Biertempfel: Pirates stick to their rituals, clubhouse unaffected by success
Ballplayers can be a superstitious lot.
It's the reason there are rally caps and lucky socks. It's why some guys lace up their shoes in the same order, the same way, every day. Don't try to discuss a winning streak while it's still in progress. And the best way to get a quick “No comment” is to ask about where the team is in the standings and where it could be next week.
“There are some guys who are superstitious beyond belief,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Hurdle didn't need to be prompted for evidence. He claimed to have once coached a player who stood for “The Star Spangled Banner” with a beard on his chin. After making an out, the player disappeared into the clubhouse ... and returned with a Fu Manchu mustache. After making another out, the player vanished again. The guy returned with a much smaller mustache, and went hitless for the third straight at-bat.
“Then, he was clean-shaven,” Hurdle said, grinning. “This is one guy in one game. He went from full beard to no facial hair — and got the game-winning hit with a clean-shaven face. True story.”
Ballplayers can be great storytellers, too.
“I've also had a guy ...” Hurdle continued. “I'm in the bathroom and he jumps in, ‘I've gotta go.' Then, he goes out and hits a home run. Two innings later, he's grabbing me, dragging me back down to the bathroom. I'm like, ‘Sorry, I can't help you this time.' It's crazy.”
The Pirates aren't much on facial hair. (The exception is Gerrit Cole, who happily started growing a bushy, blond beard the minute he was called up. The front office frowns on whiskers in the minors.) But when things are going well, they tend to be a quiet bunch so as not to jinx anything.
Closer Jason Grilli made good on 25 straight save chances before blowing his first one June 19 in Cincinnati. Yet, day after day, Grilli would smile and purse his lips when his run was mentioned.
“I always get a big kick when you (media) guys bring up stuff like that,” Grilli said. “We don't go out there like, ‘We're going to break a record today.' The goal when you show up in spring training is, have a team that's good enough to get to the World Series. Streaks, strikeout records, winning streaks, all that stuff ... we never know it's out there until you tell us.”
That is why the mood in the Pirates' clubhouse these days is pretty much the same as it was the last couple of years, even when things weren't going nearly as well. Guys laugh and joke around, study their swings on video and do work in the cages, and generally talk about almost everything except the fact that they own the best record in the big leagues.
“Right now, we're not thinking too much about it,” Garrett Jones said. “You get reminded of it sometimes, walking down the street and fans come up to you and say, ‘You guys are doing an amazing job.' You get a moment to think, Yeah, we are doing pretty well. We want to keep that going. You feel that energy from the fans and kind of step back for a moment. But once we get to the ballpark, it's all business.”
In other words, the Pirates are enjoying the ride. And they hope anyone perched on the edge of the Clemente Bridge, fretting about the possibility of another epic collapse, would just take a deep breath and do the same.
That's not being superstitious. That's being smart.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates to end spring in Philadelphia again, sign Stinson to minor league deal
- Pirates face mound of decisions in offseason
- Bumgarner quiets Blackout crowd with 4-hit shutout
- Pirates notebook: Team wary of Polanco, Marte playing full winter season
- Pirates will implement price increase for 2015 tickets