January 28, 2007

PirateFest 2007

I requested a friend to do a piece on PirateFest 2007, which he graciously agreed to do. Magoo attended the event on Saturday and emailed this to me. Hopefully he will have a chance to post it himself, if not I wanted to make sure it made it to BTW. Thanks Magoo.

PirateFest 2007
By Magoo
Having attended several PirateFests in the past I wondered what might be new this year. For the most part, these events are for the 12 and under fan. That has not changed. The view of three to five year old tikes all dressed in perfect replicas of their favorite player has not changed either.

What has changed was the uniform. The past couple of years it was Jason Bay's number 38 that was the most popular. This year it has been replaced by Freddy Sanchez's number 12. They were everywhere.

Generally, the size of the area used remained the same, but the biggest change was the use of the space. Two years ago vendors consisted of mostly of a small smattering of the typical baseball memorabilia types.

This year there was an upgrade in the kind of memorabilia that could be had. A person having a thick wallet had ample options to select from. Nonetheless, anyone seeking to pour over plies of photos, could acquire a full color photo of the likes of Doug Frobel, who in his five year career posted a mighty batting average of .201.

In comparison to the MLB Fan Fest that was here last July this event was only about one quarter of the size. However, what made this PirateFest much better than the one's in the past, were the games of chance in which fans could participate. Most were set up to allow the fan walk away with a prize of some sort. Practically all of those prizes were leftovers from last year's giveaways. Pins, bobblehead dolls, everything except fireworks was the standard fare.

The typical baseball challenges were everywhere. The radar guns, the electronic video games, and this year brought the pop up machine. Here the 10 year old could show their stuff shagging the can of corn.

Another difference this year was the new player Adam LaRoche. Surprisingly, the line to acquire his autograph was quite small. At about 3:30 PM. At he time many of the attendees were assembling only 30 feet away. Their attention was focused on a stage where at 4:00 PM, Pirate GM David Littlefield, Manager Jim Tracy, and CEO Kevin McClatchy would be fielding questions about the 2007 Pirates.

Questioners peppered the trio with hard hitting (no pun intended) queries. Like politicians the three handled them with a firm commitment... to give no commitment in their answers. Who will leadoff, who is batting second, what about the fifth starter, will Adam Laroche make the team better. Anyone who has seen Littlefield and Tracy speak on such topics could have predicted their answers.

One kid asked Tracy if Jose Castillo was to fat to play second base. Tracy went on to explain how the reports out of Venezuela has Castillo slimming 10 pounds off his frame.

What struck me as kind of odd was how long each of their answers were. The above answer took Tracy a full five minutes to articulate. It was if he was speaking to a bunch of Russian immigrants who had no clue of the difference between a fastball and a curve. Littlefield was even more long winded in his answers. Over and over again fans attempted to wrestle out of him answers that he just side stepped with rhetorical very polite answers. All seemed to leave the fans with the notion of... what did he just say!?!!!

The biggest difference in this session from ones in the past was the lack of questions directed at Mr. McClatchy. His posture spoke volumes of how this is effecting his new position as the front man for new majority owner Robert Nutting. McClatchy sat with microphone in hand, most of the time facing, the floor rather than the crowd.

Just two years ago with Jason Bay and a host of other Pirate favorites were almost ignored as fans wanted to know if he was going to ever get MLB to move toward an even financial playing field. At the time one came away that he was going to champion the cause of the small market team. He boasted of his leadership role in the matter.

With the recent agreement between MLB and the players association no such questions arose. Again at times he seemed like a lost orphan.

Hanging from the rafters were signs of last year's slogan of We Will. The very same banners that were hung around PNC Park last season. The year before the banners were those of legendary Pirates who had once made Pittsburgh a proud baseball town. It got me wondering as to what the slogan might be for this coming year. Maybe just plain ARRRRGH might suffice.
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