Meet the Pirates aboard the good ship WBC

snellmoundOfficial WBC rosters came out last week and a handful of N.L. Central players made their country’s respective cut. Midwest Swing takes a deeper look into the lives of N.L. Central players battling for world supremacy.

It’s time to find out the names of the Pittsburgh Pirates that are going to the Spring Classic, and after looking over the names I must say I am underwhelmed. I’m not sure if the WBC teams picked mainly Pirate minor leaguers because they are talented or because they didn’t want any of the actual Pittsburgh Pirates, but either way most of these names will be unfamiliar to the casual fan.

Side note: People toss around the term “casual fan” all the time, but what does that actually mean, and what are the other types of fans that exist? Can’t we measure fans the same way we measure drug use, so I can properly categorize people that follow sports? For example, fans that occasionally tune into “Sportscenter” or catch “Sunday Night Baseball” could be called experimental fans. Those that follow their respective teams in the paper and will watch a game if they come across it on TV: recreational fans. And “that guy,” you know who you are, well, “that guy” would be called a dependent fan. This could benefit baseball fans and drug users alike — I smell some cross-promotion!

Ray Chang, China – SS
Born in the ancient Chinese province of Kansas City, Mo., Ray Chang had played 5 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization at AA Altoona. Chang did not play in the 2006 WBC unlike his (presumed) relatives Chia-Hao Chang, Tai-San Chang, Chien-Ming Chang and distant cousin Endy Chavez.

Chi-Hung Cheng, Chinese Taipei – LHP
All of the information I could muster on Chi-Hung Cheng says that he is a part of the Toronto Blue Jays organization, but the WBC Web site has him listed here as part of the pirates organization. This is a perfect example of why it is so important to get at least one official at-bat or record a single out at the major league level. Your career profile can be verified and has the additional bonus of not looking like it was created by a high school sophomore using his first Angelfire account.

David Davidson, Canada – LHP
David-squared pitched in 45 games last season between AA Altoona and AAA Indianapolis. Baseball America gave him a prestigious honor by awarding him with “Best curveball” in the Pirates organization in 2007, which is sort of like when you won “Most likely to be an actor” in your middle school yearbook, but I digress. David Davidson? Really Mr. and Mrs. Davidson? Did you both sit down when young David was just a twinkle in your eye and have this discussion?
“We should really have a kid.”
“That’s a great idea honey! … Wait, what would we call it?”
(20 minutes later)
“What about … David?”
“Perfect! I’ve always liked my last name, I’m sure he’ll love to have it be his first and last name!”
“What if it’s a girl?”
“Then … We’ll have an abortion?”
“Great idea sweetheart!”

John Grabow, USA – LHP
Grabow owns the obscure Pittsburgh record for appearances by a rookie left-handed pitcher with 68 in 2004. Grabow also had the third lowest ERA of left-handed relievers in the N.L., and, all-in-all, is not too shabby player. Best of all, he’s Jewish! Breaking down stereotypes and pitching for team USA: Here’s to you John Grabow.

Joshua Hill, Australia – RHP
Mr. Hill pitched in 22 games for AA Altoona (the fightin’ … Curve?) and is actually from the land down under. His nickname is Shaggy, undoubtably because of his admiration for Reggae music and bouts of infidelity. He played one game in the 2006 WBC but did not record an out. After giving up a single and a walk he was replaced by …

Paul Mildren, Australia – LHP
… but poor Paulie didn’t do much better in his WBC performance, surrendering 3 runs on 6 hits in 3 innings of work; giving him a nice, round ERA of 9.00. Mildren signed as a free agent with the Pirates after spending his entire minor league career with the Marlins and Royals. Leaving the Royals to play for the Pirates is a lateral move at best, but he did play for the greatest named minor league team ever, the Jamestown Jammers, in 2002 so it all evens out.

Elicer Navarro, Panama – LHP
Navarro’s Baseball America page tell me he’s a left-handed pitcher who worked in the Pirates Rookie League last year. His Baseball-Reference.com page tells me he was born in Chiriqui, Panama and his facebook page tells me he is apparently a fan of the Celebrity / Public Figure “jesucristo.” I can’t read Spanish, but according to facebook this jesucristo fellow was either in Menudo or was some sort of carpenter.

Ian Snell, Puerto Rico – RHP
The Delaware-born and raised “Puerto Rican” heads up a rotation featuring Jonathan Sanchez and Javier Vazquez. It must be so refreshing to pitch alongside major-league talent! Did you know that Ian Snell was named Delaware athlete of the year in 2006 by the Delaware Sports Writers Association? Being the best athlete in Delaware must feel an awful lot like being the best pitcher on the Pittsburgh Pirates, no?

Ramon Vazquez, Puerto Rico – 3B
Vazquez, unlike the aforementioned Snell happens to actually be a native of Puerto Rico. Then again, Puerto Ricans are actually U.S. citizens. So, all things considered equal, I guess Snell is just as Puerto Rican as Vazquez. What a crazy world! Did you know that Puerto Rico is also called “La Isla del Encanto,” which, according to my sources, means “The Island of Enchantment.”

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