Jamie Dixon visits Pirate City


BRADENTON, Fla. — Two days after knocking off top-ranked UConn, it was back to business as usual for Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. “We’re already working on the next game,” Dixon said.

Dixon’s making plans for next season, too. This morning, he stopped by Pirate City before making a recruiting stop at the nearby IMG sports academy. “The trip’s been perfect so far,” he said. “The flight was on time, the rental car was ready and waiting for me, the weather’s great, no traffic.”

All he had to do to make the trip a total success was coax a player or two to sign with Pitt. “That would do it,” Dixon said, with a laugh.

Dixon, a big Pirates and baseball fan, watched fielding practice and bullpen sessions for about two hours. First baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce instantly recognized Dixon, and stopped to shake his hand. Dixon also spoke with third baseman Pedro Alvarez and manager John Russell.

Russell is an Oklahoma grad, and the Sooners are poised to take over the top spot in the polls next week. What if OU and Pitt clashed in the Final Four?

“I told (Dixon) I don’t know who I’d pull for,” Russell said. “But it’s tough to go against your roots.”

• Donnie Veal and Craig Hansen, two of the biggest power arms in camp, threw their bullpens with plastic dummies positioned at the plate. Both looked sharp — especially Veal, who mixed in a nifty changeup that dove as it crossed the plate. The only time Veal, a left-hander, looked a bit out of sorts was when he threw fastballs away against the lefty-batting dummy.

• Veal did hit the dummy with two pitches, once from each side of the plate. “That’s OK,” Russell said. “You’ve gotta hit ‘em every once in a while.”

• At 8:30 this morning, second baseman Freddy Sanchez and shortstop Jack Wilson had a private session with infield instructor Perry Hill on the half-field at the rear of Pirate City. Hill went over his signs with the two veteran infielders, and talked about positioning for various types of plays in games.

• Phil Dumatrait threw his bullpen session at 8:45 a.m., more than an hour before the regular practice session began. It was his first time throwing off a mound since July 7, before he had shoulder surgery.

Dumatrait threw 25 pitches, all fastballs. “It was great,” he said. “I was not too worried about where the ball was going. I was worried about mechanics. It felt a little different at first, but about halfway through, it felt all right.” Dumatrait is scheduled to pitch again Friday.

• Speaking of Friday, that will be the first time batters take live b.p. against the pitchers on the four fields at Pirate City.

• Center fielder Nate McLouth slated a press conference to discuss his new, three-year contract. Highlights from that will be posted later this afternoon.

Pitt men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon (left) talks with Pirates manager John Russell Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. Dixon was in Florida on a recruiting trip. (Photo: Christopher Horner/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)