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Pirates Reach Out To Young Fan Base

January 26, 2011

With the recent success of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Penguins, the bar for success has been set high for this year's Pittsburgh Pirates club.

Rather than being jealous of that success, however, the young team has decided to do something about it and attempt to reward a fan base that has been starved for a winner for nearly 20 years.

''I got a text message the other night from a friend that said, 'You have the greatest opportunity in all of baseball to unite a city,''' relief pitcher Evan Meek said. ''It really didn't click for me until then that we have a chance to get the fans to believe in us again.''

Article Photos

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Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen presents Triadelphia Middle School student Taylor Rutherford a Pirates jersey for
defeating him in a Pirates Minute to Win It

Meek, pitcher Ross Ohlendorf and outfielder Andrew McCutchen are trying to promote that belief as part of the 2011 Pirates Caravan, which made a stop Tuesday at Triadelphia Middle School with the goal of getting younger fans excited about the upcoming season.

''It's always fun to come out and be able to interact with fans, especially the kids,'' McCutchen said.

The players were joined by new third base coach Nick Leyva and broadcasters Bob Walk and John Wehner, who did play-by-play for a series of events called "Pirates Minute To Win It," which pitted the players against students, who were playing for prizes.

''These school events are my favorite thing to do because I know that when I was their age I would have really loved the opportunity to meet players,'' Ohlendorf said.

In addition to three students who won jerseys and baseball caps by beating their Pirates opponents at the games, every student won a free ticket to an upcoming Pirates game after Principal Walt Saunders successfully completed one of the challenges.

''I grew up in Seattle, watching the Mariners,'' Meek said, ''and I know that any time I had the chance to meet one of those guys I was elated.''

Ohlendorf, Meek and McCutchen said it is still exciting to meet people and sign autographs, especially for young fans.

''It's something so simple, just signing your name on a piece of paper, but the fact that it makes someone's day makes everything worth it,'' Meek said.

The caravan also made a stop Tuesday at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, where a luncheon was held. The caravan will continue around the greater Pittsburgh area for the rest of the month, giving the players an opportunity to create a buzz for the upcoming season.

''I was at the last Steelers game, and that place was absolutely nuts,'' McCutchen said. ''We know the fans are there, and they just want to see us win, and we are looking forward to doing our best to help the team be able to become a part of the city's winning tradition again.''

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