Pirates Guest Relations

As many people, who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, know, I recently had some issues with the Pirates and their, well just the Pirates. More specifically, the Pirates front office.

Let me take you through a little time line, of my history, as a Pirates Season Ticket Holder (STH) (Why capital letters? Because we are given titles, as Season Ticket Holders):

  • December 20, 2009: M son and I were invited to PNC Park, by a Season Ticket Executive, to take a tour of the facilities and talk about the ‘perks’ of being a STH, and pricing.
  • March 23, 2010: Paid in full, my first season as a Pittsburgh Pirates STH.
  • June 27, 2011: Receive an e-mail from my Account Executive, advising me that he had been promoted and I will have a new Account Executive.
  • August 16, 2012: Arrived at PNC Park early, to watch batting practice, with my son, and was unable to gain access to the left field bleachers.

Well, you ask “What’s the big deal about that?”

Season Ticket Holders have ‘perks,’ and one of those is to gain access to the left field bleachers, for batting practice, 2 1/2 hours before the game starts, which is an hour before anybody else.

Ever since I had been switched from one Account Executive, to another, I hadn’t received any invitations, to any, in season perks (i.e. Catch batting practice, watch batting practice from the field.). Up until last week I hadn’t been invited to any in season perks, since 2010.

Me and my son played catch on the field, after the game.

My son. He, and only he, is the only reason I am a full season STH.

As some of you may know, I live over an hour away from Pittsburgh, and unable to make it to every game. So a full season just wouldn’t make sense.

On August 16th, after getting denied entry into the left field bleachers, for batting practice, I immediately went to Guest Relations. There, I filed a formal complaint.

That next day, I received a call, from the Pirates front office, and were just wanting to reconfirm all of my contact information, to try and figure out why I haven’t been getting invitations to these various events.

This morning, at 8:10 a.m., I received a call from the Pirates, again, and wanted to discuss my issues. We spoke for about 20 minutes, and was reassured they are trying to resolve any issues of communications, between them and me.

Last season, I began to notice things, through out the organization and the stadium itself.

I referred to it, in my state of anger, as the ‘flash in the pan’ of success. The Pirates being in 1st place, at the all star break. People were filling the seats and baseball had been reborn in Pittsburgh.

The bottom fell off, as we all know.

This year, they started out as a team scratching to be a mediocre team. The stars aligned and, at one point, they were the hottest team in baseball. People came, again.

The Pirates became such a hot team, there were record numbers at a Tuesday afternoon game, over 34,000 in attendance.

The service got crappy again.

There seems to be something coinciding here.

In my own opinion, the Pirates front office and in stadium staffing seem to understaffed.

The Pirates are a good team, believe it or not. Even with the recent slump. People are still going to the games and will keep going to the games, if the team is good.

As more people become STH’s and more people come to see the games, on a regular basis, it seems to me that the Pirates need to counter act with hiring more people.

I still await a resolution to the problems, that I’ve had. It’s not an overnight solution, that can be found. It’s just a waiting game, at that time.

Open Letter to Mr. Coonelly

Dear Mr. Coonelly,

I would like to start out by saying; congratulations on such a successful season, so far, the team is better than anyone has expected it to be. It is quite enjoyable to be able to go and enjoy winning baseball, again, in Pittsburgh.  There has been record amounts of people attending games, this summer, and its amazing!

With the increased attendance, obviously good for the organization, there is also the increased confusion among the crowd.

Confusion? -You ask.

Allow me to take a side step momentarily, and let you know, if you weren’t already aware, how the Penguins deal with large crowds. Until Sidney Crosby was drafted, and Mario Lemieux came out of retirement, the Penguins saw many nights that they couldn’t even fill the Mellon Arena to half capacity. Since then, they’ve had a record number of consecutive sell outs and the crowds, though a smaller venue, have been organized.

The Penguins maintain some of the confusion, to be minimalized, by simply not allowing people go to their seats during action. There is no way to stop anybody from getting up, at anytime, and leaving the section, but there is a way to stop people from returning to their seats while the game is in play, the ushers.

At the Mellon Arena and now Consol Energy Center, you are not permitted to return to your seat, during any game, while the puck is in play. It causes people to miss parts of the game and can cause confusion, and sometime hostility, among the fans.

Back to my point, as if you didn’t know where I was going.

This past Wednesday, July 26th, there were nearly 34,000 fans in attendance, for a day game! That is amazing. With weekends being nearly sell outs, and when it is a sell out, more people piling onto the rotunda, for standing room only, there are nearly 40,000 people in the stadium.

I have been a full season ticket holder since March of 2010, and enjoy nearly every minute I am at PNC Park, winning or losing. But recently, it has gotten to the point that I am unable to even keep a scorecard, for the game, due to the fact fans are flowing in and out of the section while there is action on the field.

For the fans who are there to enjoy the game, by themselves or with friends and family, it becomes quite a nuisance. On Monday, July 24th, evening alone, I counted myself having to get up and allow someone coming or going, from their seat, 19 times, as the usher would standby and do nothing. I missed a lot of plays, and had to revert to other fans or go to my MLB AT BAT 12 application on my phone, to find out what happened.

I know that there are more pressing things to take care of, with the team and the facilities, but I am simply wondering if something could be looked into, to properly resolve, or make better, the issue.

Thank You,

David A. Plavi

 

McClouth’s Standing Ovation?

I awoke early this morning, and read through a lot of tweets from yesterday evening and last night. Quickly I noticed a trend, not from the tweople I follow, but people that they retweeted. Nate McLouth.

As we all are aware, McLouth got traded to the Atlanta Braves in 2009, in return for Charlie Morton and Gorkys Hernandez, thus triggering the promotion of Andrew McCutchen. While many of us knew of McCutchen’s potential, and knew what kind of return was had in the trade, there were many who were upset at the trade of McLouth. At the time, there is no doubt, he was arguably the best player on the team, and most of the Pirates fan base only saw the best player being traded away.

When he was signed this past off-season, to the one year deal, many people saw that as him choosing to come back to Pittsburgh, and they may have been the case, though only to lesser contracts offered to him. For those who may even be reading this, you are the demographic that are on the inside track of Pirates fans, and know more about the team than people would even know. We all know signing with the Pirates, he was looking for a chance of redemption, for his last two season plagued with injury and dismal stats.

When he came to the plate, to pinch hit, in the 9th inning, in yesterdays game, he didn’t receive a standing ovation by any means. The crowd on hand did give a great response, to his 2012 debut. I took that in two ways; for those who only know of the big league team, they were excited to have a player, who was the best on the team, return, and for the few of us whom are aware of the organization depth, and know baseball,  it was a welcome back.

We all know what McLouth has done in the past. Neal Huntington sold high and bought low, when it comes to him. He was traded when he was the best on the team (high) and he was signed as a bench player for 1.75MM (low). His output this year will be from coming off of the bench and a spot start, barring any injury.

As I was reading all of the tweets from this morning, I just couldn’t believe how many people were bashing those who did, stand and applaud his return, but should be noted: it was nowhere near a standing ovation. Nate isn’t the answer for the future, just a reliable bench player.

OPENING DAY!

It is here, yet another baseball season, and for those 39k+ that were fortunate enough make it out to PNC Park, we were all witness to a great pitchers duel.

Stepping away from the game, this was my sons, David, first ever Opening Day. From the moment he found out, over Christmas Break, he was going to go to the game, he has been counting down, and so was I. We found ourselves, immediately, back into our game day rituals; made our way for a slice of pizza, watched batting practice, and enjoyed the pre-game videos.

Though this was his first Opening Day, this was not his first sell out. The crowd was mostly a Pirates crowd, as it should be, with a few pools of Phillies fans through the stadium. There was an all around great feel, within the ball park.

Entering my 3rd full season, of being a Pirates Season Ticket Holder, there are many great things to come this season; an improved team, great games and giveaways, and most importantly, more father-son time that I, no, we both live for.

‘BALLHAWKS’ RUIN IT FOR THE KIDS

Over the past several years, there have been several news worthy stories, that have spread like wild fire, out of the Coonelly camp. Of course we all know about the Pierogi Incident of 2010, and the Bar Boycott of 2011. This years news worthy story may not have happened yet, but I am going to refer to this as the Ballhawk Policy of 2012.

In years past, the PNC Park ushers would make their way into their designated sections, before the gates open, to prepare themselves for people to be seated. As they would go through the section, they would find balls from batting practice and would place them in their bag to give to the young children in their section.

I was told today, by the usher in my section, that there is now a policy in place that states the ushers are now longer permitted to pick up any balls they may find. There were several complaints throughout the year, last year, by the ‘ballhawks,’ that all of the balls were being given to the children.

Now don’t jump down my throat here! There are several ‘ballhawks’ that do give balls to children, and they know who they are. There have been several incidents where I seen grown men, literally, running over kids to get a ball. A BALL.

Lets all be mature adults here, and stop complaining about not getting a ball.

PITTSBURGH VS. PHILADELPHIA

Its been going on for years, Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia.

We all know how the Philadelphia fans are. Rude. Obnoxious. Many, many more adjectives. The rivalry is more prominent in hockey, football seemingly is just a put on by TV networks airing the games, but the two series a year the two meet, in baseball,  have been getting more heated and one sided since 2009.

Ever since the Phillies won the World Series, in 2008, the fans have been ever so arrogant and don’t remember 1985 – 2001. In that 17 year span, the Phillies had a losing record in all but one season, 1993, when they won the NL East.

There were a group of middle aged Phillies fans sitting in front of me today, and with every video played, play made and cheer had, they immediately mentioned the 19 straight losing season. Several Pirates fans would try to quiet them, but failed.

“Go get a real hockey team!” “Hockey starts at 7″ – One point, Phillie fans.

“We won more World Series than you did!” “Yea, but our last one was four years ago” – I’ll call that one a draw

“How’s your NBA team doing?” “I don’t know, are the 6ers even playing?” -One point, Pirates fan.

Lets do everyone a favor, if you’re at a baseball game, don’t bring up hockey and vice versa. But most importantly, WHEN, not IF this team makes it deep into the playoffs, do not become arrogant like Philadelphia fans.

 

Inside Busch Stadium

This upcoming 2012 season will be my third, as a Pittsburgh Pirates, season ticket holder. I have been fortunate enough to experience the most beautiful ballpark in America, PNC Park. Over the years, I’ve taken several tours and hundreds of games, and still can’t get enough.

The weekend of January 29th, I took my monthly visit, to see my son, in Springfield, Illinois and decided to take a short 90 mile trip to St. Louis to go to WWE: Royal Rumble. With plenty of time to kill, we decided to do a little sight seeing and ended up at Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals. We had went to a game there, in September of 2010, as the Pirates took the win from the Cardinals.

After purchasing tickets, for the tour, we entered at the 3rd base gate, where the statue of Cardinal Great Stan Musial, stood. As the tour guides took us around the ballpark, we first visited the Champions Lounge, where images and memorabilia from, the now 11, World Series Championships were on display. Also on display, was the Cardinals first ever World Series trophy, from the 1967 series (MLB didn’t award trophies until 1967).

From there we made our way to the Red Bird Club (formerly the Fred Bird Club), it is the largest private club area in all of American sporting venues, holding just over 3000 people. The club wraps around, on the second level, from the end of the Visitors dugout to the end of the Cardinals dugout, and on the exterior wall a custom made wall paper, made up of enlarged baseball cards of St. Louis Cardinals and one St. Louis Brown, Satchell Paige.

We were fortunate enough to be taken to the Cardinals radio broadcast booth, which is accessed through the Red Bird Club. The broadcast booth was very large, and center to the entire field. In the booth were several murials of Hall of Fame broadcaster, Jack Buck and his son Joe Buck.

The Cardinal Club, much like PNC Park’s Lexus Club, is a fine dining, members only club. Seated behind home plate, also known as the “Green Seats,” can not be purchased for single games. In the dining room, they have on display several items from the former Cardinals Museum, which was once located down the street from Busch Stadium. It was a beautiful restaurant setting, with valet parking and easy access to the seats.

We made our way onto the field, where we were permitted to take pictures, but not step onto the grass, and go into the Cardinals dugout. The tour was coming to a close, as the took us through the lower level, accessing the usual route taken by media and visiting players, and came across a tribute to a former Cardinals employee, who was once in charge of promotional items. The display of figurines, bobbleheads, an hundreds of other items, was only a quarter of his entire collection, after a 30 year career, before he passed in 2004.

Busch Stadium is a beautiful stadium, with a beautiful view of the city, and Arch, but not comparable to PNC Park. It is clearly larger, with 4 levels of seating, though still does have the old time baseball feel, with its classic design. The tour guides seemed to have a little, too much, pride (cockiness) about their team and boasting of their storied past. Otherwise, a good experience.

Please forgive the placement of the photo’s. I am still not used to WordPress.com

 

2012(errr ’11) Piratefest

It’s that time of year again, well at least its the new ‘that time of year.’ The Pittsburgh Pirates, along with several other MLB organizations, had their Winter Caravan / Fests a little early this year. For years, it had always been near the end of January, but the business side has won out and it was decided to have it take part  a week before Christmas.

SUCCESS!

Not many people are fans of the idea, but take a minute and think about it; Christmas shopping can be done, a lot of college students are home for the holidays and are able to attend, and we are getting to see the players before they get into baseball mode. In years past, the gloom of Spring Training was just weeks away, and they would have to cram all of their errands in, in a short amount of time.

As the Pirates organization welcomed its season ticket holders and their close friends and family to, an exclusive, Friday night at Piratefest, the Steelers and Penguins had taken a back seat, if only for the weekend. Just like any other sporting event in Pittsburgh, their was a never ending sea of Black and Gold, but for this one weekend, in December,  it was all Pirates.

Ascending the escalators, onto the main floor of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, we were welcomed, with open arms, to the festivities. For those lucky enough to have been invited early, they were able to avoid the long lines ahead of us, but it was well worth it. After the doors opened at 6:30, crowds flowed in with no hesitation.

For those who were only attending on Friday night, much like myself, there was a need for a game plan. As the advertised autograph session, for the evening, were former Pirates Doug Drabek and Jose Lind, that was an absolute need. Waiting in line for nearly and hour and a half, from the advertised ’30 Minutes From This Spot,’ it was completely worth the wait. Being able to meet two of my childhood idols, in Lind and Drabek, I was in pure and complete ‘AWE.’

After the hour and a half wait, in line, for autographs, there was only two hours to cram everything in. I immediately found myself in the game used merchandise store, where they had endless amounts of jerseys, hats, bats and balls, all certified by MLB to be authentic. Among those items were a couple great items I was able to pick up a beautiful lithograph of PNC Park, on Opening Day 2001, and a mint condition vinyl of the 1960′s Pirates theme (for the life of me, I can’t remember the exact name).

After spending a little cash, there was still a little time remaining at the Q&A session, where all the crowd had been lined up to ask their favorite Pirates some questions. There were a lot of different questions, mainly asking about twitter or planking, but one question was by far, the best. A fan had asked Michael McKenry what his first thought was, after the infamous call, in the bottom of the 19th inning, by Jerry Meals. McKenry quickly shrugged the question off, after clearly not being able to answer it to the crowd full of kids.

After taking in the Q&A for a little while, I was able to go through out the booths and get several things for my son and his collection. With Piratefest being aimed towards kids, it was a street fair atmosphere with a lot of games aimed towards those kids. I played anyway.

A few of the other booths, located through out the ‘fest, were a couple of the Pirates minor league affiliates, State College Spikes and the Bradenton Marauders, offering up some schedules and telling us about their facilities. Also found were a couple of charitable causes, mainly the Pirate Parrots’ Cruise for the Cure, where if you were able and willing to donate, to the cause, you would receive an old giveaway, and receipt if needed, for tax purposes.

As usual, they had a display of next season promotional giveaways (Pictures below).

As the night was nearing an end, the crowd began to thin and this night of Piratefest was closing out. For those who are going to attend, be sure you go and enjoy yourself. There is something there for everybody. No matter what time of year it was, it was a spectacular event.

By closing, I want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Years to you and yours.

Season Ticket Holders: Batting Practice

It was that time of year again, when the Pittsburgh Pirates organization invited its loyal customers into their facilities, for some batting practice.

As my friends and I came upon PNC Park, we were excited for what was about to happen, as we remembered from years past. Arriving on time, there was no wait time, as we were escorted from the Press entrance, into the home batting cages.

Outside of the batting cages, we were greeted by Oliver Onion.

As it got closer to being our turn, we snapped a few keepsakes. Each of us had our round, swatting at some balls, and with a small turn out for out time period we immediately got back in line, to have another go around.

The staff took notice that we were up again, and advised us all that they were done, and sent us on to the Hall of Fame Club.

As we arrived in the Hall of Fame Club, it was overheard that Joel Hanrahan and Kevin Correia were on their way out. I was able to have a couple baseballs autographed for my son, just before they left. Just like any other event, we were offered some snacks and drinks, while we finished out the night hanging and chatting with some die hard Pirate fans.

The event wasn’t as good as others from the past. It seems to me, that since they had their promotions of their account executives, this past July, service has gone down and the organization has become stingy. But tonight was about more than batting practice, it was about friends and baseball.

Cedeno Going To Be Harder, Than Others, To Replace

As it has been reported, the Pirates have declined the options on Ronny Cedeno, 
Chris Snyder, Ryan Doumit and Paul Maholm. Total option buyout, the Pirates are 
paying, is $2.45MM.It has been reported several times, in the last few weeks, 
that the options for Snyder, Doumit and Maholm weren't going to be exercised. 
Though, just yesterday, there were some reports that Cedeno's ($3MM), was going 
to be.

Cedeno, at times, went from hot to cold, in just days. Defensively, he showed a 
lot of great capabilities and range, and at one point going errorless for over 
a month. Offensively, he needed to show a little more patience at the plate, as 
his SO/BB ration was 3.3/1.

Obviously, being the Pirates, salary is one of the biggest deterants, when it 
comes to free agency acquistions. As an upgrade at shortstop is being sought 
out, there are a couple comparable, and a couple definite upgrades, to 
Cedeno's production on the free agency list. 

Rafael Furcal, who is coming off of a 3 year deal, given to him by the Dodgers 
after coming off of an injury shortened 2008 season. The short playing time he 
did have, he had career high numbers. Recently turning 34 years of age, he made 
$13MM last season, and can be expected draw nearly the same size contract, 
while probably want at least 2 - 3 years.
- Offensively .298 OBP / .348 SLG / .646 OPS
- Defensively 14 E / .964 FLD in 85 Games

Ramon Santiago, a 10 year veteran, just off of his second stint with the 
Detroit Tigers, spent the a bulk of his early years between AAA and the majors, 
with Detroit and Seattle. He has spent equal amounts, through his career, at 
second base and shortstop. With a salary last year of $1.35MM, he will be 
seeking a pay increase and is due for one.
- Offensively .311 OBP / .384 SLG / .694 OPS
- Defensively 2 E / .983 FLD in 27 games at SS

Jimmy Rollins, another seasoned veteran, has spent his whole career with the 
Phillies and is another highly paid shortstop. after the 2005 season, the 
Phillies rewarded him with a 6 yr / $46.5MM contract, which paid off as he was 
awarded 2007 NL MVP. In his final year on his contract, he made $8.5MM and can 
draw an equivilant or possibly $10MM to $12MM, depending on where he may go.
- Offensively .338 OBP / .399 SLG / .736 OPS
- Defensively 7 E / .988 FLD in 138 games

Jose Reyes, simply put, is coming off his best year in his career, made $11MM 
and will demand upward to $18MM a year. At 28 years of age, he could seek a long 
term contract and easily get one.
- Offensively .384 OBP / .497 SLG / .877 OPS
- Defensively 18 E / .968 FLD in 124 games

With a bare market for shortstops, and Ronny Cedeno under appreciated, his $3MM 
option would have been a good deal. The only player that was listed and is 
equivalent, to his production and salary, would be Ramon Santiago. Though a lot 
see the declining of the option as the end of his Pirates career, Cedeno can 
still be re-signed. 

It was just announced today, that Ronny Cedeno has been nominated for a Golden 
Glove.

18 Years of Losing “Dream Team”

Anytime the Pirates are anywhere outside of the eastern time zone, we have to wait longer for the game to begin. When I’m sitting at home, waiting for games to start, I always have a routine; cell phone is charged and beside me, laptop is within arms reach, chair is lined up with the T.V. and acquire food and drink.

With the being in Houston 1 hour behind Pittsburgh, it gave me more time to figure out what was for dinner. As I pulled into Main Moon Chinese Cuisine restaurant, in my home town, I just had an idea pop into my head.

In the last 18 years, of losing, we have all seen some great Pirates players, but were unfortunate to never be on the team at the same time. Who, from the last 18 years, would you want on the team? Of course, players in their prime, whether they be before, during or after, their time with the Pirates.

There are some easy choices to be made, but definitely a few tough ones as well. Below is my “18 years of losing” dream line up.

  1. Freddy Sanchez 2B
  2. Andrew McCutchen CF
  3. Jason Bay LF
  4. Brian Giles RF
  5. Aramis Ramirez 3B
  6. Sean Casey 1B
  7. Jay Bell SS
  8. Jason Kendal C
  9. Starting Pitcher
There haven’t been too many GREAT pitchers, that have come through the gates of Three Rivers and PNC Park. Below are my ideal starting pitchers from the last 18 years. (No specific order)
  1. Francisco Cordova
  2. Jason Schmidt
  3. Bronson Arroyo
  4. Charlie Morton
  5. Jeff Suppan
This is in no way saying that the current players, that have been left out, shouldn’t be on the list. There are current players that would definitely be on the team.
So what do you think? Tweet me @daveplavi or leave a comment.

Maholm’s En Fuego

It’s a mystery many have tried to solve, in baseball, the affect of a contract year on a player. This year Paul Maholm has had one of, quite arguably, his best year, in his 7 years with the Pirates.

Record aside, his ERA, after last nights win, is down to 3.12, a career high since debuting in August of 2005 with a 2.18 in 6 games.  His current pace is projecting he will put in 200+ innings pitched, his first time since 2008 when he went 206.1, and with 58 strike outs in 14 starts, he could reach 130+, which is another career high since 2008.

He is the only left handed pitcher, currently, in the starting rotation, and with Rudy Owens and Justin Wilson both doing well in Indianapolis, the question is, what do they do with Maholm.

Last season, he was named in several trade rumors, that would have sent him to the LA Dodgers, and he was never moved in that trade, it ended up being Octavio Dotel. Prior to the start of the season, he had stated he was “open to a contract extension,” to stay here in Pittsburgh and that he wanted to be apart of the winning team, that he knew would be here.

This is the final guaranteed year, on this current contract, and has an option for 9.75MM for 2012, or a 750K buyout. Left handed pitchers, with his experience and his current stats, are making upwards to 12MM a year; i.e. Jorge de le Rosa this off season, signed with the Rockies for 2yrs/21.5MM with incentives, averaging out  to about 11MM a year.

GM Neal Huntington’s ideology on trades is, sell high and buy low. Maholm is definitely at a high, but at what point do you trade a good left handed pitcher? Pitching is at is greatest, organizationally, in years, quite honestly the best I’ve ever seen it.

As previously state, Owens and Wilson are waiting in the wings, in Indianapolis, both left handed, but as far as overall starting pitching prospects; Brad Lincoln (RHP, Indianapolis), Kyle McPherson (RHP, Altoona), Jameson Taillon (RHP, West Virginia), Luis Heredia (RHP, Extended Spring Training) and Gerrit Cole (RHP, Assuming he gets signed), just to name a few starters we could see in the next couple years.

Having too much of a good thing, is never a bad thing, but don’t expect most of these players until 2014 or even later. Signing Maholm to his 1 year option, seems to be the best option right now and could discuss an extension or possible trade next season.

As for the rest current rotation: Kevin Correia is here through 2012, but can’t be arbitrated. Charlie Morton is here through 2014, but is arbitration eligible in 2012. Jeff Karstens is here through 2013, but is arbitration eligible again in 2012. James McDonald is here through 2014, but is arbitration eligible in 2012.

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