01/27/07 4:16 PM ET
Bucs players participate in Q&A
Wilson, Bay, LaRoche and Co. entertain fans at PirateFest
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny, Ian Snell, Matt Capps, Salomon Torres, Adam LaRoche, Jack Wilson, Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez formed a very loose and quite amusing improv group, answering fans' questions for an hour at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Right off the bat, there was some personal information shared with the audience of nearly 500 people. Bay recently had a baby, Duke is getting married and Capps will be his best man. Once those pleasantries were exchanged, the question-and-answer period began.
Not surprisingly, the first question was directed to the new acquisition, LaRoche, with a fan wanting to know if the Pirates need a winning swagger and if something like that existed when he was in Atlanta.
"I haven't gotten to play for the Pirates yet, so I don't know," LaRoche said. "There was a confidence from the coaches to players [in Atlanta]. We were lucky to have veterans who had been there and had won. I feel lucky to have spent my first three seasons learning from them, learning what it takes to win."
There were questions asked about LaRoche to other players, with fans wondering what kind of impact LaRoche would have and what was expected of him.
"We're not expecting too much," Sanchez deadpanned. "Only 50-60 home runs, that's it."
LaRoche-related questions continued throughout, with some of the Pirates twisting questions to involve their new teammate. When asked what's been missing in the first half of the season, when the Pirates have struggled the past couple of years, Wilson replied, "Adam LaRoche."
A student at nearby LaRoche College invited the 27-year-old to come out and check out the school team.
"It's nice of you to have named the school after me," LaRoche replied. "I'd love to come and check a game out."
No one is more happy to see the first baseman in a Pirates uniform than Snell. After listening to LaRoche talk about his tendencies as a hitter (more gap-to-gap, but he can pull the ball), Snell agreed.
"He hit three bombs off of me," Snell said. "Not home runs, bombs -- and he stared at them pretty good. I'm just glad he's on our team now."
Capps had his fan club in attendance and when he was introduced, they unfurled a big "Capps Crew" sign. Capps pointed and said, "That's what I'm talking about."
It was clearly one of them who asked if Capps should compete with Torres for the closing spot this spring.
Capps didn't answer, but Torres put his arm around his setup man and said, "Look at me. Not a chance."
This Pirates troupe clearly knew how to play to its audience. LaRoche was clearly taken by the buzz and attention he's already received, months before actually donning a Pirates uniform in a regular-season game.
"I wasn't expecting anything like this," LaRoche said appreciatively. "Everyone's been great."
There were several questions about the Pirates carrying over their terrific second half of 2006 into the coming season and how a young team could build off of that half-year success.
"We're young in years, but not in big-league time," Wilson, the longest-tenured Pirate, said. "All of us here, except for Gorzelanny, have at least one year in. And we're all young. I'm the oldest at 29. Well, Salomon is 42."
"We've gotten a lot better and a lot of other teams have stayed stagnant," Bay added.
"It would be great. I wish it was that easy," Sanchez responded to a question about winning another batting title. "But I'd give up 10 batting titles for one world championship. And that's our goal."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.