WINTERSVILLE - All Kay Kennedy wants for Christmas is for the Pittsburgh Pirates to have a winning season.
Kennedy, a Hopedale resident, has been a Pirates fan for more than 50 years. She was among the crowd of fans who attended the annual Pirates Caravan stop Wednesday at the Fort Steuben Mall.
The event featured Pirates players Neil Walker, Bryan Morris and Pedro Alvarez, as well as former player and current Pirates commentator Steve Blass.
A HIGH FIVE — Matthew Tverbut, 7, of Wintersville received a high five from Pedro Alvarez of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Alvarez was part of the Pirates Caravan that visited Fort Steuben Mall on Wednesday. Tverbut was with his grandfather, Stanley. - Michael D. McElwain
Kennedy was excited for the chance to meet Blass and get an autograph in her copy of his book, "A Pirate for Life."
"I read his book and I loved it," she said. "It was very funny and I can't wait for him to autograph it."
Wintersville resident Judy Call also was excited to see Blass.
"It is a great book, and he is such a character," she quipped. "I also enjoy when he announces the games."
Both Call and Kennedy claim they "never miss a game" and have even traveled to Bradenton, Fla., to watch spring training.
"I have been to Bradenton for the past three years and I plan on going again this year," Call said. "The field is smaller there so I get to be a little bit closer to the action. It is neat because the players will come right up to you and sign autographs."
"I've been to spring training three times and I've really enjoyed those games," Kennedy added. "I try not to miss any games on TV during the season as well. Before I had a TV, I would listen to every game on the radio."
Phyllis Bee of Wintersville also catches every Pirates game and even keeps stats. She attended the VIP reception of the caravan and was able to interact with the players.
"I only get to one game each year, but I enjoy watching them more on TV because I can see so much more," she stated. "I really enjoy coming to the caravan because I feel like I know these players because of how much I watch them. They are so friendly and so nice. I love the whole team."
Bee added she enjoys watching the team do the "Z" for Zoltan when they perform well, something catcher Jay Barahas began last year.
"When I am watching it on TV and they do the Z, I also do the Z at home," she said. "I will give my granddaughter the Z as well when she does something good in band."
Billie Hibbits of Steubenville has been a Pirates fan for 40 years, and she attended the caravan for the first time.
"I just happened to be off work this year and was able to attend," she said, noting she was excited to see Neil Walker and Steve Blass.
"One of my favorite Pirates' memories was when they played Boston in 2010 and the stadium was standing-room only," she explained. "I was in a sea of Boston fans, but the Pirates pulled one out and ended up winning. The stadium was just crazy and it was something I'll never forget."
All four women are hopeful that the 2013 season will be the Pirates' year.
"I am just looking forward to the upcoming season and want to see lots of wins," Hibbits said.
"We were so close to the playoffs last year," Call noted. "I want to see more wins this season and a playoff berth."
"I've stuck with the Pirates through the good and the bad, and I keep hoping that they will have a winning season year after year," Kennedy stated. "I hope that this is their year."
"Get the show on the road," was Bee's advice. "Keep steady wins all season, and I hope that we keep the same players on the roster."
The event was sponsored by the Herald-Star and WCDK-FM.
"We are proud to be able to continue a long relationship with the Pirates," Herald-Star Executive Editor Ross Gallabrese said. "The Steubenville stop is annually one of the most anticipated by fans in the area. It is a chance to build excitement for the next season and remind residents that mid-February, when spring training starts, isn't that far off."
The Pirates Caravan is visiting four states in three days this week, and stops have included Latrobe and Johnstown, Pa., as well as Morgantown and Wheeling and Poland and Youngstown.