11-17-08 PNC Park, STH Town Hall Meeting
About a week ago, I received an email from the Season Ticket Holder department inviting me to a special season ticket holder event at PNC Park. It read: “As we near the Thanksgiving holiday and the Hot Stove portion of the baseball season, we at the Pittsburgh Pirates hope this letter finds you well. And, although we are several months away from Spring Training and the start of the 2009 Pirates baseball season, we are striving to be more proactive in getting feedback from you, our valued Season Ticket Holders.
With that in mind, we would like to extend a special invitation for you and a guest to join us for a Season Ticket Holder Town Hall Meeting on Monday, November 17 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. inside the Trib Total Media Hall of Fame Club at PNC Park.
During the meeting, you will have an opportunity to meet and talk with fellow Season Ticket Holders and Pirates Season Ticket representatives.
Bob Nutting, Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington will take your questions.
In addition, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., FSN’s Rob King will moderate a special Question & Answer session with Pirates Chairman Bob Nutting, President Frank Coonelly and General Manager Neal Huntington. During the session, you will have an opportunity to ask any questions you have regarding the Pittsburgh Pirates….”
I decided I would go since I didn’t have much else to do.
As a random side note, we got our first measurable snow fall of the year. It was about maybe a half inch. It was enough to coat the grass and the trees. I took a picture of our backyard:
The Pirates had removed most of the tables from the club, which serves as a restaurant during home games, and made a make shift auditorium with the chairs. There were probably about 200 season ticket holders in attendance. I saw a few faces I recognized from batting practice, most notably Dan. While we were waiting for the question and answer process to begin, I looked over his season ticket benefit packet that he received on Saturday. I still have yet to get mine, which is a bit frustrating. There are some really nice gifts depending on your Tier. There are 3 Tiers. I will probably blog more about the Season Ticket Benefits once I receive my STH packet in the mail sometime this week.
Rob King was the host of this Q and A session which featured Neal Huntingdon (the Pirates GM), Frank Coonelly (President), and Bob Nutting (owner). Neal and Frank did almost all of the talking. Their answers were very long winded.
When asked about bringing back Barry Bonds, as a treat for the fans, Frank Coonelly stated that the Pirates had been contacted by Bonds’ agent at the beginning, middle and end of the 2008 season. He gave the impression that the Pirates could have taken Bonds for the minimum salary, but it was a path that they and 29 other teams chose not to follow. They felt Bonds wasn’t a good fit for the culture they were trying to build. Neal Huntingdon interestingly said that he would choose to avoid the Bonds question all together.
When asked about Jeff Andrews, in his most candid moment of the night, Neal Huntindon said that Andrews was a great person, but the wrong hire. He stated that if he had the opportunity to re-do that hiring, he almost assuredly would not make the same choice in hiring Andrews as his General Manager. He drove this point home several times, demonstrating his displeasure in Andrews and his frustration with the awful starting pitching. He pointed to Joe Kerrigan’s (the new pitching coach) success with a scrawny reliever named Pedro Martinez in Montreal.
The mention of Pedro Martinez brought another question if the Pirates would sign him or a similar “name” free-agent. Coonelly expressed the notion that the Pirates would not sign someone that was “34 or 35 and had a good season three years ago.” He seemed to hint at the awful Matt Morris debacle from last year. Huntingdon danced around the question saying that he would look at all free agents, hinted at letting the market play itself out, and then make the best possible signings for the team.
The three executives thanked the season ticket holders for their patience and over and over again pledged their allegiance to making Pittsburgh a winner in the near future.
Bob Nutting at one point said that the Pirates had to trade Ramirez because he had trade value at the time of the deal. This brought several eye rolls from the loyal fans. In case you’ve forgotten: The trade: Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton to the Cubs for infielder Jose Hernandez and two minor leaguers. Lofton went on to finish his successful career with the Cubs and a couple other teams while Ramirez has had HR totals of 36, 31, 38, 26, 27 since the deal. Jose Hernandez, better known to the Bucco Faithful as Jose K (for his strikeout prowess), batted .223 for the Buccos and was gone the next year. Nutting said that he’d like to keep players like a Ramirez or a Kendall, but that the Pirates can’t keep everyone. Huntingdon added that the Twins let Johan Santana and Torii Hunter go, but locked up Justin Morneau, Michal Cuddyer, and Joe Mauer to long term deals.
When asked about the replacement of long time Bucco broadcaster Lanny Frattare, Coonelly stated that it is an exhaustive search of 200 or so candidates that will be completed by opening day. He didn’t give a hint as to any names or possible candidates, just that they will choose the best possible candidate.
Some old lady complained about how awful it is that the Pirates do not acknowledge the crowd after a victory.
Another old lady was upset at the possible dealings of Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez. Huntingdon explained that in the long term, they will have to make deals that involve popular players being dealt in order to build a team that can compete every year. The old woman responded, “Hurry up, because I don’t have much time left!”
I did not ask a question because at the end of the session, there were still many hands left in the air, with their questions unanswered. My biggest concern was the gate opening time issue. The Pirates open their gates at 5PM, and batting practice ends at 6PM. I would argue that they should open the gates at 4:30, especially so STH can see the Pirates take batting practice in its entirety, rather than the last 10 minutes when we get to see Raul Chavez, Chris Gomez, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Luis Rivas bat. *******. There’s nothing more exciting that watching a bunch of weak ground balls through the infield during BP.
I also snuck a peek at PNC Park while I was there. The outfield surface was totally white. Not sure if it was snow, or something else, as the Pirates are replacing their entire field (re-sodding). Here’s the picture:
It’s tough to see because the field was completed dark, with no lights on.
I also had my wife take my picture outside of the Home Plate entrance just for kicks