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Louis Lipps Goes to Pirate Spring Training

Editor's note: "Louis Lipps is My Homeboy", a very loyal Mondesi's House reader (and Tampa resident), offered to give an in-person recap of the Pirate Spring Training experience. I think he did a fantastic job. His words and photos follow:
What’s up everyone? This is your homeboy, “Louis Lipps is My Homeboy” (or just John… you know whatever’s easier for you), and I currently live in Tampa, Florida. As many of you well-traveled Mondesi followers might know, Tampa is about a 40 minute drive from the town of Bradenton, the spring home of YOUR (whether you actually want to claim them or not) Pittsburgh Pirates.

I make the trek from Tampa down to Bradenton about 3 or 4 times per year to watch this gem of a franchise prepare for the regular season. Tickets are cheap, there’s beer there, and you can get pretty close to the players (if you’ve always wanted that coveted Humberto Cota autograph, this is the place for you!!!). The Pirates play downtown at a place called McKechnie Field. A trip there is kind of like a cheaper, scaled-down version of a trip to PNC Park, except in a warm place and the games don’t count. In other words, nothing like a trip to PNC Park.

On Friday March 9th I attended a game there against the hated bastards who broke my prepubescent heart, not once, but twice in the NLCS, the Braves of HOTlanta Georgia. Then, on Monday March 12th, I attended another game between the Buccos and the team from Cleveland that we don’t hate as much as the Browns, the Indians. What follows is not necessarily a report on the games themselves; you can find that in the paper every morning. It’s more of a look at a day at a Pirates Spring Training game, with pictures, stories, and other assorted goodies.

March 9th: Buccos vs. Braves
(note: I had a tough time finding someone to attend this game with, so I went with my good friend “Metalhead” Opie. Now, when attending a ballgame with someone nicknamed “Metalhead”, I’m probably going to drink, and because of this, my pictures probably suffered a little bit. I apologize ahead of time.)

As you walk from one of the many parking lots downtown to the stadium, you can see that support for our Buccos is EVERYWHERE! Ok not really, it’s just in the window of this store (and I have no clue who those people are by the way):

After entering McKechnie Field, the best place to head is to the bullpen to catch some of the guys warming up before the game. The guys are literally on the other side of a fence from you, and it’s a haven for autograph seekers (not really my thing) and for Japanese reporters here to see Masumi Kuwata (not to be confused in anyway with that guy the Red Sox signed):

It is also where today’s starting pitcher Zach Duke is warming up in an attempt to recapture the glories of 2005 AND to justify at least 1/3 of this bobblehead:

Also, we got a good picture of starter Ian Snell goofing off with some kids from what I believe was a high school baseball team (Big thanks to Ian for posing for the picture. It’s not like he actually reads this but still, it was cool of him):

Ian, put down the soda before Littlefield decides to trade you!

Speaking of Craig Wilson, he was in the starting lineup for the Braves. In fact, why don’t I just show you the starting lineups?

Jose Castillo and Company give Jose Batista (I think) a field sobriety test to ensure that he’ll be ready to play.

By the look on Castillo’s face, Batista failed the test. But they let him play anyways! Hey, this is the Pirates we’re talking about here!

Pirates manager Lloyd Tracy… errr umm Jim McClendon… oh to hell with it, is there really any difference who manages these guys after the past 14 years? Anyways, here’s the guy signing some autographs

Here’s a picture of Pirates assistant coach Rusty Kuntz. Regardless of how many times I told Metalhead Opie the proper pronunciation of Rusty’s last name, he still laughed every time he saw the back of his jersey

Big man Brad Eldred plays catch. Brad was actually able to hit his target with the ball, unlike say another Pittsburgh big man this past weekend… and let’s say it was in the Big East Championship game. As for Castillo in this picture, he’s just trying to escape the super-critical eye of Jack Wilson by hiding behind one of the coaches:

Here’s a view of the stadium at game time. The Braves had a fair amount of followers there. Actually, at these spring training games both teams usually have fans in attendance regardless of where the game is played because neither team is actually home. (Exception, the Devil Rays who play spring training games about ½ mile away from Tropicana Field.)

Here’s a picture of Japanese sensation (in 1994… not now of course! The Pirates with a current Japanese sensation on the roster? Haha, that’s crazy talk!) Masumi Kuwata in action:

And here’s another shot of the astounding amount of Japanese media that was there waiting for him behind the batting cages. Something I learned on this day: ALL Japanese media members smoke like chimneys:

Here’s former Bucco Craig Wilson making his way to the plate (Pepsi bottle not pictured):

Later in the game, Craig was playing 1st base, Jack Wilson came to the plate, and with one swing of Jack’s mighty bat (cue the music):

“Reunited and it feels so good”

Ummm… I didn’t know the Pirates had a “Tobiassen” on the roster:

HOLY CRAP!! Its 70s Pirate badass Kent Tekulve!!!

Here’s a picture of a kid who will be purchasing a new jersey in the near future, and sitting in front of him is loyal Mondesi commenter “Adam”:

An unnamed Pirate tries to escape spring training, and having to actually play for the Pirates, by high-tailing it through the outfield:

After the game, I stopped by the gift store where I learned that A. I’m never wearing this:

And B. St. Patrick’s Day Pirate hats feature THREE leaf Clovers, as opposed to more popular four leaf versions (and yes, this is the one I bought that day):

(notice the nice paint shop work on my part)

And C. The Pirates gift shop never ordered new bags after last season:

Last but not least, the Braves smoked the Buccos in this one, which was very pleasing to this lady and her hat:

Monday March 12th: Bucs vs. the Tribe
I went to this game with my girlfriend. This was beneficial because A. I won’t drink as much with her I will with a man whose moniker is “Metalhead Opie”, and B. She’s a much better photographer than I am.

On your way into the stadium, you pass right by the opposing team’s bus. I wonder if the Browns would be brave enough to park their bus this close to throngs of Steeler fans:

Here are your starting lineups for this one:

Starting pitcher Tony Armas Jr. warms up in the pen. The story on this guy is that he has potential, but is always hurt. So he’s a natural fit with the other pitchers in the Buccos system:

Armas brings the heat as only Armas can (cameo by the top of Ian Snell’s head in this one):

Speaking of Snell, the guy always seems to be hanging around BSing with the fans during the games. He was talking to some girl and her boyfriend who were getting autographs when my girlfriend was taking these pictures. And honestly, I know I make fun of the Pirates, but most of the players actually seem like decent guys. It’s not their fault their ownership sucks. Anyways, here’s Snell who appears to be perplexed by this lady’s baseball:

Another friendly guy on the team is Zach Duke. The best thing about him is that you can’t tell whether this picture was taken at the game on Monday, or at his 13th birthday party! (Big thanks to Zach for posing for my girlfriend by the way!):

Non-roster invitee Jim Brower shows off the foul ball he caught with his bare-hand to Matt Capps (note: I totally made that whole foul-ball thing up, but the part about it being Jim Brower and Matt Capps is 100% true):

A Pirates assistant coach (at least I think that’s who that is, can anyone help me out on that?) that proves once and for all… Managers and coaches SHOULD NOT HAVE TO WEAR UNIFORMS LIKE THE REST OF THE PLAYERS!!!!! Please for the love of God, put an end to it:

The field before the start of this one:

I honestly don’t remember what happened here, but since we were playing the Indians, I’ll just quote Bob Uecker from the movie Major League and say “Juuuuuuust a bit outside!”:

Ok seriously, what was up with this guy and the Tobiassen jerseys? He had a Cleveland one on during this game:

Remember my Pirates St. Patrick’s Day cap I thought was pretty sweet? These guys had me beat by a mile:

Check this guy out:

Ummm… then what are you doing at a Pirates game? (Ba-dum-dum... CHING!)

Ironically, this guy got hit by a foul ball a few innings later and the EMTs had to be dispatched. He was ok thankfully, but I figure I’d take this opportunity to give some props to the hard-working men and women of Bradenton EMS. And what better way to show my gratitude than with a poorly taken picture:

Boston’s got nothing on us!!! The Pirates version of the Green Monster:

Jose Castillo pulls into 2nd with a double he hit to, quote “Get Jack Wilson the hell off of my back!”

Ryan Doumit relaxes in the bullpen while praying that the Pirates never decide to involve him in a horrible bobble head promotion again:

Not even an earthquake that temporarily tilted all of Bradenton sideways could break Jason Bay’s concentration at the plate:

LaRoche heads to the dish as Paulino realizes for the first time that umpires get jersey numbers too… cool!!

The Pirate Parrot and his lady friend look away in shame as a fan asks them about the 1980s Pittsburgh Pirate drug trials:

Sluggers Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche getting in shape in preparation of possibly carry the Bucs' offense on their backs this year:

Future superstar Andrew McCutchen gets freaked out by some guy who claims he “Just wants to touch his forearm”:

And finally, Matt Capps warms up in preparation of closing out the game. No jokes here, Capps can just flat out toss fire! You really have to be up close to him to appreciate it. In fact, my prediction for breakout Pirate of 07, Matt Capps:

In closing, the Buccos won this one 6-1. And with that, I’d like to thank Mondesi for letting me have the floor here. And I’d like to thank all of you for putting up with this excessively long post full of bad photography (at least the pictures I took), and even more bad jokes. And finally, I’d like to thank our loveable losers, the Pittsburgh Pirates, of whom I’ve been a fan since birth. They might not have the most modern spring training field (The Yankees basically play in a miniature Yankee Stadium), but I’ve heard many people say that the McKechnie is the only field in Florida where you can get that close to the action. Also, I once had a photographer tell me that compared to other teams; the Pirates really do have a good, friendly group of guys playing for them. Here’s to hoping they finally have some success on the field because these kids deserve it!

If any of you are ever down here in March, we should catch a game together. And finally, KEEP THE FAITH BUCCO FANS!!!!!


Pie said...

I loved it, especially the pictures!

Thank you for taking the time to post all these.

Unknown said...

Great job Louis! This kind of article is what makes this format so much fun. You can't do this kind of stuff with a newspaper, magazine, radio or TV station!!!

Sean said...

Nicely done Louis, er, John!

Anonymous said...

Louis Lipps, a job well done. I'd expect nothing less.

However, I'll offer this take on the 2007 Buccos. It's the same take I've had since 1993:

They f*ckin' suck.

save the steagles said...

This post kinda made me excited for the season to start. I didn't know that was possible.

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colt said...

You guys seen the game, unbelievable, Pirates is my best team in the MLB. I wish I could go to watch all their games but ticket prices this season are getting very pricy. Brokers made the game hard to attend. Well talking about Brokers. I found a new web site where you can compare Pittsburgh Pirates ticket brokers, the site is . Well I hope this will be helpful for you guys. Go Go Pirates. Keep me updated Great blog!!!