By Charlie Magovern
Though Allegheny students have seen Chompers roaming around the Campus Center from time to time, the unexpected appearance of another green and plush mascot in McKinley’s was the lunchtime highlight on Monday.
Current Pittsburgh Pirates players Garrett Jones, Jose Tabata and Joel Hanrahan along with coaches Jeff Banister and Luis Silverio joined the green macaw in the Campus Center as part of their week-long tour throughout northwest and central Pennsylvania.
The players signed autographs for fans ranging from youngsters to Allegheny students, including freshmen Briana Bulger and Megan Williams, who arrived half an hour early to be the first in line.
“I was shaking so hard I couldn’t get words out,” Bulger said, after meeting first baseman Garrett Jones and outfielder Jose Tabata–two of her favorite players.
As many know, the Buccos haven’t had a winning season in 18 years, but Williams, wearing a Pirates shirt with five fresh autographs on it, expressed optimism for the team’s future.
“They have the talent, the problem was the management,” Williams said of the team’s most recent losing seasons.
The team has a solid core group of young players, and Williams pointed to the offseason hiring of Clint Hurdle as the main reason for believing in a bright future for the Pirates.
As for the players, Jones encouraged students to attend Pirate games, pointing out that they genuinely appreciate fan support.
“When we have the fans there, we play great baseball,” Jones said. “We play better when the fans are there.”
The Bucs ranked 27th in baseball in attendance in 2010 despite having the lowest payroll, and the club hopes that before they head to Florida for spring training this tour will help to boost them ahead of a few more teams and perhaps scratch out a few more wins.
The players and coaches followed up the autograph session with a workout at the Wise Center.
The next stop for Jones and Co. will be in Ridgway, Pa. tomorrow morning followed by an evening session in DuBois, Pa.