Ex-Pirate Jordy Mercer nostalgic on return to PNC Park with Tigers
It rains a lot in Taloga, Okla., these days.
Which means the grass is green, the wheat crop is strong and, thankfully, the wildfires that plagued the tiny town (population, 310) last spring have not returned.
The only bad news is Taloga’s favorite son isn’t playing baseball.
Jordy Mercer, who held down shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates for the better part of seven seasons through 2018 before signing with the Detroit Tigers in the offseason, is on the injured list with a quad injury. He is joined there by another former Pirate, second baseman Josh Harrison, who is on the 60-day IL after hamstring surgery.
Harrison didn’t make the trip for the two-game series that started Tuesday, but Mercer was back at PNC Park wearing a big smile. Before the game, he spent some time speaking to old friends.
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“It brings back memories, emotions, all those things,” Mercer said. “It just felt like home. This was home for a long time.
“I told one of these guys (a Tigers teammate) when I came in here, ‘I spent seven years here, had three kids in that span.’ ”
Mercer played in 821 games with for the Pirates, contributing to the franchise’s three best years (2013-15) since the 1979 World Series. But he remembers Pittsburgh for other reasons.
When wildfires swept through Taloga and the townspeople were suffering last year, Mercer, whose family owns a 2,000-acre cattle ranch there, stood up in front his Pirates teammates and asked for help.
He put a can in front of his locker, and his teammates helped him raise an estimated $15,000.
“They were so grateful back home. They had no idea I was doing it,” he said. “I wanted them to realize there were people thinking about them, such a small, tight-knit community. I wanted to make sure there were people outside of that tight-knit community thinking about them.”
Mercer, 32, won the Tigers starting shortstop job out of spring training but has been plagued by a quad injury much of the season. He hasn’t played since May 7 and is batting .206.
“I wish I could contribute more, but I’m feeling a lot better,” Mercer said.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .