I’m apprehensive. I’m excited. I’m anxious. I’m hopeful. Clearly, I have mixed emotions about the 2013 Pirates. Is this really the year that ends twenty years of heartbreak?
Baseball was my first love as a kid. In my formative years in the 80’s the Steelers weren’t very good with Bubby Brister at the helm (and my friends who liked the Browns pointed that out a lot), and I hadn’t really been introduced to hockey yet because my Dad wasn’t much of a fan. But baseball, glorious baseball, was all consuming. My brother and I, along with the neighborhood kids played religiously. The wide open adjoined back yards of our house and the Gaber’s, and even the tree lines on each side made a great field. Sometimes we’d go to the end of the block and play at the Pelinski’s house on the corner. If there were enough kids the games were over in the parking lot at Tech, and always ended up in an argument or just playing home run derby.
We went to Pirates games nearly as long as I can remember, literally. I think I went to my first game when I wasn’t more than six or seven years old. Our seats were in right field at Three Rivers. We’d join the crowd in heckling Chris Sabo and Daryll Strawberry chanting their names. My Dad and uncle would smoke there in the stands, and have a few beers. I’m sure they were annoyed by our constant pestering for peanuts and what not, but I was sure oblivious to that. The Pirates played winning baseball back then and it was all that mattered.
Fast forward twenty years. What was the joy of my childhood has become something different. For many of those years you assumed they’d lose. Eventually, when those games would be a random win, the joy was gone. A few years ago we went for my older brother’s birthday and it was an extra innings walk off win by the Pirates over the Dodgers; I felt nothing. After that I didn’t go to any games for a few years (we had gone to at least one a year for a long time).
Now that you’ve read my unsolicited back story, I’ll actually cover something relevant: the opening game of the 2013 season. I didn’t exactly have butterflies during the announcement of the starting lineup, but I was excited. Then some bluegrass fiddle players did the National Anthem and it was terrible and I nearly had to turn it off. I persevered. Here’s what I learned:
1. AJ Burnett is old. He’s a beast, but he’s old. His ten strikeouts was more of a result from the Cubs being a terrible hitting team than the filthiness of his stuff. On opening day, you should not be gassed before you get to the 6th inning. His counterpart, Jeff Szmardja, Smurja, Smnotgonnaworkhereanymore, was the definition of filthy. Really he’s like Burnett was as a young up and coming star.
2. Help us Andrew McCutchen, you’re our only hope. The Pirates don’t look like they’ve improved at the plate at all. The atrocious hitting that led to the late season collapse last year continues, and if they’re going to be a contender in September that’s unacceptable. As I said, Samardzja (how do you spell that anyway) was filthy, but they took terrible strikeouts and were not stellar on the basepaths, either.
3. DON’T PANIC! In previous seasons, an opening day slap like that would have set the tone, the tempo, and everything else for the down-in-the-mouth Buccos. Same ‘ol same ‘ol. Not under Clint Hurdle. I don’t think anyone in baseball is more optimistic and at the same time more driven to improve and succeed. There’s hope with him at the helm still. There has been marked improvement in both of his first two years. It took him five years to get the Rockies to the World Series, and as hard and impossible as it seems, we as Pirates fans need to continue to be patient. But he has to give us a little bit. We need a season over .500 and he’ll get a damn parade.
It’s a long season, and I love all of it. After the initial glow wears off I’ll be paying attention to the Penguins and Knicks, and the Steelers draft, but some day this July or August you’ll see me and my family sitting somewhere in PNC Park chanting “LET’S GO BUCS!” no matter what the record is. I can’t help it!