sports’ fans have outdone themselves. With the Steelers’ chance at a record seven Super Bowl championships a week away and a Penguins late season playoff run is sure to be expected, the last thing on the minds of Pittsburgh sports’ fans should be baseball. Yet, on the last weekend of January, fans showed up in record numbers for the annual PirateFest celebration at the Steel City . David L. Lawrence Convention Center
The three-day baseball carnival drew 16,389 fans this year, which was a significant increase of approximately 1,400 from last year’s attendance and marked the largest crowd since PirateFest moved to the convention center in 2003. This is just as encouraging and exciting as it is surprising, especially considering the fact that the Pirates completed their 18th straight losing season in 2010 with a horrendous 105 loss campaign. That being said, with more dramatic finishes and high-level individual efforts throughout the season, there is reason for fans to be interested in what these new young Bucco players have to offer.
Despite the impressive turnout to PirateFest this past weekend and the continued interest on the young star power headlined by the likes of Andrew McCutcheon, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Neil Walker, only one aspect of a Pirates’ season is going to win over this difficult-to-please, sports-obsessed city: winning baseball games. Newly acquired manager Clint Hurdle has an impressive reputation and an overwhelmingly inspiring optimistic attitude, which, in theory, is exactly what a group of young position players need in order to take their games and attitudes to the next level.
While winning is at the forefront of importance to the team and its fans, we all must not be naïve in our hopes for success. After all, the Pirates haven’t accumulated more than 68 wins in a given season since 2004, and after losing 105 games a year ago, unrealistic expectations will only set up the team, and its fans, for disappointment. To finish the upcoming season in the 70-75 win category would be a monumental improvement from 2010, and would continue to prove to the players, and Pittsburghers in general, that this team, when coached efficiently and when they put forth enough effort, has the potential to improve and to be a force in the National League in the upcoming years.
The 2011 campaign will get underway in just a couple weeks from today. Pitchers and catchers report to their first official Spring Training workout on February 14, position players will arrive shortly afterward, and the first full-squad workout will be run by Hurdle on February 19. That’s where it all begins for this team. Get back to the basics, further develop the young talent of the club, and when the opening day of the season arrives in
, rely on the talent, experience, and charisma of the top players to get the Buccos off to a great start in 2011. Chicago
Let’s Go Bucs!