Before the Pittsburgh Pirates look to build upon a promising present in Monday’s season opener at PNC Park, they will briefly look to their past for inspiration.
The Pirates announced that seven-time National League MVP Barry Bonds and former Bucco skipper Jim Leyland will take part in Opening Day ceremonies before a 1:35 p.m. first pitch against the Chicago Cubs.
Both familiar faces will assist in presenting awards, as Bonds will join another former NL MVP, Pittsburgh sports legend Dick Groat, in giving Andrew McCutchen his MVP trophy. Leyland, who led the Bucs to three consecutive NL East division titles from 1990-92, will hand the NL manager of the year prize to Clint Hurdle.
Bonds became one of the most controversial figures in sports after winning a pair of MVPs with the Pirates in the early ’90s. Although he never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, Bonds almost assuredly used extralegal means on his way to becoming MLB’s all-time home run king.
Bonds was convicted for obstructing justice in a federal investigation of a San Francisco-area lab he patronized, making him a hated figure in most MLB parks.
He was treated rather coldly by Pirates fans after signing with the Giants in 1993, so it will be interesting to see what type of reception he gets when introduced to Monday’s sellout crowd.
Groat will receive nothing but warmth, of course. A Pittsburgh native, Groat played nine seasons at shortstop for the Pirates and won the NL MVP and a World Series in 1960. He was a two-sport star at Duke and could’ve fashioned a long NBA career if he had chosen to pursue basketball professionally. Groat serves as a color commentator on Pitt hoops radio broadcasts.
Leyland should get a nice welcome, too. He retired from managing last fall after helping the Detroit Tigers to another AL Central title and playoff berth.
Also, former Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson will present NL Silver Slugger Awards to McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez. In 2004, the defensive-minded Wilson surprisingly won a Silver Slugger, which honors the league’s top hitter at a given position.