Pirate fans, get ready to fall in love with Cole Tucker
Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of knee-jerk reactions, especially in sports.
Sometimes, however, it’s so obvious what you’re seeing that it jumps out and smacks you right in the face.
That’s what happened at PNC Park this weekend, courtesy of the 22-year old with the free-flowing hair and million-dollar smile manning shortstop for the first time in the big leagues for the home team.
Stepping to the plate in a tie game in the bottom of the fifth inning against the San Francisco Giants, Cole Tucker stepped into the box, then stepped out as a bolt of lightning flashed across the Pittsburgh skyline that serves as the backdrop to the country’s most picturesque stadium.
Tucker stepped back in the box and, in what looked like a scene out of ‘The Natural,’ hit the next pitch he saw 431-feet into the shrubbery above the center field wall.
It turned out to be the game-winner in a rain-shortened 3-1 victory for Pittsburgh.
As far as Major League debuts go, this one was pretty special, as Tucker received a curtain call from the crowd that stuck through the threatening weather.
A few hearty souls sat through a rain delay of over three hours before the game was officially called. Tucker came out around 7 p.m., rewarding some of the youngsters in attendance by signing autographs and chatting them up, clearly soaking in every moment.
“I’m here, I just took ground balls on a big league field and tonight I’m facing the San Francisco Giants. I’m stoked. If I could go back and tell the second-grade Cole Tucker that this is happening, he would freak out,” he told reporters before the game. “It’s just cool to be here. This is everything you dream of.”
The effervescent Tucker turned to FOX reporter Ken Rosenthal before stepping on the field in the first inning and said, “You can tweet that my heart is pounding really hard.”
The former first-round pick from Mountain Point High School in Phoenix has the natural talent that, coupled with his vibrant personality, has the potential to make him the face of the franchise.
Honestly, it’s similar to when the Pirates called up another 22-year old back in 2009.
That, of course, was Andrew McCutchen, who became the face of the Pirates’ return to prominence.
Tucker, who eats, sleeps and breathes baseball, has that same feel to him.
Not every day is going to be as grand as the first, and there will be bumps along the road. That’s baseball.
But there’s no doubt that Pittsburgh is going to fall in love with this kid, as some already have.
After the game, he was still taking it all in.
“I’ll never forget today as long as I live,” he said. “Just being welcomed and included, wearing a big league uniform and winning a baseball game. It’s the coolest day of my life.”
There are certain, rare moments when you can just feel that you’re watching the beginning of something special.
That’s what Saturday felt like, and that’s a great thing for Pirate fans.