ATLANTA — Frank Coonelly was disgusted last September when, a few days after being hired as Pirates president, he saw the Pirates lounging and laughing in their dugout while “God Bless America” was being played.
Coonelly brought up that moment more than a few times this past offseason, telling fans it wouldn’t happen again on his watch.
Monday night, the country group Whiskey Falls sang the song during the seventh-inning stretch. I made sure to look down at the Pirates’ dugout … and I saw several players and coaches standing alongside the railing, hats off and hands over their hearts. Three Pirates players in the infield were doing the same.
For what it’s worth, Coonelly’s culture change appears to be taking effect.
• Ninety-seven miles per hour.
That was the speed of the fastball Tyler Yates threw past Chipper Jones to end the eighth inning.
Yeah, Yates is going to have his control issues this season, as he’s had in other years. But that kind of heat, as I chronicled earlier this spring, is a rare commodity in the Pirates’ system. The addition of Yates could pay big dividends this year. • The scene at Turner Field as the first pitch was being thrown tonight reminded me of a Braves playoff game. There were camera flashes going off everywhere — and also plenty of empty seats.
And in the eighth inning, after Nate McLouth drove a 2-0 pitch into the right field seats for a three-run homer, there was a mass exodus for the parking lots.