The fan base of the Pittsburgh Pirates is extremely loyal to the club, and one of the biggest reasons is that the team is always willing to be involved in communities around the Tri-State Area.
Two events this week show, once again, that its commitment to its fans remains strong.
The first is the team's annual winter caravan, which will include stops in 20 communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and New York in the next three days. The second is this weekend's annual PirateFest.
One of the most-anticipated stops on the caravan is set for Wednesday, when the Pirates roll into the Fort Steuben Mall. This year's event will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will give fans the chance to meet players, coaches and team officials, get autographs and discuss the upcoming season. The appearance is sponsored by the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and WEIR-AM.
Expected to participate at the Steubenville stop will be second baseman Neil Walker, third baseman Pedro Alvarez, pitcher Bryan Morris, coach Nick Leyva and broadcaster Steve Blass.
The caravan is the perfect lead-in to PirateFest, the team's annual off-season baseball carnival at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, which opens Friday for season-ticket holders only. Sessions Saturday and Sunday are open to all fans, with activities scheduled that will include free autograph sessions, youth baseball and softball clinics, games, prizes, the Pirate Parrot and question-and-answer sessions.
It's a family friendly event, with tickets priced at $12 for adults and $6 for children 14 and under. Saturday's session runs from noon to 7 p.m. while Sunday's session will run from noon to 5 p.m.
We hope fans will take advantage this Wednesday's opportunity to meet members of the Pirates' family and will take the time to visit PirateFest this weekend.
And, if you're caught up in the holidays and think baseball season is a long way off, keep in mind that pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Bradenton, Fla., on Feb. 12, with the first game of the Grapefruit League schedule set for Feb. 23 against Tampa Bay in Port Charlotte. Fla. And, if you're really looking ahead, the Pirates open the 2013 season at 1:35 p.m. April 1 when they meet the Cubs at PNC Park.
Let's go Bucs.