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Pirates

Colin Dunlap: Thanks, Pirates

By: Colin Dunlap
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/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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In the aftermath of the Pirates losing 6-1 in Game 5 of the National League Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night, you will see an excessive amount of those “What a ride” and “Thanks for the memories” columns in this city.

Fair.

Reasonable.

All good stuff.

Also, not my style.

I’m more of a letter writer.

That said, here goes …

+++++++

10 October 2013

Pittsburgh Pirates

115 Federal Street

Pittsburgh, Pa. 15212

Dear Pirates,

Thanks.

Thanks for making baseball relevant in this wonderful city again; thanks for making that hope finally spring this time as we pushed through the summer and into a glorious October.

Thanks for all of it — every single bit of what you gave this city from that first pitch on April 1 to that last out in Game 5 of the NLDS in St. Louis.

Perhaps, in a time more distant from that final loss, we will be able to reflect on just how vital what you did over 168 games has done for all of us Pittsburghers.

See, there have been times since 1992 when I never thought this could happen again, times since 1992 when I mostly doubted it would in my lifetime.

But it did.

Bars switched off preseason Steelers games and actually put on your games — with audio and all.

People clamored to the North Shore hours early to not just tailgate, but be part of a community that rallied around this band of perpetual losers that broke down not only the losing, but burst into the playoffs.

Through all of this, a management team that many — myself included — doubted the hell out of over the past half-decade stayed firm, professional and resolute as they watched their plan take action. Not once did that management team fling it in the face of anyone, when they could have offered an enormous “I told you so” to those who wanted nothing more than to see them gone.

They saw through the losing, knowing — or perhaps hoping — these days would come.

So, too did manager Clint Hurdle.

Thanks for hiring that guy. What a guy, huh? What a character?

When Hurdle barged into Pittsburgh in November of 2010, he was almost-certainly going to be just the next guy who ended up getting fired after losing until, well, the next guy who couldn’t win came along.

Not so.

What he has done is well-documented, leading this club both in the dugout and in that clubhouse with his perfect merger of blunt, hard truth and warm openness.

Thanks again for hiring him. While not born here, Hurdle has become one of us; he’s become just about as Pittsburgh as it gets.

Oh, and the players — can’t forget the players.

Thanks for showcasing one of the true showcases in baseball, Andrew McCutchen. The way he plays, coupled with his generosity off the field and downright marketability, has propelled countless Pittsburgh kids back into knowing it is cool to root for the Pirates.

Thanks for letting Cutch be Cutch.

Thanks for letting Cutch be the face of all of this.

Thanks also for what we got to see this 2013 season from guys such as Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano and — at the tail end — Marlon Byrd; all veterans folded neatly into a club and understanding their roles to make it better.

Thanks to A.J. Burnett, no matter where it goes from here. He was the foundation to this new attitude; he changed a culture with your franchise and, quite frankly, these great moments might never have happened without him. Burnett put his damn foot down and his footprint will be lasting.

Thanks for letting us see a bounce-back from Charlie Morton, continued growth from our favorite hometown guy, Neil Walker, and a cultivation of bullpen arms such as Justin Wilson and Tony Watson.

Oh, yes, and speaking of that bullpen, thanks for creating an atmosphere in the eighth and ninth with Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli that didn’t just prove to get a lot of hitters out, but also made a stadium explode on a few nights. Awesome stuff.

Thanks for the snapshot in my mind that won’t soon leave me, of a father and young son sitting near me in the stands and watching Starling Marte steal second base. The father went over the nuances of Marte’s jump, how the speedster read the pitcher and broke to second like a jaguar.

It was a moment that was so 2013 for these Pirates, whereas in the past teaching tools in the stands were often only relayed after a flub or botched play, this one was an example of what one of your players did oh-so correctly.

What a difference, huh?

And, how can any of us forget — thanks for Pedro Alvarez and Gerrit Cole, who make up the foundation on offense and on the mound, respectively.

Thanks for allowing us to witness some of Alvarez’s 36 home runs that sound unlike any other player making contact when that ball hits bat, and thanks for allowing us to see Cole jump right onto that Major League mound and be frightened by precisely no one.

Thanks for introducing those two burgeoning stars not just to us, but to all of baseball.

Sure, Pirates organization, thanks for the bobbleheads and the fireworks nights (all 37 of them) and the fleece blankets and the concerts and the t-shirts and the lunchboxes and the umbrellas and the caps. They will all come in handy.

But, most of all, during this 2013 season that just came to a close, thanks for the baseball.

It was different. It was winning baseball. It felt damn good.

Let’s do it again next year.

Sincerely yours,

Colin Dunlap

Colin Dunlap is a 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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