Growing up in a household where both of my parents were coaches, my sister and I were often taught about the importance of competing with heart and hustle. So much so, that my father actually bought a shirt with the phrase “Hustle and heart set us apart.”
Lately, the Pittsburgh Pirates have shown both factors in their everyday play and have experienced positive results because of it, entering Tuesday 10-7 overall record and coming off the heels of a monstrous 14-3 win over the Colorado Rockies.
It’s not only rejuvenated the players on the Pirates’ roster, but it’s also reignited the spark in fans, who have questioned the team’s direction after back-to-back 100 loss seasons.
These core values were something that the veterans — notably Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Santana — wanted to push on the younger players. One example of that comes from McCutchen’s postgame quote regarding Santana hustling out a would-be double play ball:
Andrew McCutchen on Carlos Santana beating out a double play: "If he’s doing it, why isn’t everyone else doing it? We wanna set the precedent of maintaining a level of play here that’s high. We run hard. We hustle. We have to. We don’t get to get by here."— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) April 18, 2023
Cutch would know this best out of everyone. He played when baseball was held to a high standard in Pittsburgh. Not only that, but he played with some of the game’s most industrious players, like A.J. Burnett, Russell Martin, and Starling Marte, just to name a few.
Meanwhile, Santana also knows the importance of pushing a hard-working mindset onto younger players:
Carlos Santana was so livid that his Phillies teammates played Fortnite during games in 2018 that he grabbed a bat and smashed a TV. With an overhauled team that includes Bryce Harper, what have the Phillies done to address their clubhouse? Story at ESPN: https://t.co/vXFgetp5Of pic.twitter.com/tou1coHToL— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 18, 2019
The veteran effect also stems from guys like Rich Hill, who has been in the league long enough to know that winning doesn’t come easily.
Remember in Spring Training when he was seen showing Johan Oviedo different ways to grip a baseball? Not only did that help Oviedo on the field, it also opened the door for younger players to seek guidance from the veterans.
Oviedo recognized this in a piece from MLB.com’s Justice delos Santos:
“Sometimes, you don’t expect that from people who have [spent] a long time in the game. So, when you get treated like that, I think it’s a blessing that we have a chance to hear guys like that speak about the game.”
The best part of all of this is that guys like Oviedo, Roansy Contreras, Ke’Bryan Hayes, etc. can take this experience and pass it along to the next generation of ballplayers. This, in turn, could lead to a winning atmosphere in Pittsburgh for possibly the next decade.