The Best Kept Secret In Pittsburgh Sports Is Joel Hanrahan

Pittsburgh Pirates Fab Five Week: Joel Hanrahan

Since Joel Hanrahan has arrived in Pittsburgh his performance on the field has been impressive.   But long before he arrived in Pittsburgh, Hanrahan has been a person that has done more than just impress people with his skills as a baseball player.  Joel Hanrahan is a winner.  He helps others.  He leaves a lasting impression on those he meets and Pittsburgh is damn fortunate to have him be a part of our great city.

Joel Hanrahan shakes hands with Luis Clemente after winning the Roberto Clemente Award. Photos: Flickr-MissChater.

Hanrahan stands with Luis Clemente as a check is presented to the Walter Reed Society to support the soldiers and staff at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

In 2009 Hanrahan arrived in Pittsburgh and was lights out.  Whatever struggles he faced on the mound in our nation’s capital had vanished.  He pitched 31.1 innings for the Pirates, struckout 37, and allowed just six runs.   A year later, Hanrahan’s power numbers only improved.  Big time.   The strikeouts kept climbing.  The walks diminished and Hanrahan was one of the top relievers in MLB.

Joel Hanrahan is a big time arm on a small time team, but you would never know it.  It’s hard to describe, but Hanrahan is different, he’s friendly, outgoing, smart and likeable.  Most successful closers in the Major Leagues are a different breed, but Hanrahan is not only a rock star on the mound, but off it as well.  He’s a Pittsburgh kind-of-guy.  An under-the-rader player that fans have flocked to on his  Twitter account as fast as opposing hitters head back to the dugout after whiffing at his 94+ smoke. 

 But we have to say this Pirates fans, Joel Hanrahan might be our little secret for now, but we don’t believe it will be that way much longer.   Successful relief pitchers salaries are rising faster than the national debt, and as Hanrahan continues to strike out batters at an elite level, it’s only a matter of time until he receives his monster payday.  It couldn’t happen to a cooler guy.

Some Pirates fans seem surprised by the big time success of the 6’4,” 245 pound right hander from Des Moines,Iowa.  But two guys that know him quite well don’t seem surprised in the least. One of them is his brother Mark Hanrahan, the other a high school teammate, Justin Jacobe.

If you’re a Pirates fan, you have no doubt read about Joel’s big brother Mark in Dejan Kovacevic’s excellent story from last season. The article touches on Hanrahan’s time with the Washington Nationals and his big brother described Joels’ struggles in Nationals red, white, and blue the best:

Justin, who played with Hanrahan for the Norwalk Community High School Warriors back in Iowa, focused only on the positive.  In a recent tweet, he described Hanrahan as his ‘role model always.’ 

Maybe that explains Hanrahan winning the Roberto Clemente Award with the Nationals organization in 2008.  An award Hanrahan told us was, “definently my favorite award.” 

The only mention of the Nationals from Justin was the triple Hanrahan roped in his first Major League at bat.

 (In 2009, Hanrahan lined out in his only plate appearance with the Bucs.)

BOOM! Joel Hanrahan rips a triple in his first Major League at-bat.

Even though it’s been a few years since the reliever swung a bat in Iowa, his high school teammate has a hard time forgetting just how special the Pirates closer was with lumber in his hands at Norwalk.   

So how many homeruns did he hit his senior year?

Damn. Joel Hanrahan has all this power and as I tweeted Justin, the last time we saw Hanrahan, he was working on getting his bunts down with Pirates Hitting Coach Gregg Ritchie. Justin’s reply was pretty damn funny.

Ever get the feeling the Pirates got a steal when they acquired Hanrahan? It’s like a two Hanrahan’s for the price of one deal.

 

It’s hard to underestimate the opinion of your brother.  Especially if your brother is Mark Hanrahan, who was an accomplished pitcher in his own right and used to fire heaters at his kid brother Joel, because the young freshman was the only one who could catch Mark’s fastball.

From what we have read, Mark sprinkles in plenty of tough love for his accomplished younger brother after each appearance he makes on the mound.  So we asked Mark to take 140 characters (tweeter max) to describe why his brother will continue to dominate in 2011.  It didn’t take him more than a minute to reply:

After reading that, do you really need any more evidence?  

In a city flooded with sports stars, Pittsburgh is absolutely dying for some baseball stars.  Who better than the Pirates closer?  The big, flithy closer named Hanrahan whose stuff makes Pirates fans want to get on their feet and scream for another strikeout.   

A dominant performer like Hanrahan can let Pirates fans be proud again. 

We can talk some shit again as the opposition walks back to their dugout and fires their helmet in disgust.  

Pittsburgh, Joel Hanrahan is the next big thing. 

Now put down your warm Iron City for a minute and make some noise as the kid from Iowa closes out another Bucco victory.   

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And if you need one more reason to convince yourself to cheer for Joel Hanrahan watch this video closely, wait until near the end [2:18 mark]….it’s cool.

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In case you missed some of our Meaningless Fake Games Updates Spring Training update on Hanrahan, here you go.

Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan pitched one inning and recorded two strikeouts against the Tampa Rays.

Hanrahan entered the game against the Rays for his first Spring Training appearance of 2011 in the sixth inning.  Unfortunately he did it without his Slipknot entrance music. (We would have paid big money to see the old timers in the crowd react to that symphony.) But on this day, Hanrahan didn’t need music. He was all business.

Enjoy.

This looked like a strike to us…. Notice how Hanrahan doesn’t even react. We tried to tell you. He. Is. A. Machine.

Hanrahan gets two strikes on Russ Canzler and Leslie Anderson steals second.

The Terminator takes care of business.

Hanrahan wraps up his one inning of work by getting CF Brandon Guyer to dribble to first. Joel got some shit from the Rays 1B Coach Hendrick after this play. He pointed at Hanrahan as he headed to the dugout. Hendrick might have thought Hanrahan got into the baseline, but as you can see, he was mistaken.

And some advice Mr. Hendrick, spend less time messing with Hanrahan and more time trying to get those kids to hit.

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Hanrahan Tried To Prove He Is Human:

The Pirates closer gave up five hits, including three for extra bases, and walked one against the Orioles.

“I was embarrassed for a little bit there,” Hanrahan said. “You give up five hits in a row, it’s not looking too good. I’m not overly concerned about it, but you’ve still got to get people out.”

He was working on, as described in Dejan’s article above on throwing inside more often, but apparently was unable to command his fastball. 

“I threw some good ones,” Hanrahan said. “But I also threw a lot of bad ones. For the most part, the ball was up.”

Coming into this appearance, Hanrahan had allowed one run on three hits.

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CAN”T WAIT UNTIL APRIL! 

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