May 2005

Team Effort for the Kids!

What a fabulous turnout on Thursday night, May 19th for our Gloves for Kids fundraiser!   Thanks to an amazing show of cooperation from over half the Pirates roster, the ceaseless efforts of some underappreciated Pirates front office "all-stars", the great support from our partners at ****’s Sporting Goods and the remarkably enthusiastic fans who turned out in record numbers to the Mall in Robinson, we raised over $17,000 in a three-hour span!!

The Boys and Girls Club of Western PA will take that money and purchase baseball gloves for young kids who otherwise would never be able to afford such a "luxury."  On Sunday, prior to our game with the Colorado Rockies at PNC Park, some of those kids were on hand to receive those gloves as Jason Bay and Tike Redman participated in the pre-game ceremony.  It was a just another example of how much the Pittsburgh Pirates mean to so many people in the region of Western Pennsylvania.

I have been around thousands of professional athletes during my years as a front-office employee and a sports broadcaster but I cannot recall a bunch than this current edition of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  I believe that each one of the 2005 Pirates is a "winner" off the field as solid, dependable, classy and caring human beings. One cannot help but root for them as they continue to win more games ON the field in the weeks and months ahead.  They deserve our support and I’m proud to be associated with such an outstanding group of people.

Thanks to everyone for total team effort!

Gloves For Kids

"Gloves for Kids" is the brainchild of Kansas City Royals broadcaster, Ryan Lefebvre.  Ryan approached me before a spring training game in 2002 and explained that, thanks to the help of the Royals players and ****’s Sporting Goods, he had raised several thousand dollars the previous summer to help provide underprivelaged children with baseball gloves.  Kids who otherwise might pass up the chance to play the greatest game on earth are now given an essential piece of equipment (and the most expensive) that will enable them to take part in America’s Pastime.

The great people at ****’s Sporting Goods (headquartered in Pittsburgh) met with us during the summer of 2002 and we decided to have our own "Gloves for Kids" fundraiser during the 2003 Pirates season.  The event turned out to be a huge success. Thanks to the tremendous cooperation and support of the Pirates players and front office staff, we raised over $12,000 over a three-hour period. Baseball fans jammed the ****’s Sporting Goods at the Northway Mall on McNight Road to get autographs from players like Mike Williams, Brian Giles, Kris Benson, Kip Wells, Josh Fogg, Jack Wilson, Reggie Sanders, Kevin Young and Jeff Suppan.

Hundreds of gloves were then purchased and handed out several days later to help kids in the Pittsburgh area R.B.I. program.  If only every person who donated money that evening could have seen the faces of those young children as they were handed their very own  (and very first)  baseball gloves!

That brings us to 2005, and once again the fine folks at ****’s Sporting Goods are "going to bat" for the kids. This year, we’ll be raising money to purchase gloves for the Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsyvlania.  On Thursday night, May 19th from 6 pm to 9 pm baseball fans will be asked to donate $20 for each hour of the event.

From 6 pm to 7 pm Jack Wilson, Spin Williams, Tike Redman, Mike Gonzalez and Mark Redman will be signing autographs.  From 7 pm to 8 pm Lloyd McClendon, Oliver Perez, Jose Mesa, Daryle Ward, Dave Williams and Humberto Cota will be on hand. From 8 pm to 9 pm Jason Bay, Rob Mackowiak, Kip Wells, Josh Fogg, Bobby Hill and Craig Wilson will be signing autographs.

In addition to the autographs, some top-of-the line merchandise will available as part of a silent auction. Fans will also have a chance to win cash and other memorablia as part of our raffle.

Silent auction items include the following AUTHENTIC game jerseys autographed by the player:  Jim Thome, Sean Casey, Ken Griffey Jr., Curt Schilling, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Derek Jeter, Oliver Perez, Jason Bay, Jack Wilson and Roger Clemens.

In addition, two authentic personalized and autographed bats are available in the silent auction: Jason Bay’s and Jack Wilson’s.

Memorablia ranging from color autographed photos of several Pirates players, plus an actual autographed base and home plate to autographed baseballs from Greg Maddux, Aramis Ramirez, Craig Biggio and others will be raffled off throughout the evening.

If you’re a baseball buff… You’ve Got To Be There!!!!!!!

The Bucs are playing great ball and there’s a bunch of excitement in the Pittsburgh area. We’re expecting quite a crowd to come out and meet the players plus contribute to a worthy cause.

Hope you’ll plan to join us at the ****’s Sporting Goods at The Mall at Robinson from 6-9 pm on Thursday night, May 19th.

If you can’t be there, tune in to KDKA radio AM 1020 throughout the evening for updates and place your bid on the Derek Jeter jersey which will be auctioned off on the air that night!!!

Major League Debut

Ray Sadler was called up to make his major league debut yesterday in Arizona. The 25 year-old from Clifton, Texas was 0-3 at the plate but contributed Sadler_3 to a Pirates win by making a fine running grab in left field in the first inning on a slicing fly ball toward the line on a ball hit by Luis Gonzalez. Now, even though the final score in the ballgame was 16-2, that play was significant because, at the time, the Pirates led 1-0 and the Diamondbacks had a runner at first base with one out. If Sadler (pictured) doesn’t get an outstanding jump on the ball and is unable to make the catch, it likely scores the tying run and Gonzalez is standing at second.

Kip Wells has had first-inning troubles throughout his career. Going into the game on Sunday, the opposition was hitting .321 against him and had scored seven runs in the first frame over his first six starts.  We’ll never know, of course, what might have happened to Wells and the Pirates if the Gonzalez fly ball had not been caught, but there is not question that the catch by the rookie left-fielder kept the Diamondbacks from scoring a first inning run.

I don’t know a  lot about Ray Sadler, other than what his bio tells us and from what his former batting coach at Altoona, John Wehner says about him. Wehner is now one of our broadcast partners and "Rock" raves about Ray’s work ethic and determination.  You could see that side of him in his debut against Arizona as he busted it down the line on his three ground balls. 

Sadler’s name might be familiar. His cousin, Donnie was a big league infielder for a few years with the Red Sox, Rangers, Reds and Royals. In a bit of irony, his final major league at bat came last year as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Cousin Ray will never forget his FIRST at-bat in the big leagues came against those same D-Backs.

offense IS contageous

It’s amazing how quickly a team can turn it around offensively.

When the Pirates started their most recent road trip, they were last in the league in nearly every offensive category with no sign of breaking out of their season-long slump.

Suddenly, it’s as if someone turned on the long-ball switch. In their last six games, the Pirates have smacked a dozen homers. This is not to suggest the 2005 Pirates will challenge some of the power-laden lineups in St. Louis or Cincinnati but at least they seem to be moving out of the dead-ball era.

It’s enjoyable to watch a team start to play well together.  I don’t believe the Pirates are going to win the Central Division but I do think they have a legitimate chance of ending their 12-year run of sub-.500 seasons.