You may know me to be optimistic about the Pittsburgh Pirates, potentially even to a fault, but with the Pirates at the lowest point of the season, I want to share why I am still optimistic about this team and franchise.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in arguably the lowest point they’ve had in years. It’s not because the team is horrible, it’s not because they’re losing a ton of games, it’s because of how good they started the season, and where they are now. A nine game losing streak have made the Pirates lose the division lead, fall a handful of games under .500, and as an insult to injury, all nine losses have been to division rivals.
If you’ve read my stuff before, you may get the impression I’m an eternally optimistic Pirates fan, even to a fault. With this horrible stretch of the year, many Pirates fans are desperately searching for any reason, at all to be optimistic, if they haven't already lost optimisim, and here’s my reason why I remain so eternally and arguably overly optimistic.
Like many Pirates fans, I can trace their fandom back to family ties. They remember when their mom and dad, or grandma and grandpa brought them to PNC Park, Three Rivers Stadium, or even Forbes Field for the first time, falling in love with not just baseball, but the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s probably likely their parents/grandparents were fans of the Pirates too.
For me, it was my grandpa, who had the biggest influence on my life. He’s the man who made me fall in love with baseball, golf, and Pirates, three things I feel that strongly define me and who I am. He and my parents took me to my first baseball games. The very first professional baseball game I ever attended wasn’t a Pirates game, but rather a Frontier League game for what was the then newly formed Washington Wild Things. He bought me my first baseball souvenir: a Kent “Teke” Tekulve bobblehead that’s still on my bedroom bookshelf about 21 years later.
My first Pirate game came in 2010, and from that point forward, I just wanted to watch the Pirates. It felt like every big home run I called my grandpa, telling him about it, how exciting it was, or after every win, talking about it with him before saying good night. That was how it was for years, and then came 2017.
2017 was my Junior year of high school, and the Pirates were pretty mediocre. They had some talent, like Josh Bell in his rookie year, and a certain left-handed closing pitcher who shall not be named. But they ended up winning only 75 games; a team who was okay, but not great by any means.
At the time, I sounded like how many stereotypical Pirates fans sound like. “Bob Nutting’s cheap”-this “They’ll never be competitive again”-that, “they suck and can’t develop”-here, “they’ll trade any good players they have”-there. 99% of everything I said about the Pirates was negative, and it made me rethink why I was a fan at that point if all I was going to spew was negativity about the team.
But my grandpa, he stayed positive throughout it all, always having the “We’ll nab them tomorrow” or “We’ll gun for it next year” attitude, with that eternal optimism. But 2017 ended up being the last year of Pirates baseball I got to watch with my grandpa. He passed away in September, just a couple of weeks before the end of the Pirates season ended, and was that a gut punch to me. It was the first time in my life I had lost an extremely close family member that wasn’t a pet.
But my grandpa, even before passing and being put into hospice care, was still optimistic about the Pirates going forward. This man, who had lived through the 20 straight seasons of losing, watched the Pirates blow game after game, rebuild after rebuild, and was dying of diabetes, was still optimistic about how the Pirates would play the next day, and that really gave me a new outlook not just on life, but my attitude toward the Pirates. I get this feeling of “Why am I watching this?” “Why do I keep watching the Pirates” “Why do I even like this team”, I have my reason. It’s because of that eternal optimism my grandpa instilled on me all through all those years.
I understand that fans are frustrated. That doesn’t mean I’m happy with how they’re playing. I hate seeing them lose as much as the next Pirates fan. I understand Pirates fans are just frustrated about almost never having a good team on the field. But I implore you, if you are a fan losing, or have lost optimism, to maybe look back at why you became a fan in the first place, maybe look for that reason to be optimistic about the future. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find that reason to keep on watching the Pittsburgh Pirates.