Sports can be a cruel walk of life for those who struggle to complete its natural feats.
Former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Austin Hedges experienced firsthand the highs and lows of Major League Baseball during his eight years in the big leagues, but he dealt with a new card in the deck at PNC Park.
As tensions continued to rise with the Pirates falling fast and sinking their own ship down the National League standings, an outcry of disdain poured out over Hedges by the Bucco faithful.
Top prospect Henry Davis was recalled in June and Endy Rodriguez in July. Both are considered as the upper echelon of catching prospects in all of baseball. Hedges certainly did not feel the love Davis and Rodriguez received and was booed at by his own home fans.
Hedges hit .180 with one home run, 14 RBIs, and 39 strikeouts in 65 games, regularly being removed for a pinch hitter. On The Chris Rose Rotation podcast, Hedges expressed his discomfort in being dignified in a negative light by Pirates supporters.
Getting booed by his home fans in Pittsburgh was hard for Austin Hedges to shake off pic.twitter.com/VgOotK6czA— Chris Rose Sports (@ChrisRoseSports) August 15, 2023
“That sucked, dude,” Hedges said. “That was wild.” Fans even booed Hedges when his walk-up song would be played but ended up being pulled from the lineup.
The 30-year-old backstop certainly struggled offensively, but the Pirates front office continuously stated Hedges provided the team with everything they expected him to. It didn’t help that Henry and Endy waited in the wings, one the 2021 No. 1 overall pick and the other the Pirates 2022 Minor League Player of the Year.
Hedges’ mother is from Pittsburgh, and he went to games with his now-deceased grandfather in the city. That frustrated me when I heard his connection to Pittsburgh and how fans could tarnish it by looking to make a point. At the same time, players are judged on their performance and the box score, regardless of the narrative the front office and coaching staff may want to portray.
Was Hedges treated unfairly in Pittsburgh? Former player and current Pirates broadcaster John Wehner doesn’t think so.
John Wehner just asked by @scorindorin if Austin Hedges was treated unfairly by the fans in Pittsburgh.— Adam Crowley (@_adamcrowley) August 15, 2023
Wehner: (laughs fairly hard) “No.”
Fans pay a price to see their favorite team compete on a nightly basis. If they are angered by what they see, no one is stopping them from booing. Frankly, it’s their right as paying customers. Fans can express their discomfort.
Hedges was traded at the deadline to the Texas Rangers, who are in the midst of a pennant race. He will be a free agent when the season concludes. His time in Pittsburgh will be known for holding the MLB lead in cather interferences and being an elite pitch framer while not being able to contribute enough offensively.