Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Pirates VIP Latin Night
Monday night I had the opportunity to attend Pirates VIP Latin Night which was a reception put together by the Pittsburgh Hispanic Chamber of Commerce along with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was an exclusive event extended only to 100 guests which included several Pirates players, management, and their families. It was a a nice way for the Latin players to mingle with members of Pittsburgh's Latin American community in order to show their support due to common cultural ties. The event was held in the club section behind home plate which is a place I rarely have the opportunity to watch a game from.
The night started with delicious, light hors d'oeuvres such as empanadas, rice and beans, Cuban paninins, nachos with gourmet salsa, soft drinks and a cash bar with some traditional Latin music played by the great DJ. Following the hors d'oeuvres we were introduced to several of the Latin players and staff highlighted by Jose Tabata, Ronny Cedeno, and Jose Veras. After the player introductions we saw a few awards presented to local business leaders who have been important to the Latin community.
Following the awards I was delighted to hear Frank Coonelly speak. Let me just say that after hearing Coonelly speak I was far from impressed, in fact underwhelmed would be an exaggeration. Coonelly first discussed the Pirates rich history of Latin players beginning with Roberto Clemente followed by an anecdote of how much Clemente means to Latin players because as he walked through the Mets Dominican baseball academy there were gold 21's on all of the doors. This made me wonder, do the Pirates also show Clemente the same respect in their Dominican or any baseball academy? Frank then continued to state that when he took over the organization, the Pirates had no presence in Latin America and no Latin players in the Pirates organization. His number one goal was to become a leader in Latin America again and that we can now see the fruits of all of his labor. I don't want to be hard on Coonelly, but how about a little humility considering your already low stature with the Pittsburgh sports community and we have yet to taste any of that fruit.
Once the awards and speeches wrapped up we had time to talk and take pictures with the players. They all seemed very nice and happy to speak with us. I think they enjoyed being treated as a person instead of a professional athlete. Watching them in their element playing pool with each other, dancing, and drinking kind of made me feel bad for them that they are so far from anything Latin in Western PA. It also reminded me of a great baseball movie "Sugar" which chronicles the life of a top Domincan baseball player make his way through the minor league system. In the end everyone is human and wants to feel at home.
The highlight of the night was gift basket raffle style give away. There were about 10 different prize baskets including a Tabata signed game jersey, baseball signed by Pedro Alvarez, and gift certificates. I happened to be next to Coonelly at this point and this is when his true numbskullery came out as he was checking with his family to make sure they put raffle tickets into the correct gift baskets and then double checking the ticket boxes themselves. I wondered why the President of the team would play in the first place, and be so concerned with winning the prize. Of course, Coonelly won a prize and happily took it back to his seat. Some people jokingly booed (I booed seriously) and Frank gave back the basket and it was offered again as a re-raffle. All while Frank had a curious and pathetic grin, as if he was thinking that giving up the prize would win him over with his countless skeptics.
All in all it was a fun event and I am looking forward to the next Pirates VIP Latin Night filled with good food, good people, and a good laughs at the expense of one of Pittsburgh's favorite stooges, the Pirates president.