Playing for the ‘Pigs “hitting rock bottom?” Pittsburgh writer apparently thinks so

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic wrote a terrific column the other day about former IronPigs pitcher Jason Grilli, now closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and his well-deserved berth on the 2013 National League All-Star Team. (See http://triblive.com/sports/dejankovacevic/dejancolumns/4292694-74/grilli-delpiano-feel#axzz2YMy87WfU.)

Unfortunately, in the process of deifying Grilli he made a common mistake — he took a gratuitous swipe at the IronPigs. Generally these things get my blood boiling, and when my blood boils my fingers hit the keyboard. I’ll share with you my email response to Mr. Kovacevic:

Dear Mr. Kovacevic:

Everyone – and I truly mean everyone – in the Lehigh Valley is thrilled that Jason Grilli, now Pittsburgh ’s closer, has been named to the All-Star team. We’re equally thrilled that Domonic Brown of the Phillies, also a former IronPig, was named an All-Star. Just as we were thrilled in 2011 when Ryan Vogelsong, then of the San Francisco Giants, a former IronPig, was named an All-Star.

We’re even thrilled that players from our Minor League opponents, like Bryce Harper (Syracuse Chiefs) and Aroldis Chapman (Louisville Bats) made the National League All-Star team this year.

We’re proud to have 7 pitchers, 1 catcher, 1 infielder and 3 outfielders on the Phillies’ active roster. Another 5 pitchers, 2 infielders and 1 outfielder are on the Phillies’ 40-man roster. And many other current IronPigs have played with the Phillies as well – like shortstop Michael Martinez.

So why, when you write the typical “long-suffering good guy finally makes the big-time” story about Jason Grilli do you also have to take a backhanded swipe at us and our team? Just so you’re aware of it, we are not “rock bottom.” In 2011, in only the team’s fourth year of existence, the IronPigs played in the Governor’s Cup for the championship of the International League. Also:

  • We play in $50 million Coca-Cola Park , named Ballpark of the Year by Baseball Digest when it opened in 2008.
  • The IronPigs were named Organization of the Year in 2008 by Ballpark Digest.
  • IronPigs GM Kurt Landes was named International League Executive of the Year in 2009 and 2010.
  • The IronPigs have had the highest per-game average attendance in all of Minor League Baseball in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
  • Coca-Cola Park was named Best Ballpark in Triple-A Baseball in 2012 by Stadium Journey.
  • The IronPigs were the Bob Freitas Award winner in 2012, recognizing sustained excellence in Minor League Baseball.

 Other honors since 2008 include the “Best Game Operations and Presentation” award as chosen by gameops.com, along with many awards by Valley-based groups.

The IronPigs are the only Minor League franchise to eclipse 600,000 in attendance for each of the last five campaigns. Since 2008, 3,207,049 fans have attended IronPigs games – an average of 9,034 per game, a number that exceeds the ballpark’s fixed seating capacity of 8,089.

Every seat in the ballpark has been sold for 293 of the 355 all-time regular season games – including 32 consecutive games 64 of 76 during the 2012 season — with 93 all-time capacity crowds. Fox News recently ranked Lehigh Valley IronPigs fans as the best fans in all of Minor League Baseball.

There, I’ve said my peace. Who am I? First and foremost, I’m an IronPigs season ticket-holder since the team’s first game in 2008, who misses as few games as possible and counts team members, staff and other fans among my friends. Second and less important to me (though perhaps it may hold some weight with you), I spent 26 years in the newspaper business, including 4 years as Editor of a small (40,000-circ.) eastern Pennsylvania daily.

So I know what I’m talking about, not just as a fan, but as a professional journalist. You needlessly alienated a lot of people.

Care to add your two cents? You can write Mr. Kovacevic at dkovacevic@tribweb.com or simply share your thoughts here.

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