Our team is the Traynor’s named after Pirate great Pie Traynor who played back in the Bob Elliott days. Our opener this afternoon was against the Vaughan’s managed by 1960 Cy Young Award winner Vernon Law and former Pirates slugging first baseman Bob Robertson.
For some reason I was surprised by LaValliere and Robinson. When they played for the Pirates my allegiance had shifted to the Yankees so I didn’t follow their career thus the indifference when I found out they would be my coaches. Wasn’t sure what to expect but they were extremely personable and very engaged. Even though they crossed paths only briefly on the Pirates in 1987 they are still close friends today and the chemistry between them shows.
Prior to the game Spanky ran through our set of signs including the steal sign for a game with no stealing. “If I have the steal on I will jump in the air and not come back down,” he told us. Nobody stole a base.
We jumped on the Vaughan’s early and never looked back with a 17-6 win under a hot 80 degree Bradenton sun. Not complaining, just telling. I was penciled in starting at first and batting sixth which was about right. TB and I had a very good afternoon with a 3 for 5 game including three RBI’s and two runs scored. My last two at-bats were solid shots down the right field line that probably would have gone for a double for everyone but Spanky and me. I managed to stretch each of them into singles.
LaValliere and Robinson were actively coaching the entire game. Moving guys into position, encouraging, making light- it was actually fun. Of the six coaches I’ve played for previously at three other camps- Bill Virdon, Jerry Reuss, Frank Tanana, Daryl Evans, Oscar Gamble and Homer Bush- Spanky and Robinson were easily the most engaged in the game and frankly it made it fun.
So did winning. We are probably a middle of the pack team with some guys that can pitch and that’s the key in fantasy baseball which at times looks more like adult little league. The other guys couldn’t pitch and that was the 11 run difference.
Toughest thing to watch today was one our teammates, Brent McCall, 62, from outside Pittsburgh. He rounded second and headed to third and went thud. A partial tear of the Achilles has this rookie camper with not one full game under his belt heading for the surgeon in the morning. He was devastated and so were we for him. We are now down to 11 players with little room for further injury.
A nice start for both me and TheBat today. A couple of convincing wins with a personal line score of 4 hits in 7 at-bats, 4 RBI’s, 2 runs scored and a walk. I’m tired.
Doubleheader tomorrow. Shhhh. TB needs some rest.
Keep reading, with Part 1 on Berger’s Return to the Pittsburgh Pirates Camp.
By Roy Berger for PeterGreenberg.com