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Pirates notebook: McCutchen helps Florida softball team

| Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 6:21 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen strikes out in the first inning against the Cardinals on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, in Game 5 of the National League Division Series in St. Louis.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Cardinals' Jon Jay celebrates with David Freese after Freese hit a two-run home run off Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole in the second inning Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, in Game 5 of the National League Division Series in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS — The National League Championship Series was the Pirates' deepest playoff run in two decades. But second baseman Neil Walker would rather forget it.

Walker went 0 for 19, including five strikeouts, in the five games against the St. Louis Cardinals. He stranded five baserunners, three of them in scoring position.

“I'm going to have a bad taste in my mouth for quite a while about this series,” Walker said. “Nobody's pointing any fingers, but if you are, you can start with me.”

His at-bat in the fourth inning of Game 5 summed up Walker's series. He hit a broken-bat liner that floated to the right of second base, and it looked like the ball was going to drop for a leadoff single. But shortstop Pete Kozma lunged and stabbed the ball.

“A lot of things didn't exactly go the way we wanted them to,” Walker said. “My approach was there, but (not) the timing and rhythm. They pitched me well. I just didn't do my job.”

McCutchen gives back

On the eve of Game 5 of the NLDS, Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen placed an order for softball uniforms for a youth league team near his home in Florida.

The Mulberry (Fla.) Lady Panthers, a team for 12-year-old girls, raised more than $2,000 to buy uniforms from a company in Maryland. Most of the equipment never arrived.

“My hometown is just down the road from them,” said McCutchen, who grew up in Fort Meade, Fla. “One of these girls attended my (sports) clinic last year. It's hard to hear of a story like this happening to anyone, and this one really hit home.”

McCutchen used some of his equipment money from his Nike sponsorship to outfit the youth league team with home and away jerseys, pants, socks and cleats. He placed the order Tuesday, before the Pirates flew to St. Louis to play the final game of their series against the Cardinals.

“It's the right thing to do,” McCutchen said in a statement released by his publicist. “These girls are supposed to be on a field having fun, not worrying about if they can play or not because they don't have uniforms.”

Hurdle's sounding board

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle often turns to friends and family for advice throughout the season. That held true during the playoffs, too.

“My dad's kind of my go-to guy,” Hurdle said. “I have two other guys I reach out to, Scott Whittaker and Rod Olson, who works with our organization.”

Whittaker is a longtime friend. Olson is the Pirates' leadership and motivation coach, who works with the players on improving their mental focus.

“I kind of go to Karla, my wife, for a lot of stuff because there is no testosterone in her answers,” Hurdle added. “I'll just throw some things out and get some insight. It's not technical or tactical. But I share everything with her.”

Shut up and play

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he did not deliver a pep talk to his team in the clubhouse before Game 5.

“I'm not big on team meetings just to have meetings,” he said. “When the guys are going about it the right way, when they're preparing and they're absolutely fighting, you want to just keep them that way.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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