Pirates

Colin Dunlap: Cole Debut Should Make You Stop Everything

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(Photo Credit: J. Meric/Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: J. Meric/Getty Images)

dunlap-head-shot Colin Dunlap
Weeknights, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Colin grew up in Sharpsburg and...
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Gerrit Cole might end up being Nolan Ryan.

Gerrit Cole might end up being Todd Van Poppel.

Here’s a guess he will end up being somewhere in the middle.

For Cole, the 22-year-old who was selected No. 1 overall in the 2011 first-year player draft, his Major League Baseball responsibility begins at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday night at PNC Park, when he will make his debut against the San Francisco Giants.

That’s Cole’s part.

Here is yours as a Pittsburgh sports fan – make sure you carve out space in your itinerary to take it all in.

If possible, get there. Find a way to shuttle yourself to the North Shore, grab a ticket — whether it is one in the high roller seats for $230 or one with the commoners under the scoreboard for $8 — and take in all this night symbolizes.

If you can’t get there, make an appointment with your television or radio.

Again, you owe it to yourself.

Know why? Because you have whined and whined and whined — and whined a bit more — that days like this never happen for the Pirates.

Well now they are giving you (at least for one Tuesday evening) what you want.

Since the perpetual losing for the franchise began after the 1992 season, the Pirates have drafted 13 pitchers with first-round or supplemental picks.

Just two outside of Cole, Kris Benson in 1996 and Bryan Bullington in 2002, were taken with the No. 1 overall pick. Certainly, it is fair to say both Benson and Bullington underwhelmed.

Names such as Bobby Bradley, Clint Johnson, John Van Benschoten, Brad Lincoln and Daniel Moskos also litter the pile of the underachievers.

But back to those top overall picks. Benson made his debut at the start of the 1999 season for a team coming off a 69-93 record and pitched as a rookie for a squad that went 78-83. As for Bullington, his debut came in September of 2005, in relief of Oliver Perez in a game when the Pirates were already 61-87 and on the way to 95 losses.

This one with Cole is different. This is what you have yearned for.

Here is the very top pick in the draft, the gem of the organization’s talent pool, pitching in a game — albeit it in June — for a team 11 games above .500 against the reigning World Series champion. Cole’s mound opposition will be Tim Lincecum, who in this, his seventh season, has already struck out almost 1,400 hitters.

Again, you droned for two decades now that games of hardball consequence don’t happen in Pittsburgh. It says right here that one will happen on Tuesday night.

It has also become a common refrain — and many times justified — that the Pirates have an uncanny way of flubbing public relations issues.

Certainly one can look at the big league debut of former first-round pick Pedro Alvarez as a case in point. In June 2010, when it became apparent Alvarez was on the cusp of being called up from Class AAA Indianapolis to Pittsburgh, the Pirates shrouded the transaction in mystery.

Alvarez, who at the time had as much buzz around him as a slugger in the organization since Barry Bonds, was notified via phone call late on a Tuesday night after his team played a game in Scranton that he was being called up to Pittsburgh. Alvarez drove cross-state overnight and made his debut the next evening with less than 24 hours of fanfare and buildup.

For as much as the Pirates failed to capitalize in June of 2010 on Alvarez’s debut, they did everything right in Cole’s case — perhaps learning from the Alvarez undersell.

On Saturday, the club released official word that Cole would be the starter on Tuesday.

This has set in motion a full three-day cycle of a creation of buzz, an anticipation of what will happen and, most important, an opportunity for people to slice aside time and purchase tickets for Cole’s Tuesday night debut.

No one knows what will happen in the career of Gerrit Cole.

He might end up being a superstar; he might end up being a continual disappointment.

But, you truly only get one chance to make that first impression.

And Pittsburgh sports fans should come to a standstill and take it all in on Tuesday.

This is one of the moments we have waited for.

Colin Dunlap is the featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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