With all of the bad mojo out of the way as well as having snagged the Mets commemorative yesterday, today was a day where the pressure was off.
I came straight from work to the ballpark where I was greeted by my friend Colston. We tried playing catch, as Colston has started bringing his glove to games. His catching needs a bit of work, and I have tried to help.
When the gate opened, I quickly saw that the usher pocketed any likely balls (again). I mean really, you have had enough through all of these years. At least leave some for the patrons, although seeing Pirates BP, there likely were maybe two or three balls in those bleachers. Love how the most random people have been pocketing baseballs, from Prize Wheel workers, to chefs and cleaning people. Random?
I took a spot in left field where Euclides Rojas and I immediately made eye contact. He flashed a ball and threw it my way. I was standing in either the second or third row and the throw was coming in low. Like a first baseman, I used my reach and made a nice catch. Ball #1 and I was so glad to be on the board.
No jokes, Pirates BP was uneventful as always and that was it for my Pirates haul.
The Mets then came over, and BP did not help much to start.
Fortunately I played by the left field foul pole and played for a toss up from former Pirate (for maybe a day) Jeremy Hefner who would throw me ball #2 as a ball came to rest along the warning track.
At that time reliever Robert Carson who tried hooking me up in left field and missed by a lot and threw one to Manny Acosta.
“Manny,” I immediately called out. I didn’t even have time to tailor my request in Spanish as I had ball #3 in my glove. Hey, I’m not complaining.
That was it until the end of BP where bullpen catchers Eric Langill and Dave Racaniello were packing the remaining baseballs.
I kept calling Dave’s name and asked for a baseball on a couple of occasions. One of them fell from the bag and that would be ball #4. Oh and none of the Mets balls today were commemorative which was fine.
I then went to my usual spot by the bullpen to watch the starters warm up.
After that I went into section 139 where I explained the normal deal I have with the usher Rich there.
“If I catch it, it goes to a kid,” I told him.
It is our deal and he lets me in when it is semi crowded. On this day, I did not have much competition at all, maybe one kids with a glove rows ahead that was crowded.
McCutchen’s throw was short similar to the Rojas ball, so I knew exactly what to do. I reached low and gave the gloved kid the toss up. Ball #5.
Colston and I then went by the bullpen for a bit. A friend of mine in the ballpark hooked me up with an extra pair of tickets. I knew there was a 2K Sports booth outdoors and I wanted to see what it was about. So we left the park with full intentions of coming back, it was ingenius.
How fitting was it that the MLB 2K12 RV was here in Pittsburgh on the day 2K Sports announced there won’t be MLB 2K13.
Oh well, at least I got this picture taken of me.
It does look like a cool cover, but it kind of looks like I did heavy drugs right before the picture. Oh well.
We then went back into the ballpark, and stayed for the rest of the game. It was a shame the Pirates could not hold on as the Mets came back to win the game, but home plate umpire Mike Everitt did toss me a baseball for ball #6 right before he disappeared. That was awesome and my second umpire ball of the year.
Here are some bonus pictures from the game:
For me at least, Opening Day is a national holiday. Pirate fans come together once a year to celebrate this team and the start of the baseball season, and every baseball hangover is instantly cured.
I was at the gates around 10:00 for what was going to be an exciting day. The first thing I did was take a nice run from the Clemente Gate to home plate, which was a decent run. There, I ran into Randi Hoffman, who along with Joe Klimchak does interviews for the Pirates to place on their website and apparently Xfinity On Demand.
The interview itself was about Opening Day, and what it meant to me. I recalled my experience from two or three years ago when I was in the Lexus Club and saw Zach Duke put his fist in the air after beating the Astros. That was the year of the whole Stanton Heights police shootings, so it was a very emotional day.
With that I jogged back to the Clemente Gate.
Throughout the time before the gates opened, I saw Bob Nutting, Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington greeting the fans as they were coming to the ballpark.
I was told that the gates were going to open at 11:30, so myself, Nick Pelescak and Erik Jabs all threw on the Clemente Bridge. This was my first test on the season, and by all reports I passed. My glove work was great and I did not have any of my wild throws. Erik cut the session short when he saw the ticket takers getting ready.
I was surprised because it was 10:49. Would we get in early? Well according to one of the ticket takers, we were getting in at 11. This made me very excited because the chance to see some of Pirates BP was exciting, and the chance of me getting a baseball is that much better.
There was one problem, and that was that the bag checkers and security were not at the gate.
Well 11:00 came and went and so did 11:10 and no sign of the security guards. All of a sudden, someone appeared around 11:15 and all of the Pirates employees huddled up (seriously, this isn’t football).
The ticket taker immediately changed his story then, and at 11:30 the gate was to be opened.
Even worse news was that it wasn’t just the Clemente Gate that would open at 11:30, it was all gates. Things just got a lot harder.
Of course, this was the case and for non-7:05 games, there will not be any season ticket holder time. Things are already tough enough with the grounds crew ruining time of BP to prepare a field that is already ready, and tarping the field even for a small rain shower.
Here is the official word from the Pirates website:
The 2012 PNC Park gate times are as follows:
“For Monday through Friday night games, Season Ticket Holders may enter the ballpark and proceed to the Left Field Bleachers 2 hours and 30 minutes prior to game time.
On Saturday night games, Season Ticket Holders are permitted to enter into the Left Field Bleachers and main concourse 2 hours and 30 minutes prior to game time.
Early access is granted by entering through the Clemente (CF) Riverwalk Gate, and proceeding to the bullpen gates where season ticket holders can then show their Season Ticket Holder card or have their season ticket scanned.
Season Ticket Holder early entry is not available on day games (12:35pm, 1:35pm and 4:05pm).”
Oh well, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
The Clemente Gate line was split into a Y with the line going two ways (??). I did search for Easter Eggs, but found nothing, and I knew that things were going to go bad from there.
Upon coming into the ballpark, I saw red, which meant that the Pirates were done with BP already. There of course were no Easter Eggs in left field, because Manny Sanguillen’s grandson snuck into left field and pocketed the five baseballs that were in there. Yes that is a fact as myself and several others saw him leave “Manny’s BBQ” and go into the seats, which is not allowed.
It felt wrong to wear Phillies gear, but really what choice did I have? Things were tough, and I could not get near a batted ball.
Joe Savery was in left field and he was not tossing anything up, which stunk.
I decided to relocate to center field and first base during BP and center yielded nothing for me, so I went back over to first base. Luckily Kyle Kendrick was there, and he tossed me a baseball. I guess I can say, Kyle you got Punk’d again.
Ball number one on the day and six on the season, crisis and shutout averted.
Despite me going to the dugout after BP, I was unable to snag anything else until I went over to the bullpen.
In the top of the first, my buddy bullpen catcher Herbie Andrade threw a baseball that a kid misplayed and I saved for ball #2 on the day. I immediately gave it to the kid, whose mother made him come over and thank me.
I then left to sit in my season ticket section (312). My dad was in his seat so, Colston and I stayed until the bottom of the seventh inning was over so that we could beat the traffic.
The game itself was a great pitching battle between Roy Halladay and Erik Bedard.
Both pitchers looked great warming up and seemed in their element, something that would carry into the game.
It was surreal to see the first pitch, because that is when it hits you that the 2012 season is underway.
The difference in the game was a Carlos Ruiz sacrifice fly. Right fielder Jose Tabata’s throw to catcher Rod Barajas was too high and Ty Wigginton scored the winning run in a 1-0 game.
Yes the Pirates ran into a great pitcher who has won 39 games over the past two seasons, however the Pirates offense still looked unprepared and mediocre at best. This will have to change if this team wants to become winners this season.
The Pirates had Friday off, so my next game was Saturday? Would I continue my strong start on the day where I averaged five baseballs a game last season, or would I choke? I guess you’ll have to find out soon. Thanks as always for reading.
As an added bonus, here are some extra pictures from the game:
I was surfing on Facebook this past weekend, when a friend asked me about Jeff Clement, I found myself as not having an answer. I would like to think that I know a lot about the Pirates and Pirates baseball, but this one stumped me.
I asked a couple of people on Facebook, and did not get much of a response.
In his chat on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today, Pirates beat writer Colin Dunlap said he saw him two weeks ago, but other than that not much information was made.
I decided to figure this out, and thus e-mailed Pirates President Frank Coonelly to get the answer, and a short while later I got the following response: ” Jeff was taken off the 40-man roster in the off-season and signed to a minor league contract. He is rehabbing in Bradenton and will report to Indy when healthy. Look for him in May or June.”
My take; I find this quite interesting, Clement disappointed last season, however each season is a fresh slate, and hopefully Jeff can come back to Indy in May or June and work his way to the Major League team. Ideally, the hope is that he can become a September call-up as I have seen him hit quite well during batting practice.
This is the second time I am writing this recap, so if I am missing something I apologize. I worked very hard on this entry the first time and then lost it all because I did not copy it incase something happened. Sure enough, the following page said that the internet could not display the page, so I am starting this entry from scratch again.
I went to PirateFest with my friend Colston. Because I feared that the line would be long, I had Colston drop me off as he had to pick up his mother. I arrived at PirateFest at 3:45 all smiles and ready for the 4:00 start time.
I did not expect the line to be as long as it was, but I did not expect 3,500 people (up 1,500 from last year’s Friday PirateFest) to show up on Friday for two reasons. The main reason was that it was season ticket friday, and the Pirates had limited the event to their biggest fans, their season ticket holders. There also was a Steelers rally which I thought would drag some Pirate fans away. These fans truly were the best of the best.
The 15 minute wait was seemingly endless, as I could not wait to get in there, as I was all the way at the back of the roped area, with a lot more people behind me. There were a few familiar faces that I saw in line though that passed the time a lot quicker. One of them was Matt Peaslee. Matt and I have had Facebook conversations and back and forth tweets and he like me has aspirations in the field of journalism. He also has a Pirates related MLBlog which you can follow here: http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com.
Finally, I saw that the gates had opened to PirateFest and the line was moving. As I went in, I passed a Pirates arch which was over where my ticket was taken. I went in and immediately received a bag with a PirateFest program, a nice pocket schedule and a 2011 Pirates calendar very similar to the one they gave away a couple of seasons ago.
When I went in, I immediately went into the MVP Zone where after checking in, I got into the surprisingly short autograph line where Garrett Jones and new Pirate Kevin Correia were signing. I had them both sign my program. I was surprised that people were not having Correia sign things. I was really looking forward to meeting him and that would have upset me if people did not want my autograph. I welcomed Kevin to Pittsburgh and he seemed to appreciate it. Garrett as usual was rather friendly and he always has been interactive with the fans.
I then caught up with Colston and we went right across from the MVP Zone to the West Penn Allegheny Health System booth where we could throw a pitch as fast as we could. The radar gun was inaccurate though as the distance was not the proper distance and although my arm was rusty and I had not hit a gym in a month or so, there was no way that I threw only 36 miles per hour. Colston did worse than I did and he threw it sidearm, but the shameful damage was done.
We then decided to walk around and see what all would be at PirateFest this year.
We quickly saw the main PirateFest stage where it was set up for the Pittsburgh Pirates version of Minute to Win It.
We saw the usual games such as dart toss, chuck-a-luck and bean bag toss. The Minor League teams also all had booths as well to promote their teams. There also was the Pirates booth where you could show your Pirates pride in a video. It was a clever idea because when you entered your information you could spread the video over Facebook, Twitter and more. Mine for some reason did not work, but I saw others post videos on Facebook that looked great. Finally, there was a booth which if you entered your information, you received a card and this card could be shown at the Pirates Prize Wheels located throughout PNC Park and you could just show the card instead of filling out endless pieces of paper. You also were entered to win Pirates signed baseballs, jerseys and more.
We then passed the Root Sports booth. Root Sports will take over what is now known as FSN and that switch will take place on April 1, just in time for the Pirates first game against the Chicago Cubs. I recorded my highlight there, which I have since posted to Facebook. The teleprompter was a little slow. When I was done, I collected a Root Sports bag, to hold my stuff and moved on.
We were walking back to the PirateFest stage when we stumbled across the radio booth and Joe Bendel of ESPN 970 AM. He had Andrew McCutchen on as a guest and we lined up to try and get a picture. A ballhawk and his father then reunited and we both talked about how excited we were for the upcoming season. With that, the interview was over and Pirates people whisked McCutchen away before anyone could do anything. I managed to get a handshake before he left. For those of you who must know, his hand was a little sweaty,
Before we took our seats, we visited the PirateFest stage where I saw my buddy Joe Klimchak. We had a nice handshake and I gave him a copy of the recent college newspaper where my article was in there.
We then took our seats at the Minute to Win It stage and started to see failure in the first two contestants. The first was a seven-year-old kid, and he could not make it past the first contest which was to suck an M&M in a straw and transport it to the other side. Initially it was five M&M’s but because of his struggles, they switched it to one. He failed both times and got a hat.
The second contestant wreaked of perfume and she failed the first time and she won the second time. She failed the next challenge though and she won a hat.
The last contestant faced the pressure of Joe who said that if he failed, he would pick somebody that he knew would make it a few rounds.
The last contestant’s name was Bob and he looked like he was in his mid 50’s and kind of looked like Santa Claus. He had his yellow Pirates Clemente jersey and his figure was Santa-esque and he had a mustache which rivaled Ray Searage. He won the first couple of rounds, and in fact, made it all the way to the final challenge.
The highlight of the game was the Junk in the Trunk challenge where Bob had a tissue box on his behind with mini balls in the tissue box. He had to dance to get the balls out and it was quite funny as he did not dance that gracefully. Still, he won the game and won some fans in the audience.
He risked all of the prizes he had earned to take part in the last challenge which was to keep three balloons up in the air for a minute. He had two chances to do this, as he never did lose before that, however he lost both times. He was barely able to hold all three balloons in his arms, and that was a bad sign. He did win four club seats though, and he might have won a hat too, I am not sure.
I then told Colston that I was going to walk around, and sure enough I ran into a ton of people and had a ton of conversations. It was nice to converse with the people.
At that point, the live taping of Inside Pirates Baseball was about to begin, and I had my camera ready as I was taking a lot of pictures of the goings on. I was going to take a picture of Stan Savran prepping to do the show, but without saying a word, Stan actually turned around and smiled. I knew that this was going to be fun.
As the show started, Rob King came in, as he prepared to do the intro with Stan. At the start of the show, I was the lone person in the crowd and I was right behind Stan. A lot of people later told me that they saw me, and I had recorded the episode, so I was excited to see the result.
As Rob and Stan were doing their intro, a familiar face started to appear, it was Evan Meek. I slowly walked over to him and we proceeded to have a quick conversation. He said to me,” Hey Zac, Squirrel Hill, right?” We continued our conversation as he went for the pound, and it was great, but soon after he told me that he had to go sign autographs with Jose Tabata in the MVP Zone. We parted ways, and I was more excited than ever. In fact, it was cool to see the fans that started to surround me and give me surprised looks. They seemed shocked that I knew Evan and the looks on their faces were priceless.
After that, Stan revealed who would be on the show and shortly after I saw Chairman of the Board Bob Nutting. I decided to pose for a picture with him. The picture ended up failing though as someone called his name at the last second and he did not look into the camera. We had to do a second shot, and that one went a lot better.
I also got to meet Manager Clint Hurdle for the first time. He was very nice to all of the fans, and I was very impressed by the things he said throughout the night. I posed for a picture with him as well and we parted ways with a handshake.
I stayed at the Inside Pirates Baseball show for a good 30 minutes before I went back over to the PirateFest stage. It was at this point where my back gave out because of the hours of standing.
I remained standing for Ask Pirates Management, as the area was crowded and soon after ran into Colin Dunlap the new Pirates beat writer. I found out that we shared many of the same concepts and beliefs about the Pirates. We both are optimistic about the future and think that Ronny Cedeno does not belong in the big leagues. We parted ways, as he was transcribing some of the Q&A alongside of Jen Langosch. We would meet again later in the day as he was getting ready to leave, and I believe that our paths will cross again soon.
I then sat back down for the regular Q&A with all of the Pirates players (sans Jeff Karstens, Jose Tabata and James McDonald) and coaches. One little kid asked Andrew McCutchen for his autograph and McCutchen did sign for him, although soon after jealous others asked McCutchen for his autograph and he said “we’ll see” (he left immediately after).
The weirdest question of the night was directed towards Garrett Jones. A man asked that of Jones, “Hypothetically if my daughter was to marry you (Jones has a girlfriend), which player on the team would be your best man?” After some laughter from the audience and some puases from Jones, the answer turned out to be Steve Pearce. The questioner then thanked Jones who whispered the word “awkward” into the mic. Also worth noting is that Neil Walker will use fellow Pittsburgh native Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” when he steps up to bat this season.
After Q&A was over, I got to redeem the free meal that I received upon entry at PirateFest and got myself a hot dog, Cracker Jack and some lemonade.
When I came back, I ran into Randy Page, better known as “Big Yellow” and we exchanged a handshake and a quick conversation. He ended the conversation, as he was going over to PirateFest field to partake in the Perogie Eating Competition, which he won. We caught up at the end of PirateFest where he told me about the win.
I sat down and watched Deal or No Deal and saw Evan Meek and Garrett Jones as bankers. By the second game, they started going easier on the contestants. Again the prize was the 20 game season ticket plan, which was useless as we all were season ticket holders.
The last contestant won the big prize and everyone was happy for her as she was an older lady and walk using a walker. She was helped up and down the stage by Meek and Bob Walk, the announcer of the game.
With that, all of the stage games were over and things were wrapping up for PirateFest. A lot of the season ticket holders had already left, and the MVP Zone no longer was doing autographs, so kids were playing Wii Sports, while others played pool and relaxed on the chairs.
My father was about ready to pick me up, and I was bundled up ready to go outside, but at the last minute took a picture with President Frank Coonelly before I left.
I had a lot of fun at Friday’s PirateFest and would be back Sunday for much more. My next post actually will be my Super Bowl Prediction and then I will make a post for Sunday’s PirateFest.
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.
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:
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.