When the Major League Baseball season began in the high hopes of spring, most Pirates fans honestly just hoped for a season somewhere around 81-81, without the late-season collapse of the past couple of years.
Those years had given the glimmer that better years were, possibly, ahead for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
And then, as the team headed into September and crushed the record of futility, setting it at an end after 20 seasons, fans began to believe as much as the ballplayers. PNC Park lived up to its wonder as a great baseball facility with crowds letting loose with emotions that had been dashed or held in check for decades.
Fans began hanging on every pitch and letting years of frustration and guarded hope fly away with loud cheers.
Win 82 passed in early September, and when the final out was recorded for the regular season in Cincinnati Sunday shortly after 4 p.m., the Pittsburgh Pirates, the ballclub fans just wanted .500 ball from, had 94 regular season wins.
It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the ballplayers, to be sure, and to their functioning as a true team. These guys have fun playing the game and playing the game with one another. The Zoltan sign flashed for great plays is just part of that teamwork and fun being shared in public.
That teamwork is a testament to veteran manager Clint Hurdle and his staff, functioning as the sages of baseball are always hoped to function.
It's also a testament to the team's front office, often castigated during the past 20 years, and even in recent years as signs of hope began. The team management proved a couple of things that always are true in baseball: A team cannot be and should not be a fanocracy, where the whims of the public dictate who stays and who goes; and, it takes a long-term vision to achieve success.
And, the long-term vision doesn't mean having the biggest payroll - the Pirates are 19th in baseball in those terms. It's about picking the right talent at the right time and getting a team to gel from those individuals.
Baseball isn't often about men spending their entire careers in one place anymore, but the heroes of the 2013 Pirates have etched their names into the hearts of fans.
At 8:07 p.m. today, in beautiful PNC Park, the Bucs will take on the Reds in a one-game playoff to see if October will continue. We wish it was a best two-of-three series, but it's an opportunity to excel in one incredibly important game for the franchise, its fans and the Pittsburgh region.
That it carries shades of those long-ago battles of Lumber Co. vs. Big Red machine only adds to the excitement for the fans of a certain age who get to introduce that feeling to fans of the new generation.
As the theme goes, we'll root, root, root for our home team with the new Pirates generation and shout let's go Bucs.
We salute the team, the front office and add our voice to the cheer emanating from the North Shore of the Allegheny River all around the world: Let's Go Bucs!