The press conference will begin momentarily, so that the nation's newspapers will have plenty of time to lead with the blockbuster in tomorrow's sports sections. Neal Huntington, the Pirates general manager, will wear a sports jacket. A gold tie, too. His hair will be combed. Teeth brushed. Everyone in attendance will be offered a choice of water or Coca-Cola. Glasses will be provided. Chairs as well. Wood ones, not plastic.
CARY, N.C. -- If it's hard to know what winning in baseball sounds like no matter where you are, then it is nearly impossible in Pittsburgh, where the Pirates have just clinched their 17th consecutive losing season, a record for American professional team sports. Yet if one listened hard enough then perhaps the faint echoes of success that will finally reverse the fortunes of this floundering franchise could be heard this summer, from Lynchburg, Va., to Altoona, Pa., and most recently from Cary, N.C., to Regensburg, Germany. It is a noise both familiar and unique, one of bat hitting ball, only this time not so much with a crack as an explosion. The man producing this symphony of sound is barely even a man at all. He's a 22-year-old minor league third baseman with the hopes of an entire franchise riding on his broad shoulders and the bat in his hands.