January 11, 2011
As baseball fans, we all have our favorite players.
They don't necessarily have to be from the teams we cheer for. Though the Cardinals are nemeses of the Pirates 18 times a year I still marvel every time Albert Pujols puts a sting on the ball. The same goes for Ryan Howard in Philadelphia, not to mention the countless players that lead me to fantasy baseball glory each year.
But for all of the big name stars we keep an eye on, everyone has what I call "that" favorite player. The one that is irrelevant in the baseball world. The one where you rejoice when you pull a baseball card of him when most everyone else would cast it aside. Maybe it was the guy who threw you your first ball, or gave you your first autograph. I have a story about who "that" favorite player is for me.
Steve Pearce, a utility man, for the Pittsburgh Pirates isn't going to be a star. Though there was a glimmer of hope when he belted 31 HRs in 2007 while seeing time in A, AA, AAA, and the MLB in the same year, he isn't made out for the big time. But it's not that incredible snippet that makes him "that" favorite player for me.
During the summer of 2009, one of my friends won the chance to watch batting practice from the edge of the field before one game. As we stood on the warning track outside of the Pirates' dugout it was unreal to see the team go through their routines up close and personal. We politely asked players to sign autographs after they got done taking their cuts. All did so, but that was it. Except for Steve.
We had a wonderful conversation with him. He described the life of a minor league player compared to a major league player, his favorite cities to go to, and since he was still fairly new to Pittsburgh, he was looking for a new restaurant to try after the game.
All of the sudden a voice interrupted. "Steve! Let's get out there and get some work done." Instead of taking infield drills like any normal player would, he'd rather talk to us kids. It was awesome.
I was sad when the Pirates sent him down a short time after, but at the end of the year he was back.
Further adding to his legend was the fact that he decided to walk from his North Shore apartment to PNC Park one morning before a weekday matinee in September. Unlucky for him, the G20 summit was taking place in Pittsburgh. He came late since a protest in a North Shore park had put the area on lockdown.
It's little stories like this that make Pearce so likeable in my book. And it's why it is so great to be a baseball fan.
Who's "that" favorite player for you?
Steve Uhlmann is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.