PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) – Saying this current team has a “We Are Family” atmosphere around it, former Pirates great Rennie Stennett expects an exciting year for the Bucs.
Stennett is one of a number of former Pirates who are special assistants during camp — that includes Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski, Manny Sanguillen, Omar Moreno, John Candeleria, Mike Lavalliere, Kent Tekulve and others.
“I feel that here, starting with the manager and the coaches, the way these guys work really hard together,” Stennett said of this Pirates team. “I’m pretty optimistic about this year. It’s going to be exciting.”
Stennett says a lot of that feeling comes from the camaraderie that he feels around the team. That starts with manager Clint Hurdle.
“He makes the game so much fun for the players,” Stennett said. “I think you can go up to him and talk to him about everything. He’s a very intelligent guy. Back in the day, usually the way the manager talked to a player, especially when he’s a young guy, he would get intimidated. But the atmosphere that Clint creates, he does not feel that. The player will take advise better because he feels like he’s a part of it from the first day.”
Stennett says he helps out here and there when he sees a player needs a little help in the field or in the cage in Bradenton. Stennett won’t do it in front of others, rather he will take him aside and give some advise from his 11-years in the majors and two World Championships with the Pirates.
“I think there is some truth to identities for certain organizations,” said Gerrit Cole. “I think there are some core values that the Pirates played with in the 70s, 80s and 90s that really are a fixture in this clubhouse today and it’s because of guys like that.”
A native of Panama, Stennett said he will also remind today’s players how great they have it and how tough it used to be in so many ways for them.
And not just in the conditions at Pirate City and Lecom Park, although he does remember not wanting to take ground balls because there were so many rocks on the field. And Stennett would have loved to have a cafeteria instead of just grabbing a sandwich or would have liked a trainers’ room that now resembles a spa.
After years away from the game, Stennett helped coach a Brazilian team that eventually qualified for the World Baseball Classic. Stennett is also amazed with how much information is available to players, including analytics. Adding players just need to go out and play, everything else is taken care of for them.
Stennett hit .336 with the 1977 Pirates, finishing two points behind teammate Dave Parker for the batting title and fondly remembers his days with the Bucs.
“If you check with guys on other teams, they always saw how we got along,” Stennett said of the late 70s Pirates. “The chemistry that the Pirates had for so many years, we had so much fun.”
That spirit was crystallized in a Sister Sledge song, that is more than just notes on a page for many on the 1979 World Championship team.
“The feeling is there every time you walk into a place and hear ‘We Are Family’,” Stennett said. “It really touches something in my heart and it’s something that will be there forever. Sometimes tears come to my eyes because I feel the love.”