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From Bad Luck to Good Fortune: Pittsburgh Pirates Camp, Part 3

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TB SwingingDay three of Pittsburgh Pirates camp was greeted with rain, but the team moved past it and went on to some great playing. Find out how the team fared in part three of Roy Berger’s trip to fantasy baseball camp.┬á

Pouring rain greeted us at 8 am upon our arrival to the clubhouse for today’s doubleheader at Pittsburgh Pirates Fantasy Camp. It brought back not-so-welcome flashbacks of Detroit Tigers camp in 2011.

A potentially great week of baseball was washed away three years ago in Lakeland, Florida, with rain about every day and a shortened schedule that left us with too much hotel time and very little Detroit Tigers baseball activity.

The rain finally stopped mid-morning and some great and innovative scheduling by camp coordinator Joe Billetdeaux and his staff actually got every game played, though some were understandably shortened.

The best news was we swept our doubleheader to move to a perfect 3-0 halfway through the regular schedule.

Kangaroo court was uneventful with the exception of the morning’s special guest, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. He received a rousing reception from the die-hard Pirates fans that make up the majority of this camp. Hurdle was 2013 National League Manager of the Year, leading the Pirates out of 20 years of mediocrity and into the playoffs with 95 wins. His enthusiasm for his team and his city is infectious.

We finally got on the field for our “morning” game at 12:45 p.m. It was shortened from seven innings to four, but wouldn’t have mattered. We jumped on the team coached by former pitcher John Candelaria and slugger Mike Easler for four runs in the first and cruised to a relatively easy 5-0 win.

My crutch for the week, Thomas Brooks, had another outstanding game going 2-2 at the plate with a run scored. Manager Rennie Stennett brought him in from third base to close out the game in the fourth inning and T-Bone cooperated with an inning of no runs, one hit, and one strikeout baseball. His throwing arm was still a bit sore so he took a visit to see the trainers afterwards to be iced and was advised not to pitch in the second game.

Rain continued through the early afternoon and we finally took the field for the 2:15 pm scheduled game at 4:15 pm and played right until dusk coming away with a pretty convincing 10-2 win over the Steve Blass-Bill Virdon squad, which posted a 23-5 win on opening day.

We scored early and never looked back. Thomas, playing an uneventful left field, was 1-2 with a walk, two RBI’s and two runs scored. I got a two out bases loaded single to go 1-2 also with a walk, a run scored and my first RBI of camp.


Pirates manager Clint Hurdle stops by fantasy camp and gave the Pittsburgh fans even more hope for 2014.

Winning the first three games on the slate is nothing new to me. I did the same thing a year ago at Pirates camp before becoming undone and losing the next four (which was the precursor to 10 straight losses over two camps). I take nothing for granted but our team is special with seven guys that can pitch and just the right mix of young and old. We won’t lose four straight, as we are basically injury free.

There is a single game tomorrow at downtown Bradenton’s McKechnie Field where the Pirates play their spring games. It should be a good one as we play another team in our own division that also won its first three. Excited for Thomas to get the stadium feel and hopefully his shoulder is well enough that he can throw an inning or two off the mound where so many great ones pitch each spring.

However, the best news of the day (other than the doubleheader sweep) was probably received by one of our Team Vaughan teammates, Gordie Longshaw, from St. Clairsville, Ohio. Gordie is at his sixth Pirates camp and you’ll be hard pressed to find a nicer guy.

When he arrived at Tampa’s airport on Saturday, he was told to throw his bags on the charter bus coming to Bradenton and then come back inside the terminal to give some of the others a hand. That’s exactly what the 66 year old specialty advertising company owner did.

A couple of hours later the bus and about 50 campers and all their luggage made it to Pirate City. Gordie was on the bus. His luggage wasn’t.

An APB was sent out among the campers to see who might have accidentally taken his bags off the bus. That’s a real long shot, especially when he had three pieces that contained everything: his clothes for the week, his baseball uniforms and equipment and, most importantly, his medication.

Two days passed with no word and no trace. He borrowed a uniform and a glove to get through Sunday’s games and bought a shirt and pair of shorts from the commissary just to try to stay fresh. Finally, Sunday night he got word his bags were located.

It appears Longshaw’s luggage had a taken a cruise. It was on a Carnival cruise ship. Two buses stood side-by-side at the arrival bay of the Tampa airport. One was going to Pirate City; the other on a cruise. He found the wrong bus.

Gordie, still not sure when he will see his #9 uniform again, was nevertheless relieved. Everyone else wanted to know whether or not his bags had a cabin with a balcony.

Reportedly, there were two kids seen on a street corner in Old San Juan selling Pittsburgh Pirates uniforms.

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By Roy Berger for Get your copy of The Most Wonderful Week of the Year and come back for more Pirates Camp Chronicles.