Gregory Polanco spent a portion of his first afternoon in the big leagues meeting with the Pittsburgh media in a setting appropriate to the anticipation that has surrounded his promotion.
The press dining area was transformed into a press conference room, complete with an elevated black platform and a dark blue backdrop. Filling the room were 35 to 40 members of the Pittsburgh sports media. A member of the press said he had not seen anything like this with a promotion before.
When Polanco entered and started to walk up the side-steps of the platform, the sound of camera shutters and the light from seven television cameras filled the room.
As Polanco sat down and glanced around, he had a slight smile, and an demeanor that suggested excited curiosity more than it did any sign of nerves.
The first question was if he anticipated all of this attention.
"I didn't know," he said, with a slight laugh, which expressed how surprised he was by the whole scene. "I appreciate [it], I'm very happy."
Polanco said that it felt "great" walking into the park today and that "making it [here], made me feel proud of myself."
He gave Rene Gayo a good deal of credit for him finally making it to PNC Park.
"He's like my dad. He helps me a lot," Polanco said. "He talks to me like almost every day. Not just in baseball. About all my life. He always tells you the truth."
In what must always be a strange adjustment for a ballplayer, but particularly so for one with such lofty expectations, Polanco said that his "closest friend here," Starling Marte, is the teammate who he'll lean on the most to help him through the transition to life in the majors.
When he found out about his promotion last night from Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor, Polanco said he was "like a child."
"I didn't know what to do. I was so excited. It was like ‘Oh my God, it's happening,'" Polanco said. "I just started laughing and everybody came and hugged me."
He said that his mother was the first person he called.
He arrived in Pittsburgh after sleeping "a little bit" last night and upon getting to the park he found out that he will be batting second, and starting his first game in front of the Clemente Wall -- a wall that he will spend a lot time defending and, possibly, launching balls off of for many years to come.
"I feel proud to play where like somebody like Clemente played. I'm so proud. I'm so happy."
Andrew McCutchen talks about his debut
Reflecting on his first game in the majors, Andrew McCutchen said, "It hit me in the middle of the game that I'm in the big leagues, I'm living my dream."
He said that even to this day he sometimes looks around the park and his reminded how special it is to be a major leaguer.
Clint Hurdle's advice for Polanco
Hurdle said that he will have a "small conversation" before tonight's game with Polanco. He'll remind him to "respected everything, fear nothing," and to just go out and "play, you've done the work, play ball."
Polanco batting second
"It just looked right," Hurdle said of his decision to place Polanco second in the order.
"With Walker's absence now, you're looking for some offense to supplement what's been taken away," Hurdle said. "You've got a guy that can put bat to ball, strike zone discipline strengths, ability to run, on base percentage guy, so following Harrison and in front of McCutchen is a pretty good spot to be in.
Everything apparently went well with Cole's flat ground workout yesterday.
"We're going to see how he feels today," Hurdle said. "Then map out the next step. He was out there running around today, so we haven't put a plan in place. If he feels good, he'll obviously continue to throw."
Harrison at second
Hurdle said that Josh Harrison will be given every opportunity to get the bulk of playing time at second base in Walker's absence.
Tonight, however, Harrison will start at third and Barmes at second, as Pedro Alvarez is not in the starting lineup. Hurdle explained the lineup decision as Travis Wood presenting a difficult matchup for Alvarez.
Jordy Mercer updates Walker
I talked to Jordy Mercer a little bit about what happened to Neil Walker yesterday.
"He's doing good, he doing fine. It could have been a lot worse," Mercer said. "In terms of recovery, they don't know for sure, but could be two to four weeks."
Mercer said that Walker was fine when he got to the park, but then he started to have stomach pains that got gradually worse as the day went on. At first, his teammates just thought that he had food poisoning, or something like that. They didn't think it was something serious until they found out later that he had an appendectomy.