Monday, July 11, 2011

Mid-Summer Classic Memories and Such

Since I'm already bored with the Home Run Derby, I figured I'd blog about my All-Star Memories. There's only so many HR's you can watch. When are they going to have a skills competition similar to the NHL's? You could have fastest runner, fastest pitch, OF accuracy throws, hitting targets, etc.

It does bring back some good memories as it was in Pittsburgh TWICE since I started high school ('94 and '06). This also means, since there are 30 teams, it may not be back to the 'burgh again until I'm retired. The reason for two so close was that in '94 it was Pittsburgh's turn in the rotation with Three Rivers Stadium. Then, PNC Park opened and they wanted to show off all the new MLB stadiums (I still think there was some sort of deal made to appease the Pirates ownership by giving them the game again so quickly even though there were other new parks. Regardless, that's a whole other story).

In 1994, my neighbor up the street who I mowed the grass for, Dr. DeNino, invited me and two other younger neighborhood boys to go since he had four tickets and his two daughters were still in diapers. What a guy! He took us to the day of the batting practice and home run derby (back when it was in the afternoon). I still remember the moon shots Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas sent to the third deck of right and left field, respectively as they dueled it out for the HR Derby title.

In 2006, I went with my dad and we went to the Sunday events: The Futures Game, a concert (don't remember who), and the Celebrity & Legends softball game. It was a fun time. Here are some of the pictures pulled out of the pre-blog archives:

Crossing the Clemente Bridge over to PNC Park with the All-Star banner overhead

Our seats up in right field. I found out that day that there truly are no bad seats in PNC Park. This was about as far away as you can be from home plate and it still felt close.

The Futures Game.

When they're playing in it, you don't really recognize many of the names, but it was fun to go back and look at the list of who played that day and rattle off the top of my head where they are now (I left the ones I didn't recognize out).

ADENHART, Nick, P - Angels pitcher who had great promise but was
unfortunately killed in a car accident by a drunk driver after a his season debut in the major leagues in 2009.
BAILEY, Homer, P - Up and down with the Reds
BRAUN, Ryan, 3B - MVP Candidate with the hated Brewers
BUTLER, Billy, LF - Key bat for the young Royals team
CARRASCO, Carlos, P - Young pitcher for the Indians
DREW, Stephen, SS - Starting SS for the Diamondbacks
GALLARDO, Yovani, P - Top starting pitcher for the Brewers
GARCIA, Jaime, P - one of the top rookies last year (on the Cardinals)
GONZALEZ, Carlos, OF - amazing 2010, among MVP candidates
GONZALEZ, Gio, P - starting pitcher for the A's
GORDON, Alex, 3B - another starting bat for the Royals
HUGHES, Philip, P - one of the Yankees young pitchers (injured some this year)
KENDRICK, Howie, 2B - speedy player for the Angels
LINDSTROM, Matt, P - reliable relief pitcher
MAYBIN, Cameron, CF - speedy outfielder with lots of promise that has bounced around in several different organizations
PENCE, Hunter, RF - the Astro's All-Star who would look great in right field at PNC Park for the Buccos
REIMOLD, Nolan, RF - up with the Orioles the last few years
SANDOVAL, Pablo, 1B/C - the Panda had a down 2010, but a great 2009 and 2011 SHARPLESS, Josh, P -a token hometown Bucco selection from Freedom, PA. He was out of the Pirates system (and maybe now out of baseball) in just a few years. Never panned out.
SUZUKI, Kurt, C - Catcher with the A's
TABATA, Jose, CF - disgruntled Yankees prospect back then who has now (hopefully) turned into a cornerstone of the Buccos for the next few years
TULOWITZKI, Troy, SS - only one of the best offensive shortstops in the game
VOTTO, Joey, INF - 2010 NL MVP with the reds
WALKER, Neil, C - Another token local Pittsburgh guy selection (although this one's turned out a little better!) He's an RBI machine!

Setup for the concert

Setup for the softball game with the shorter fence.

I remember Franco Harris played and also that Fred Lynn and somebody else had a home run derby to break a tie at the end.

It's pretty exciting to see the Pirates have three All-Star representatives this year, even if two of the three were replacements. What's more exciting is that they are 4 games over .500 and only 1 game out of first place. They've got 3 against Houston coming out of the break, but then division foes Cincinnati and St. Louis. I think that will go a long way towards determining whether they are legit contenders this year (I can't believe I just legitimately wrote that!!!)

Lots of people are wanting the Pirates to make trades. The guys they have coming off the DL over the next month (Beimel, Cedeno, Doumit, Pearce, Alvarez, Ohlendorf, Meek) may do the trick. However, I wouldn't be against making a trade as long as it makes sense. The bullpen could always use a fresh arm with how much they have pitched in the first half. A corner IF or OF bat would be nice, too, but at the right price. The names thrown around are Carlos Pena, Aramis Ramirez, Mark Reynolds, and Hunter Pence. I figure let's see how things play out over the next few weeks before worrying too much about trades.

Enjoy the All-Star festivities and let's go Bucs! It is so fun to have the phrase "first time since 1992" thrown around so much!

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