Our Favorite Pittsburgh Pirates Memorabilia

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Ever wonder what it is like to be an honorary bat boy? Chris Hodgen tells us his tale.

While most kids growing up in the 90’s as Pittsburgh Pirates fans would aspire to collect autographs from Jason Kendall, Aramis Ramirez and Tony Womack among others, I aimed higher and sought after an autograph from Hall of Fame slugger Willie Stargell.  In the summer of 1999, I finally got my chance.  After sending letters to owner Kevin McClatchy, I was contacted one day and asked if I would like to serve as an honorary bat boy for a game.  I happily accepted the invite and within a few weeks I found myself sitting in the dugout of Three Rivers Stadium during the pregame activities of a Pirates vs Cardinals contest.

From watching games on TV, I knew Mr. Stargell served as a special assistant to the organization and could often be seen in the Pirates dugout before the games.  In preparation I made sure to pack with me my prized 1971 Willie Stargell baseball card.  As I sat in the dugout and observed the batting practice asking players as they walked by to sign my baseball, I was caught off-guard when Mr. Stargell entered and sat down beside me.  Stunned, I sat there silent as Brian Giles walked in off the field and sat on the other side of me.

For several minutes I sat motionless as Mr. Stargell and Giles carried on a conversation about field turf vs grass and the temperature difference of the two on the field.  As their conversation moved onto the heat wave that was expected the following week, I finally found the words to extend my baseball out to Mr. Stargell and politely ask him if he would be willing to sign my ball.  Graciously, Mr. Stargell accepted and continued his conversation as he signed his name and handed me back the ball.  I thanked him and he smiled back at me.

Continuing to be star-struck, I sat there silently until it was time for me to head to my seat to watch the game with my family.  It wasn’t until I got to my seat that I reached into my pocket and realized I had completely forgotten about the baseball card.  Throughout the game I clenched onto the baseball bearing Mr. Stargell’s signature along with the rest of the 1999 Pittsburgh Pirates.

I have never bothered to have the baseball appraised as I’m sure I would learn that having the card signed would hold much more monetary value than the ball, but for me the value isn’t relevant.  As a young boy and having the opportunity to listen to that conversation and to collect the signature of a baseball legend 17 years removed from the end of his career, the memory and personal value of the baseball trumps any price tag that can be placed upon it.

Next: Helping to bring another fan into the fold