Happy kids: Broadcaster Tim Neverett announced players Alex Presley, Josh Harrison and Gaby Sanchez to a screaming gym full of first through fourth graders at Poland Union Elementary. “It sounded like my living room,” manager Clint Hurdle said. He has two kids, Madison, 10 and Christian, 8. “This is pretty much common ground for me,” Hurdle said. “I spend a lot of time in school now.” While in Poland, Hurdle even did a little scouting for the future. “We could have a future owner or a general manager,” he said. “How old are some of these kids, 12? You only have to be 16 years old to be a GM these days.”
Staying busy: Though the MLB offseason is technically a full six months, it’s a busy time. Harrison has been running youth clinics in his native Cincinnati. “It’s always good to give back,” he said. Presley spent the last two months at his home in Louisiana. “I haven’t been on any cool trips,” he said. “I just try to spend time with family and friends.” Last weekend, Hurdle took his family on their annual holiday trip to New York City. “Most of our time was spent in line at the American Girl doll store,” he said.
Golden arm: The Pirates were last in major league baseball in throwing out only 9 percent of base stealers in 2012. The addition of Russell Martin is seen as a defensive upgrade. “He’s going to make us better,” Hurdle said. “Rod Barajas did a fantastic job calling pitches and handling the staff, last year. He was able to help our pitchers grow. I think we have a guy that can add to that. Russ may be better equipped to handle the run game with a fresher arm.”
Cutch happens: Centerfielder Andrew McCutchen flirted with the Nationa League batting title with a .327 average. He also hit 31 home runs with a .400 on-base percentage and was named to a second-consecutive All-Star team. McCutchen finished in third in MVP voting. “He’s an exciting player to watch,” Harrison said. “He hits the ball to all fields and in the field, he makes plays that save runs and he’s able to cut down shots to the gap and that’s a lifesaver because we play in a big park. His stats are good and everything, but that wasn’t the highlight of his season. He’s more worried about winning and sticking the team together.”
Momma J Hay: On May 13, Mother’s Day, the Pirates battled the Astros to a 3-2, 12 inning win. Harrison drove in the winning run on a walk-off single. “That’s going to stick with me for a while,” he said. “It was a special day. And for my mom, my grandma and my aunt, who all happen to be mothers, to stick it out in the rain was something that I’ll always remember.” His mother, Bonita, attended many games, at home and on the road, and was a favorite of the ROOT Sports television cameras for her encouraging behavior and defense of her son when he was hit by a pitch during a game. She’s grown her own fanbase on Twitter. “I tell her about some of the tweets and the pictures I get,” Harrison said. “She loves it. My parents are very supportive. My dad’s the more mellow one. He’s laid back and lets the women get excited.”
Tribe battle: When it comes to professional football, this area is greatly split with Browns and Steelers fans. With baseball, though, Hurdle can acknowledge that the Indians are probably king. “The Indians have won a little more than us,” he said. “It’s going to get better the more we win. It’s not about trying to dominate or steal fans. I think it’s great that they’re fans of baseball.”