Simon, Blyleven remember Pirates ties
Player and coach for Netherlands have distinct Pittsburgh legacies
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Former Pirate Randall Simon, who was at McKechnie Field on Tuesday with the Netherlands' World Baseball Classic team, still can't escape the fact that his baseball legacy has nothing to do with what he has done on the field during his eight seasons in the big leagues but rather what happened while he wore a Pirates uniform one July day in Milwaukee back in 2003.
Oh, the sausage race.
At least Simon has a good sense of humor about that unintentional hit on the Italian Sausage now almost six years ago.
"I think it's something that's going to be good for me because it keeps memories of me," joked Simon, who was a member of the Pirates when the sausage race incident occurred. "As long as people don't take it in the wrong way, I don't have a problem with it."
Simon is serving as the captain for the Netherlands team and started at first against the Pirates on Tuesday. Though he only played 152 games for the Pirates in his career, he has forever been linked to the organization because of his ill-advised decision to stick his bat out during the infamous Milwaukee Brewers sausage races.
What was supposed to be done in humor ended up splashed across national television after Simon hit one of the racing sausages and knocked the person inside the costume down. Simon was arrested soon after, paid a fine and served a three-game suspension.
Simon was traded to the Cubs shortly after the sausage race incident. He did return to the Pirates the following season, but reported to Spring Training out of shape and was released midseason. On Tuesday, though, Simon reiterated that despite all that he dealt with during those two seasons, he still looks at his time in Pittsburgh fondly.
"Even over there with the sausages, I still had a good time," Simon said. "It was an accident. It just went the wrong way. But I think that was a part of life. You put it behind you and just show people that I am a great person."
Simon, 33, has been out of the Majors since 2006 and, like a number of players in the Classic, he is looking to use these exhibition games and tournament games to showcase his abilities. Simon's goal is to latch back on with a big league club.
He played for the Newark Bears' independent team last season.
The Netherlands' ties to the Pirates also include pitching coach Bert Blyleven, who pitched with the Pirates from 1978-80. He was a member of the 1979 Pittsburgh club that claimed the franchise's most recent World Series title. In that postseason, Blyleven went 2-0 and allowed just three earned runs in 19 innings.
Blyleven, who currently serves as a broadcaster for the Twins, said he will return to Pittsburgh in August to participate in the on-field ceremony honoring the 30th anniversary of that world championship.
This spring, he's already enjoyed a bit of a reunion with the team, one of the five teams he played for during his 22-year career. He has spent some extended time in Bradenton, Fla., which included a few weeks' stay at the recently renovated Pirate City facility.
"This used to be a pool barn out here," Blyleven joked, referring to the visiting clubhouse. "But it's nice now. They've done a great job with the field. Pirate City is unbelievable. They've come a long way."
Blyleven also took the opportunity to invite former Pittsburgh teammate Kent Tekulve, who has been assisting in the Pirates' camp, to speak with his group of Dutch pitchers a few days back. Blyleven noted that a number of his pitchers have a similar throwing motion to that which Tekulve used.
After not being able to participate in the first World Baseball Classic because of a family commitment, Blyleven asked to be a part of the coaching staff in this year's tournament.
"It's an honor for me to be a part of the Netherlands team, since I was born there and my parents are from Holland," he said. "It's an honor to be the pitching coach."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.