A message to all you M’s fans out there…

I would like to express to you my most heartfelt congratulations after the events that transpired today.  As of approximately 1 PM Eastern time (10 AM Pacific), you are now the proud owners of a brand new shortstop, Jack Wilson.  He’s been a Pirate his entire Major League career, which began back in 2001.  And as a Pittsburgher, I feel it’s my duty to share with you all exactly what you’re acquiring in Wilson, whom I have never referred to by last name only.  You see, we Pirates fans feel close enough to him to simply call him Jack.
First off, you are acquiring one heck of a shortstop.  Jack is 31, that’s true, but he still covers more ground and makes more ridiculous, double take-inducing, highlight reel plays than players five and ten years his junior.  You know how Derek Jeter is known for that trademark play, going deep in the hole after a grounder and then hurling the ball across his body (and the diamond)?  Well, Jack does that play, too — only better.  I’m telling you, you are in for a treat.  Anything hit anywhere from second to third is fair game when Jack’s out there.  He’s even been known to chase down an errant ball in left field.  And another thing — no matter the point in the season, the team’s success (or lack thereof), or his personal feelings (emotional or physical), he will never give less than 200%.  You know how some guys will slack off in the late innings of a blowout, letting that grounder trickle past them or watching their throw to first sail wide?  You don’t get that with Jack.  From first pitch to last, whether it’s 10-0 or 1-1, whether it’s Opening Day with all its promise of anything being possible and any team being a contender, or early September with the team having been mathematically eliminated since July, he gives everything he has.  You will never see him lollygag to first when he hits a routine grounder.  You will never see him get caught unaware of any of the myriad game situations that can arise at any time, whether he’s on the bases or in the field.  You will never see him behave in a way that would make you embarrassed in front of your children; Jack understands that he is a role model, and he does not take that job lightly.  In theory, everyone who’s making a living in Major League Baseball loves the game.  In reality, of course, it doesn’t always play out that way.  With Jack, it does.  One of my favorite memories of his time with the Pirates came last season.  It was May 27, his first game back from a calf injury on April 3, which had caused him to miss nearly two months and to spend his first stint in his career on the disabled list.  In his first at-bat of the game, perhaps testing the calf (or the Reds’ defense), Jack laid down a bunt.  He sprinted to first, dove headfirst into the bag, and was safe.  Even better, when the throw careened past Reds’ first baseman Joey Votto, Jack hurried to pick himself up and dash to second, where he slid in safely.  Standing on the base and dusting himself off, Jack’s forearms were raw and bleeding.  His uniform was covered in infield dirt.  But what I remember most about that moment is his grin, which stretched wide across his face.  “I’m back!” it seemed to exult.  “I’ve missed this!”  We Pirate fans missed him, too, those two months.  And now, it’s going to be a long time before we stop missing him, and what he brought to the game.    
Secondly, you are acquiring one heck of a teammate.  Jack is a leader both on and off the field, and I think you’ll notice that almost immediately.  When he is in the game, he bolsters the defense, and elevates the performance of everyone around him.  (Trust me — when he’s given a day off, you’ll notice a difference in the infield.)  And more than that, he is great at motivating his fellow players, supporting them during slumps and reeling them in when they get out of line.  He’s widely known around Pittsburgh as a great clubhouse guy and an easy, willing interview subject who’s good with the media; you will find that in Seattle as well.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, you are acquiring one heck of a person.  And this is the part that is the hardest for me to write, the part where I get choked up and my vision gets a little blurry.  Jack may never have played on a winning team here in Pittsburgh, but he is a champion human being.  I beg of you, please read on, despite what may seem a ridiculous cliche, because I mean every word of it.  You see, Jack is a husband and father first, and a ballplayer second.  You know those between-innings videos that they show in some stadiums, where the players answer all sorts of questions?  We have those at PNC Park, and the questions range from “Describe your best birthday ever” to “Would you rather be eaten by ants or lions?”  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jack answer one of those questions without mentioning his family.  Last year, when asked, “What is your favorite scent?”  Jack answered in some detail about the vanilla lotion his wife, Julie, uses, and as he described it, you could see in his face how much he is in love with her.  Two years ago, as Jack and Julie were awaiting the birth of their third child, Jack’s handmade painting (which was put on the videoboard whenever he came to bat) was of four stick figures, two adults and two children.  The adult woman had a big question mark drawn in her stomach, and you could tell that Jack was so proud of his family, and so excited that it was growing.  Several years ago, he announced that he would be retiring in 2011, when he gets his ten years’ service time, because he misses getting to share in his children’s childhoods, and he wants to be a good father.  And so Jack will give you his all on the field, but he will also always remember that certain things (family and marriage among them) are more important than baseball.  In addition, he is a strong Christian.  With some other men in his church, he co-founded a nonprofit organization, Christ First Sports, last year, in which he helps provide children with baseball instruction in a supportive, Christ-centered environment.  And watch him whenever he steps into the batter’s circle around home plate, or whenever the half-inning is about to start and he’s in the field.  Very quietly, without showmanship, but very consistently, every time out, he will trace a cross in the dirt.  I defy you, Mariner’s fans (and fans of baseball in general), find me another player whose head is on straighter or whose priorities are more in line than Jack. 
So I hope there is a lot of joy and excitement amongst the Mariners’ fan base today, just as there will be angst and grief amongst the Pirates’.  You must know that this trade is going to be enormously unpopular with anyone who bleeds black and gold.  Because we know the type of player and person you are getting in Jack Wilson.  We were lucky enough to call him ours for almost nine years.  And now, we send him west to you, with nothing but good wishes and fond memories.  You’ll really, really like him, Seattle.  I know that we did.


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