouth toss up. Just short and gloveless woman bobbles ball again and it short hops me.

 Failed toss up # 8: Cutch toss up. Ball is coming right at me, but under thrown and a random gloveless hand comes up at the last second. I throw my glove down in frustration and cuss.

 Failed toss up # 9- I lost count: Ok I give up, you get the idea.

 This was my last game of the homestand, and my next game is Friday the 17th vs the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Pirates vs Braves 5/22/10 PNC Park

 This game was an absolutely frustrating one. I went to this game with my best friend Colston, and we got pretty close to the front of the line.

 I called the Pirates and they said that BP would still be on but in line I noticed that that wasn’t the case. I went in and checked in with season tickets and entered the bleachers.

 Things were looking good early as despite no BP Kenshin Kawakami was warming up in the bullpen. With my red Under Armour on, it looked as if I would get on the board early. However, Erik came up and although I knew how to ask for the ball in Japanese, Erik ended up with the ball. However I had to act fast, and sure enough I ran over to the left field bleachers right by the bullpen and asked Bullpen Coach Eddie Perez for a ball.

 Perez then said that he had no baseball, but asked if I wanted the rosin bag, knowing that he was joking around, I played along and said sure. Perez then threw the bag halfway up and the dirt spread. We both laughed, and then he reached into the bag for ball number 1. After this, Erik, Colston and I went upstairs and tried to get more baseballs.

 With no one throwing, I decided to go for autographs and started out with an autograph from Cristhian Martinez.

 While waiting for them to throw, Jesse Chavez and Billy Wagner came out and started to sign. I made sure to thank Chavez and when Wagner signed I told him that if this was his final season than congratulations on a great career. Later on, I got a picture with Wagner, and this was the result.

 

  

 

  I was unable to get any of the warmup balls from the Braves and my next attempt at an autograph was all for not as Tommy Hanson ignored all of us.

 He threw a baseball with coach Alan Butts and Peter Moylan threw around with Eric O’Flaherty and then it started to rain and again I came up empty handed.

 I then went into the Hall of Fame Club and soon after back into my seat.

 Then came the long rain delay. This was a very good thing as Erik and Jim were nowhere to be seen and Nick was in Cleveland.

 When the game resumed, I had a clear advantage with trying to get an Andrew McCutchen toss up. Unfortunately I think he recognized me.

 Nate McLouth also tossed up baseballs but never threw it into my section.

 The bullpen was also crowded and we left around 11 and despite my clear advantage ended up with only one ball and three signatures. What a disappointment. I am unsure of when my next game is, but it is not until next month.

 

 

The 2nd Annual Pirates Awards

 This idea started last year, when I realized that no Pirate would get any actual awards. I was semi-wrong when Nate McLouth took the Gold Glove award, but that award has a criteria that is very flawed. While Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones have chances at Rookie of the Year Award honors, it seems unlikely that it will happen. With that said, here are the nominees and winners of this year’s Pirate Awards.

 Team MVP:

1. Andrew McCutchen- It only makes sense that we start off with the team’s leadoff hitter. His dazzling speed and late game heroics made fans out of many. He is in the team’s plans for the long haul.

2. Garrett Jones- GFJ is up here because quite frankly, he was a joy to watch. He hit the most home runs among rookies and he was versitile playing first base as well as left and right field. While he is an old rookie because he was stuck behind Justin Morneau on the Twins, he never let that faze him.

3. Ross Ohlendorf- Ross pitched very well all season for the Pirates earning a team leading 11 victories. While he did not pitch the entire season due to inning limitations, Ohlendorf showcased his stuff especially in the second half of the season.

4. Zach Duke- Duke made a 5 game improvement this season winning 10 games this year. He also is an accomplished hitter, and if you don’t believe me, then watch him during batting practice at the ballpark. Duke was able to locate his fastball much better this season making himself much more effective this season.

The Winner: Andrew McCutchen

 Cutch gets the award, because he was consistent all season long. Duke led the league in losses this year because of a lack of run support, but his earned run average started to pile on as the season continued. Ohlendorf was inconsistent for half of a season, and Jones was terrible when it came to hitting with runners on. You kind of knew what you would get with Cutch, and thus he is the team’s MVP.

 

 

 Team LVP:

1. Brandon Moss- While he won the starting right field job in April, he never really showed promise. While he was clutch for a short while in August, most of the time fans groaned and booed when he came to bat. The only reason he is still a Pirate is because if he were sent to Triple-A another team may claim him.

2. Brian Bixler- Another year gone, same Bixler. He shows all kinds of potential in Triple-A, but always appears overmatched in the Majors. In that sense he is very much like John Van Benschoten. Not much to write about him because plain and simple, he is just not that good.

3. Ryan Doumit- Doumit was doing a decent job catching in April, and then he got injured. While he is a leader on this team, it seems as if he does not practice what he preaches. He argued with John Russell and he did not really do anything positive that opened eyes when he returned.

4. Matt Capps- This was not the “Big Bull Rider” that I know. He was just inconsistent this season and he was a total mess.

The “Winner” (?): Matt Capps

 Capps just was not the same this year. He just didn’t save games consistently for us and if there was not a save situation (please see games against Phillies, Dodgers, etc..), he was atrocious. I don’t get why the Pirates are going to give him an offer this offseason.

 

 Most Improved:

1. Zach Duke- He seemed more in control than I ever remember. He nearly pitched four complete games to tie for the NL lead (thanks John Russell) and was the best offensive pitcher.

2. Ross Ohlendorf- Wow, what a change a year makes. “Ross the Boss” went back and forth on using his sinker or his fastball, and his mix confused the hitters facing him. In the second half of the season, hitters did not want to face Ross Ohlendorf.

3. Andy LaRoche- A year ago he was below the Adam LaRoche line, and now, he has come back to be the player I thought he was. Offensively, he led the team in runs batted in with 62, and he very well could be the National League’s best defensive third baseman thanks in large part to Perry Hill.

 The Winner: Ross Ohlendorf

 I wrote on this blog last year that Ross Ohlendorf was the worst September call up. I wrote that he was visibly overmatched, and that he should not be a starter let alone be on the Pirates. I can now admit that I am wrong, and I am proud to do so. He led the team in games won easily passing Paul Maholm’s 2008 total of 9 and thus wins the award.

 

  Moment of the Year:

1. Taking 2 out of 3 from the Phillies- Many in Pittsburgh, myself included thought that the Pirates had no shot against the Phils. Afterall, we had struggled against them at Citizens Bank Park, and it was clear that they were the more superior team. Still an Andrew McCutchen walk off sparked the team and they stunned the Phillies taking the series against them.

2. Taking 3 of 4 from the Dodgers- Just like the scenario before this one, LA dominated us at their ballpark and there was not much expectation here. Still we took 3 out of 4 from a team that advanced to the NLCS and still has a shot of winning the World Series. That is pretty cool if you ask me.

3. Triple Play vs Cincy- It was just a spur of the moment kind of thing, but luck struck for the Pirates, and although they lost the game, it has to be on the highlight reel. You can’t deny the pop fly caught by Jack Wilson, who tossed to Freddy Sanchez, who tossed to Adam LaRoche to complete the triple play. You also can’t deny the fact that none of them are wearing a Pirates uniform any more.

The Winner: Taking 3 of 4 from the Dodgers

 This was almost as tough as deciding the MVP winner, and there were a ton more nominees I could choose from. It’s just before that series we were on a massive losing streak and we had just had a game were just about 3,000 fans attended and the upper deck was closed. It also captured the image of a 4 run ninth inning to win the third game of the series as well as Zach Duke pitching a near perfect game to win the final game of the series.

 Best Midseason Acquisition:

1. Hunter Strickland- Simply put he combined to pitch a no-hitter almost immediately after being acquired. The last time I heard no-hitter here was 1997.

2. Lastings Milledge- Although he did not make immediate impact, causing many fans to want Nyjer Morgan back, Milledge came around, having a wonderful September and making a believer out of Pirates fans.

3. Tim Alderson- Although some were confused by him getting traded for Freddy Sanchez, Alderson has quality stuff and more importantly great potential.

 The Winner: Tim Alderson

 I am fairly excited by his potential, and I think he can be a front end starter. It would have been hard to keep Freddy financially and the trade worked to our advantage as Freddy got injured while playing for the Giants.

 Most Improved in Minors:

1. Daniel McCutchen- He led triple-A in wins when he got his September call up, and after getting adjusted to pitching in the Majors did a decent job for the team.

2. Rudy Owens- The Pirates Minor League pitcher of the year showed promise and could be a star for years to come.

3. Starling Marte- He had a nice record and he always got my attention. He made me want to read what happened in the Minors every day.

 The Winner: Daniel McCutchen

 I got a decent look at him in September, and I think he could be either the fifth starter or long reliever. He has been with Ross Ohlendorf seemingly every where he goes, so why can’t he be the most improved next year?

 Worst September call up?

1. Brian Bixler- I mean come on, why bring up Bixler. He is overmatched and is a liability defensively. Need I say more?

2. Neil Walker- I love his potential but it just wasn’t there offensively.

3. Virgil Vasquez- Didn’t fair well when he was first called up, so why did you call him up?

4. Eric Hacker- Had only three appearances and his first had exactly one person clap to welcome him. Did I mention that the game was at PNC Park? Oh and his ERA? 6.00.

 The “Winner” (??): Brian Bixler

 Just a waste of breath and space. It is rare when he plays, and even rarer that he does something right.

 

  Best Broadcaster:

1. Bob Walk- Has a great sense of humor and can be fairly random. With the team we have, funny and random is good.

2. Tim Neverett- He replaced Lanny Frattare (retirement) and although I was expecting the worse, he did a nice job. Needs to work a bit more on saying things in different ways.

3. Greg Brown- Everytime I hear him, there always is a “gees” in whatever he is saying. Not a bad “voice of the Pirates” though.

4. Steve Blass- Last year’s winner was honored for his decades long ties to the team.

 The Winner: Bob Walk

 It’s got to be Bob Walk, he easily takes it this year.

 Most Surprising:

1. Delwyn Young- I wasn’t expecting much from him because of what we traded away to get him, but we got a steal. This guy is an ideal utility man because he can play everywhere in the field, but he has a solid bat to go with it.

2. Zach Duke- Pretty much everything said above goes here as well.

3. Garrett Jones- You saw what he did in Spring Training, but did you really think he would make it to the Pirates, let alone go on such a tear?

 The Winner: Garrett Jones

 Jones went from a nobody to a somebody. No one expected this out of Jones.

Garrett Jones, take me to the river! by Dave's Family Fotos.

  Best Performance:

1. McCutchen’s three HR game: It was nice to see Cutch rake since he is not known for his power. The curtain call has to be one of the highlights of the season.

2. Duke’s complete game home opener: I was in the Lexus Club, and I saw Duke in total control of the Astros all game long. The fist pump he made after the final out told the whole story.

3. Craig Monroe hits two three run home runs vs. the Braves: Monroe, who no longer is a Pirate, seemed to have a thing for three run home runs in his short time with us.

4. Andy LaRoche’s perfect day vs. his former team: I can’t think of any thing better than going five for five with two home runs against your former team.

 The Winner: Zach Duke’s Home Opener

 Just total control from start to finish. The Astros never stood a chance. It also is worth a mention that Duke had a double that game too.

 

 Coach of the Year:

1. Joe Kerrigan- He transformed many players from Zach Duke to Ross Ohlendorf. He also was loyal to his guys and was the only guy who really stood up for Ian Snell (before Snell blamed him for his problems).

2. Don Long- His extra time spent with Delwyn Young seemed to pay off and in some of the series against big time teams, his work showed with the comebacks and walk offs.

3. Tony Beasley- Despite a death in the family, “Beas” pressed on, and did a solid job.

4. Perry Hill- Although it seems unlikely that Perry Hill will come back to the Pirates, he transformed Andy LaRoche into an elite fielder and Delwyn Young as a solid second baseman.

 The Winner: Perry Hill

 This was probably the hardest decision of all. A case really could have been made for Kerrigan or Hill. I think I was swayed by Kerrigan staying one more year and Hill likely not. Hill did a good job as the infield instructor and the Pirates raised their intensity defensively.

On First by jmd41280.

 Best nickname:

1. Cutch (Andrew McCutchen)

2. GFJ (Garrett Jones)

3. Ross the Boss (Ross Ohlendorf)

4. Big Bull Rider (Matt Capps)

 The Winner: GFJ

 I mean come on it stands for Garrett Freaking Jones. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

 Best Inning Break Activity:

1. Pirate Quiz- Nice game just pick an answer and either take what you won or go for the box of mystery.

2. Press Your Buc- Played under the rules of the game by a similar name, the contestant presses a button and stops on a prize or a whammy.

3. Bucco- Nice little Plinko game where if you get in the middle you when a 10 game pack or other prizes.

4. Perogie Race- Even though there is a meeting in the Park where it is determined who wins, it is still cool to watch, especially if you are one who bets money on the race.

 The Winner: Pirate Quiz

 I will admit that I am a little biased because I have been on Pirate Quiz, but still I like this game more than the others because at least there are some variables that change. Still, I couldn’t find a picture to capture the victory of Pirate Quiz so I guess I’ll have to satisfy demands by putting this up instead.

P1000226 by boomerkuwanger.

 That wraps up this year’s edition of the Pirates Awards. Agree or disagree, feel free to comment. Until next year, may all gloves be golden and all seasons winning.

9/4/09 Pittsburgh Pirates vs St. Louis Cardinals PNC Park

 First off, it has been a little while since the post not because of a lack of enthusiasm for writing these entries, but because of school starting. This put me back quite a bit. There are a few more game recaps including this one coming up before two pieces entailing my 2009 season with the Pirates and the 2nd annual Pirates awards. Looks like a lot of writing coming up!

 This was a meaningful game, as I had a chance to get Albert Pujols to sign my baseball for the only time this season. I did my research, and I figured out how to say what I thought would get him to sign, but it was to no avail, as I never really had a chance.

 I did sit on the first base side, and it gave me a chance to get some Cardinals signatures. I got off to a good start as I positioned my self right along the Cardinals dugout.

 This led to the first Pujols miss as someone asked him to sign, and he groaned and left never to appear again.

 This immediately made me discouraged, and I was ready to head to my seat. This was supported when I saw a Cardinal signing along the first baseline. Despite my knee being a bit shaky, I went the fastest I could down there and found out it was outfielder (and possible Rookie of the Year) Colby Rasmus. Many say that he is a jerk and he never signs, but here he was signing, I had to pinch myself to make sure this was true. I pushed and pulled my way into line, and sure enough ended up getting him (pictured below)

 I then headed off because I had heard that the Pirates Wives were hosting a fundraiser where they were selling autographed baseballs for $50 per ball with proceeds going to a charity (I believe the charity was for burn victims). I immediately bought 1 ball and was disappointed to discover that it was Nate McLouth (pictured below), as I already have several of his signatures. Still I wanted a picture with some of the Pirates Wives, and this is how it turned out:

 

McLouth by atownjacket.

 I then went down to one of the entrances and bought myself the September edition of the Pirates magazine called Pirates Insider. I then decided to take a gamble and get another baseball this time faring a bit better and getting Travis Hafner (pictured below).

 After that I went back to my seat, and got in position for potentially more autographs. But before anything else, I talked to the usher in my section about what happened during the Philly game where only those in the front row weren’t sent to their seat. The previous usher told me the reasoning was that, “nobody would sign.” I found that reason to be bogus, and was proven correct when I found out from this other usher, that it was because Phillies fans are rowdy and that they were trying to protect everyone.

 While that explanation was much more credible I still was upset. Obviously, I was in Phillies colors, meaning I was technically speaking a Phillies fan, so I am more than certain that I could handle myself around a few passionate drunks.

 With that knowledge, I went back to my autograph area. Before his interview with the Cardinals TV station, fifteen game winner Joel Pineiro (pictured below) started signing, and I was fortunate enough to get him.

 

 

 That was all I got in terms of autographs, as no Cardinals signed during the time they stretched on the field.

 Still, I moved from the first base side near the middle innings of the game, and went over to speak with a couple of friends who were at the game and on the other side of the field. Usually, the PNC Park ushers kick people out of sections that aren’t theirs starting thirty minutes before game time, but I had no problem getting in. It was going so well that I decided in the ninth inning to go down and try to get a baseball from the home plate umpire.

 It was a hard task bad knee or not, but my knee was not feeling too well, making my chances slim and none. Still I made it to the section I was gunning for, a 100′s section with a clear path to the place where I could get a ball. I thought at that point that I stood a good chance, but it was getting harder and harder to be patient. A couple next to me started cheering for the Bucs, while I was cheering for the game to be over.

 I needed the game to be over, because I should have already left the park at that time, and got a call from the person driving me that he was on his way. I had to act fast, and the fact that Andy LaRoche walked instead of becoming out number three was aggrevating. However all was good, when Moss popped out and became the third out. During this whole ordeal, the usher never even noticed me, and I never even saw the usher during the whole sequence.

 I immediately headed down to the umpire entrance and saw the umpire. There was one problem, I had forgotten his name which meant I had little chance of getting a ball. The umpire was tossing up baseballs, and then it happened. One man screamed, “Mr. Barksdale, may I please have a baseball?” He then got a baseball. I thought, why not, and I tried the same tactic, however Barksdale was already gone.

 Just as I was ready to call it a day, walking all the way down there for nothing, Lance Barksdale (pictured below) came out, and tossed me a ball, the last ball he threw that night. What a great way to end a decent night.

  

My Top Pirates Moments from the 2008 season

 So despite last season being another year of disappointment for the Buccos, I did not let that get in my way. Despite not being a season ticket holder and my age of 16 years young, I went to a grand total of 17 games last season. No at the field and off of it, there were a ton of fun moments. Here they are in terms of most memorable to least memorable:

1. Pirates Trivia Win: If you read one my previous entries, you recall me getting on Pirates Trivia. If you did not read the entry, I managed to leave my outfield seat and make my way on to the Riverwalk (similar to a beach’s boardwalk with souvenir stands as well as concession stands and rest rooms), and ask if I could go on Pirates Trivia. Despite originally being an alternate and the promise of being on next season, the original person never showed up and I was on. Pirates Trivia is one of the games that occurred after the bottom of the fourth inning. In the game, a single person has their name and is on jumbotron. A question is read to them with four possible choices and if you answer correctly, you get to choose between a Pirates jacket (valued at $160) or a mystery box which can be either good or bad. If you get the question incorrectly, you have a choice between a Pirates hat and the box.

 After getting my question, I took only a couple of seconds to answer and after being told that I seemed confident, got the answer correct. I then instantly chose to gamble and picked the box. Inside the box was a signed Nate McLouth 2008 All-Star Jersey (valued at $260 at the time) as well as 2 Lexus Club tickets to Pirates Opening Day next year (valued at $160 to $210 a ticket). The victory was even more satifying, because I had tried to get McLouth’s autograph several times before. The most notable time, was right before a game, when after a picture it was just me and him. I called his name, and without saying that he had to go or apologizing, he ran back to the dugout.

 

DSC00557 by joshua_siebert.

Caption: This is the view in the Lexus Club. It is right in front of the park, your food is free and you can see what it is like for a hitter to hit 90 mile per hour heat.

 

2. Autographs: As I mentioned, I did get Nate McLouth’s autograph, but there were so many others that I got. This was my first year attempting to get autographs, and in large part it was a success. I will definitely be able to get more, as I will be sitting right where autographs are usually given. My autographs ranged from teams and eras, but I was happy to get each and everyone of them.

   The fun started at the team’s annual event called PirateFest. The annual event, is usually done as a way for players to say thanks to the fans. There are autograph signings, games and much fun every year. The autograph sessions were done in one area, and there was a line. Each signing involved a current Pirate, a former Pirate and a future Pirate. I actually did get in line for a little bit, but after discovering how long the wait was (2 1/2 hours), I instantly left the line. Immediately afterwards, there was a Pirates Q&A session and I saw my chance. The session lasted around an hour and afterwards I was ready to do some back and forth running. The first person I approached was Tom Gorzelanny and after congratulating him on his marriage and his good season I got his signature. I then proceeded to run back and forth repeatedly to get many more signatures. The signatures were Zach Duke, Xavier Nady and Paul Maholm.

  After the running, I got Bob Walk, Matt Morris (more on him later), Bob Friend and Ian Snell all seperately at the radio booth. I also got Matt Capps and Jack Wilson seperately at one of the stages.

 Then during the summer, I attended the Parade of Champions, a part of Pittsburgh’s 250 anniversary. The event featured champions in every sport and had a lot of different features. There were several autograph sessions during the day and one was extra special. In fact, it was so special that it was seperate from all of the other signers. I instantly got in line because of the person and because of how long the line was going to be. Any guesses who this person is? If you said Bill Mazeroski, then you are correct. Mazeroski was great, and he was in town because he would in a couple days’ time throw out the first pitch in the Pirates-Yankees game. I also was able to get signatures from Steve Blass, Kent Tekulve, John Candelaria and Bob Friend. 

Bill Mazeroski

 A week later, I got yet another great autograph. The Tampa Bay Rays were in town and it was Sunday. A key hint for autograph hunters who go to PNC Park is to either get seats by the team of your choice or go to the ballpark on Sunday. Sunday is the easiest day to access the players and interact with them. While I did miss Scott Kazmir and James Shields I did manage to get three autographs. I got former Pirate Al Reyes, Edwin Jackson (who is no longer on the team) and the biggest one in Matt Garza. Garza who earlier in the season has tossed a one hitter was a great autograph because he ended up becoming the ALCS MVP. I felt great to add him to my collection. The only in game autograph I got was from the Jolly Roger, one of the Pirates two mascots. He looked over my scorecard and then whipped out a sharpie and signed it. Before the season was over, I also got Freddy Sanchez, John Grabow, Sean Burnett, Ian Snell, Matt Capps, Jeff Karstens and Tyler Yates.  

 

Matt Garza

 

 

 

   3. 4 Games In 4 Days: Despite not being a season ticket holder, I was able to attend four Pirates games in four days. While that may not sound like much, the way I did it would make it difficult for the average person. Considering that I am 16 and go to bed at 11, it made for an interesting sequence. The first three games were the Skyblasts and involved fireworks and a post-game concert. As a footnote, the Pirates did lose all four games, but to me that did not matter. After each night of Skyblast I went to bed at 2 AM. The fourth game was at 1:35 so I barely got any sleep, and I did get a sunburn afterwards. By the end of all four games, I couldn’t speak because I was yelling so loudly.

 

4. I Will Do Anything To Get On TV/Jumbotron: Whether it was being the section of the game, or being a complete idiot, I seemed to get on jumbotron quite a bit to get on TV or jumbotron. I played the National Anthem on my clarinet at the Pirates game with the rest of the band and did make it on jumbotron (check my Facebook Profile for proof). I did this despite going to the game the night before and yet again screaming for death and losing my voice. During the game, I warned my bandmates that I will scream and sure enough when Freddy Sanchez got a hit, I screamed at the top of my lungs for him to go to third and then screamed for him to slide. A couple of my band mates looked at me as if they had seen a UFO. We all sat in the upper deck that day, and my friend later told me that he was watching the game, and that my scream was so loud, that he could actually hear it. How about that?

 

 If you thought that was bad, then you are sorely mistaken. My same friend and I went to a separate  game and I did Karaoke for the first time (if you want to see it, go on youtube and search Pirate Game Karaoke and I am the first result). It was an ok performance and I can’t believe I did it and as you read my friend recorded it (I sang Don’t Stop Believing by Journey). If that wasn’t bad enough I ended up dancing, and I can tell you honestly, that I am horrible and spastic dancer. Yet, common sense did not stop me from being a moron. My moves made no sense at all, and when my friend put them up on Youtube he edited them to make them look even stupider.

 

Pirate game karaoke

Caption: Me doing Karaoke (this could help you if you are looking for it on Youtube)

 

 However, I was not done. After dancing during several inning breaks, I somehow did get on jumbotron and I proceeded to do the Soulja Boy Dance (and let me tell you I hit it spot on) and then did a couple other things (unfortunately my friend did not record it, I would have loved to see how it came out).

 

5. Sights and Sounds From The Pirates: PNC Park was full of great moments during thr 2008 season. One great moment was at the Pirates Q&A session at PirateFest. Nyjer Morgan was battling Nate McLouth and Chris Duffy for the centerfield job and a fan asked Nyjer to describe himself. He first started out talking about being from Walla Walla and his love for hockey. That was when the magic occurred and he talked about his Caddy SGX: “She drives real smooth, so I called her Charlene.” This magic was nearly topped by a fan by the name of Action. Action was sitting right in front of me during Pirates Deal or No Deal at PirateFest and freaked out over a Pirates t-shirt (“Ooo. Pirates….t-shirt”). He made me laugh even harder when he got on Pirates Trivia and took the box and won an autographed Matt Capps jersey. 

 

 If I had one vendor that I could buy from it would be the Lemonade Man. The Lemonade Man also known as Ken, is this skinny senior citizen who sells lemonade at all of the Pirate games. Ken has a constant routine that he has not changed for years that always works. He screams (well sort of) Lemonade repeatedly and then if someone wants one, he says, “$4 for 1,” and after he gives you the lemonade, he tells you to, “take it easy.” Every time the Lemonade Man is at PNC Park he is definitely one of the most recognizable faces in the Park.

 

 

Lemonade Man

 Ken the Lemonade Man
 
 Another recognizable sight has to be the grounds crew. When there is a rain delay, the crew makes a huge mistake wearing these ugly looking yellow boots. I know you want to wear home team colors, but yellow? Come on, it looks like what a first grader wears on a rainy day. Next season, please pick another color (except pink).
 
6. The End Of a Career: When I got Matt Morris’ autograph at PirateFest, I told him one thing, “watch out for that first inning,” and he said “hey, that’s right, I will.” He then proceeded to pitch horribly and give up all kinds first inning runs and be taken out early further proving the fact that hitters hit more than .300 against Matt Morris in the first inning. I actually got to see Matt Morris’ last start as a Major Leaguer and oh was it ever bad. He gave up three runs in the first inning and only pitched 1 2/3 innings in the game. He actually was at right around 80 pitches when he was taken out. When he was released by the Pirates the next day, he retired and was owed $11 million. Way to go Mr. Littlefield.
 
 

Matt Morris

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.