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Monroeville pet store helps give Pirates' bullpen its bite

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian Dedomenic | For The Time
Gary Kanabe feeds a Brownbanded Bamboo Shark at his store in Monroeville. These are same species of shark he helped the Pirates basebaall team place in the Pirates' club house. Kanabe is owner of Elmers Aquarium on William Penn Highway. Lillian Dedomenic | For The Times Express
It's feeding time for this Brownbanded Bamboo Shark at Elmers Aquarium in Monroeville. This is same species of shark Gary Kanabe, owner of the store, helped the Pirates basebaall team place in the Pirates' club house. Lillian Dedomenic | For The Times Express

When the Pirates are winning, anything is possible.

Last month, the owners of Elmer's Aquarium & Pet Center got a call from Pirates pitcher Jason Grilli. He was shopping for two pet sharks that could live in the team's clubhouse.

“It kind of caught us by surprise,” co-owner Karen Kanabe said, “especially since it was initiated by a player.”

Earlier this season, Grilli nicknamed the Pirates' bullpen the Shark Tank. It was based on the their ability to smell the blood of an opponent and finish them off, Pirates spokesman Jim Trdinich said.

In May, Grilli took the gimmick one step farther with a visit to Elmer's.

As requested, co-owner Gary Kanabe had two sharks waiting for him.

“We sell one or two a month,” Gary Kanabe said. “It is something that (the client) has to prep for.”

The sharks are about 2 feet long and eat frozen fish. They're native to the Indo-Pacific, where they live in shallow tidal pools, the shop owners said.

Co-owner Gary Kanabe is a lifelong Pirates fan and season-ticket holder. He said he loaned the 150-gallon tank to the team for the season at no cost.

In exchange, staff members get to visit the clubhouse on a weekly basis to clean the tank.

“We were down there feeding the sharks, and the players seemed to like that,” Gary Kanabe said.

The tank is decorated with a pirate ship and sword-wielding skeleton pirates. Last week, the staff was discussing other species of black and gold fish they could add to the tank, Gary Kanabe said.

Trdinich said it's the first animal he ever has seen “inhabit the clubhouse” since he was hired by the Pirates in 1989.

“It is definitely a great environment, but that comes with winning,” Trdinich said.

He said Grilli is a fun presence in the locker room.

“He keeps it loose in there,” Trdinich said.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or

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