PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A blazing arm and a future of bright potential, a young man from Newport Beach, Calif., has the attention and the hopes of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ faithful.

“He’s the Pirates’ number one prospect,” said Matt Hursh, a Pirates fan from North Huntingdon. “He throws a fast ball up to 99 miles an hour. He’s our best pitching prospect since Chris Benson.”

“I hope he does great,” Cathy Brophy, a fan from the North Side, said.

“He’s either going to be really good or really bad, and we need really good,” added fan Tim Shellhammer, from Lemont Furnace.

Gerrit Cole was disappointed when he didn’t make the Pirates’ opening day roster, but knew even back in Spring Training that his debut would no doubt come this season.

“I try not to think about it as much as I get the question,” Cole said earlier this spring. “I’m not naïve, but you just try not to get kind of caught up in that cause it can consume you pretty quick.”

So, he went off to Indianapolis, and with each start made it clear he could be a prime player in Pittsburgh.

“He’s coming into an atmosphere in which we’re right in the hunt for a playoff spot,” said Pirates’ President Frank Coonelly. “He’s just another piece as opposed to a savior of the franchise.”

And Cole’s debut comes at a time when Pittsburgh sports fans need a pick me up.

“Definitely, I definitely think with the Pirates playing so well people are hurting a little bit less about the Penguins,” said one fan.

So, tonight, at 22 years young, Cole will take the mound for the biggest day of his baseball life so far. His teammates can relate.

“Get through the first inning, you don’t kind of feel your legs, and there’s a lot going on,” said Jason Grilli, the Pirates’ closer.

“Just go out there and have fun,” Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates’ third baseman, added. “He’s obviously here for a reason, just go out there and pitch.”

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