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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: A day for baseball, Willie and … a win?


Brief and to the Point …

>> I want to start with this first.

Snapped this outside PNC Park really early this morning, or shortly after midnight depending on your perspective. (Was taking a late-night drive to blast some tunes. Don’t ask.)

The world’s best ballpark, still seeking its first winning season, opened 12 years ago. And, in looking at the above image or at the real statue tomorrow, I’ll never forget what happened that day and the effect it had on those of inside on that extraordinarily bittersweet occasion.

>> Newspapers across the country — and much of the world — subscribe to the Associated Press stylebook for consistency on names, titles, places, abbreviations and all kinds of other things.

According to the AP, today is opening day.

According to the Trib Total Media stylebook, today is Opening Day.

See, each paper also makes its own stylebook for local matters such as whether Green Tree is one word or two. (It’s two words for the city but one for the Marriott there, oddly.) Well, the Trib’s book also has its own entries on upper-casing holidays, and Opening Day gets upper-cased.

I’ve got to admit I wasn’t wild about that when I first learned. It’s not a holiday.

Or is it?

If we capitalize Presidents Day and don’t even know when it is, shouldn’t we look at the first day of baseball season — still our national pastime, at least in the semi-official sense — with the same level of import?

And what about the first day of deer-hunting season?

Or the first day of the Three Rivers Arts Festival that inevitably brings rain?

Baseball is a big deal, even somehow here in Pittsburgh after 19 lost seasons. The opener, in and of itself, has been a big deal all along. Sure, we’re an event town, and we’ll come to whatever event anyone decides to throw in great throngs, but the opener still had a special place in that. And the stunning first 3 1/2 months of last season illustrated that there’s much more to cull from the local fan base than just openers, fireworks and Styx shows. The city, for a brief but fabulous while, was totally into baseball. For the younger generation, it represented the first time in their lives.

I’m having a hard time coming up with a forecast for this season. Columnist Joe Starkey offers his in this morning’s paper. Mine’s a lot more muddled than that.

I have a hard time imagining the starting pitching being as strong as it was last season, but I’ve also seen all six of the Pirates’ guys get it done at various points in their careers. I have a hard time imagining the lineup doing much of anything, especially in the first month against a seemingly endless stream of Sandy Koufax types, but stranger things have happened.

Let’s just resort to math. Baseball is great in going by the numbers. I’ll say that a leap from 72-90 to the holy grail of 82-80 is unlikely, though not impossible. After all, the team last year did improve by 15 games despite one of the great free falls in the sport’s history.

I’ll take 79-83, matching the Freak Show of 1997. It’s as close as the Pirates have come in these 19 years, so that’s not bad.

Besides, imagine how crushing it would be to go, say, 80-82.

I’ll see some of you over at the ballpark today, and I’ll hopefully see a few others on our weekly chat, which will be at its usual noon time live from the PNC Park press box at 37,000 feet.

>> Here’s the chat link.

>> Oh, and here’s a video preview of the Pirates’ season that Rob Biertempfel and I did yesterday.

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