The season may have ended much sooner than most of us would have liked, but this year's playoff run by the Pittsburgh Pirates helped to instill a new sense of optimism across the Tri-State Area.
Playoff fever - baseball style - had been missing from our region for more than 20 years before this year's edition of the Pirates ran off their 94 wins and made the St. Louis Cardinals sweat out a 3-2 win in their National League Division Series.
What made the season even more interesting was the way the fans through our region rallied behind the Pirates.
Wearing black and gold is not unusual for fans of professional sports in our region. For too long, though, that color scheme was more likely to be seen on apparel bearing the logos of either the Steelers or the Penguins.
That changed a lot this summer, when the Pirates once again remained relevant after the last part of July. Pirates shirts and caps became the favored wear of fans, a significant portion of whom had not even been born the last time the Pirates won a World Series championship back in 1979, or may have just been infants when the team last made the playoffs in 1992.
The success of this year's team was noted not just in our region, but across much of the country, a point that was driven home on Sept. 7, when I wore my Pirates cap to Ohio Stadium to watch the Buckeyes play San Diego State. The hat generated many comments - all were favorable, even from the Reds fans who assured me their team would prevail over the Pirates before the end of the season (Central Ohio, I was reminded, is Cincinnati territory.)
This year's team gave area residents something positive, something exciting that they could follow every day from the middle of August through the evening of Oct. 9. While we are reminded that past performance can never guarantee future success, there's reason to look ahead to the 2014 season. A solid core of players, led by center fielder Andrew McCutchen, figures to make the team a contender for the next several seasons.
Keeping that in mind, it's important to remember that it won't be all that long before the Pirates Winter Caravan swings through our area, Pirate Fest is held at the David Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh or spring training opens - or the Pirates open the 2014 season March 31 at PNC Park against the Cubs.
The races and issues on this year's Nov. 5 ballot might not be drawing as much attention as last year's, but that doesn't mean they are not important.
When local voters go to the polls, they will be asked to help select school board members, township trustees, council members and mayors, as well as decide the fate of several levies and issues.
Area residents have never been shy about letting their feelings be known about the candidates and issues in advance by writing letters to the editor. We're happy to be able to provide that forum where issues can be freely debated.
If you had planned to write a letter concerning the coming election and have not done so, remember that you are running out of time. The deadline for letters concerning the election is noon Thursday, and those letters will run in next weekend's editions.
Other than that, the usual guidelines apply - stick to the issues at hand, 500 words or less and no personal attacks.
Letters always have a way of spurring on some good discussion, and there's no reason to expect this election season will be any different.
(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)