Dear Mark Appel,

Dude. I get it.

I truly honestly seriously get it.

You’re 20. You’re a star at Stanford. You’ve been told to expect to go first in the MLB draft. You got used to the idea of being in Houston where you were born and where they have up to $7.2 million to spend on their first pick. You saw that future in your agent’s crystal ball, never realizing that crystal ball was really just a toy magic eight-ball shouting out as loud as it could that the answer was “cloudy.” But you couldn’t hear that over the likely growing din of SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS and FIRST OVERALL MLB DRAFT PICK.

Who could, though? Were that me, I’d be all, “LA-LA-LA-LA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” because that’s who we are when we’re that age. We are young. Everything is every thing. Life is still a ball of clay we’re rolling around absentmindedly in our hands while we take our time to decide what we’re going to mold it into. And you, well, your everything is a much bigger Every Thing. Your ball of clay a bit bigger and you already had it shaped and ready to show.

You’re on the precipice of fame and fortune and entering into the realm of pop culture and possible sports heroism. So I get that. I get what a huge disappointment it is to expect to go first and then to find out you’ve gone EIGHTH and not only that, you’ve gone eighth to the Pittsburgh Pirates who only have a quarter of what Houston had to offer you, money wise, and who have a recent legacy of losing in magnitudes unseen before in professional sports.

Through your agent, you released a terse statement about focusing on finals and that afterwards you will consider your “possible” pro career. You refused to do a conference call with Pittsburgh media. That didn’t go over well. Maybe you’re not, but it seems to us that you’re pouting about what happened.

But here’s the thing. The moment is passed. The decision was made. That Thing happened. You’re standing just beyond the Y in the road and you wanted to go left, but someone behind you shoved you to the right and it’s a one-way street so there’s no turning back now. You can only go forward or you can loop around and start all the way back at the beginning, risking an injury in your senior year and hoping you go higher in the draft next year.

But here’s the reason for my letter: You can go forward with a scowl on your face and a bad attitude about what happened at that Y, or you can go forward with a realization that the big picture still exists. You can go forward with a bit of optimism that maybe, just maybe, Pittsburgh is where you’re supposed to be, even if you will be a few million poorer because of it at first.

I have a thing I say … every bad thing that happens in life will eventually bring you to exactly where you’re meant to be. It is the churchiest, truthiest thing in my life. That guy I wept over in my twenties? Thank God that didn’t work out! That job I thought I desperately wanted? Whew! The fire that burnt our restaurant? SO much good has come from it.

So a bad thing happened to you. I get it. But buck up and stop pouting because while we Pittsburghers love our sports stars, we have little tolerance for people who won’t even give us a once-over before deciding we’re not worth it.

Let me promise you this. If you continue on this path you were shoved down and you end up signing with Pittsburgh and you become a Pirate one day, and you jog out to that mound in the center of PNC Park on a warm, beautiful evening for the first time, surrounded by the lights and skyline of a city with something to offer you, you will be embraced in a way no other cities’ fans would do, because that’s what we do here in Pittsburgh. We see that thing that we are lucky to have and we grab it and celebrate it and give thanks for it because maybe that thing — that McCutchen, that Alvarez, that Burnett — is the thing that is going to bring us back to the Glory of Roberto because we are so. Close.

You will become our neighbor and our friend and we will pull for you like we are watching our own son at his first MLB game. Because as cliche as it is … as cheesy as it is … as Partridge Family-nerdy as it is, we are family.

How dorky is that? Some, but it’s true.

You’ll be a part of the Pittsburgh family — the family of Sidney Crosby, Mario Lemieux, Roberto Clemente, Franco Harris — and you’ll probably come to love it and cherish it and you’ll find a ton of sports heroes who will tell you what a cool thing that is — athletes who chose to stay here long after their star of sports glory faded.

Just don’t talk to Jaromir Jagr, dude.

That guy died alive here.





58 Comments

  1. TripleC
    June 5, 2012 1:34 pm

    What a pecker! Little brat.



  2. YinzerInExile
    June 5, 2012 1:59 pm

    Ginny, that’s way more eloquent than the letter I mentally penned. It went something like this: “buck the eff up, you petulant child.”



  3. MJ
    June 5, 2012 2:18 pm

    Damn, girl. If we weren’t both married, I’d make it my life’s work to get a date with you based solely on the way you write some of the things you write (the easy on the eyes part would be a bonus).



  4. emilie
    June 5, 2012 2:25 pm

    Now if there was just a way to get him to read this – then he would totally fall in love with pittsburgh, because I just did – again. ; )



  5. Washpa
    June 5, 2012 2:45 pm

    Nicely written, Ginny. I hope people won’t put too much credence into the whole “possibility of a pro career” thing. Sounds like Boras-speak — a little dig to start the negotiations. And who could blame him for not wanting to do the Pgh media conference call? He would almost certainly sound disappointed, which would become an already bigger story than it is. It’s not about wanting to play for Houston over Pittsburgh. It’s about being 20 years old and missing out on an extra $5 million.



  6. G-Man
    June 5, 2012 3:19 pm

    I especially liked the turn/fork in the road your post took – ending up as a potential happy ending for both Mr. Appel and for Pittsburgh. More than his youth, I interpret his reaction and eschewing of the conference call to that asshole Boras. It’s how he does things. Add to that he and Frank Coonely like each other about as much as you like pigeons. But I digress. For this to have a happy ending, we onlly have to remember back to the 1980s when a petulant Mario Lemieux refused to come down from his seat in the stands and stand on the draft stage with GM Eddie Johnston. He regrets that to this very day. Just ask him next time you see him. And look how that turned out. He’s the single biggest sports hero – with apologies to Roberto – Pittsburgh has ever known. I’m not predicting Appel will be the next Mario. But I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that one day he’ll see what a peckerhead Boras is and do the right thing.



  7. AndyGolfs247
    June 5, 2012 3:25 pm

    Thanks for saying what we couldn’t quite say and making us proud to be Pittsburgh. You’re Church!



  8. gunnlino
    June 5, 2012 3:26 pm

    Nicely written .



  9. Christina
    June 5, 2012 3:44 pm

    This, my friend, is an absolutely fantastic posting. I love every word and you are totally right. If I learned something than it is to embrace the unexpected and make the best out of it. So many times I realized a while later that some guardian angel threw himself between me and what I wanted in the first place in my juvenile stupidity.

    And my first thought was not too far away from yours: “Let the kid talk to my Captain (Sid) and let him explain what this city has to offer to a young and talented sportsman.”

    Let’s go Bucs!



  10. rickh
    June 5, 2012 3:57 pm

    Well done Ginny. The Pirates front office could use your skills.



  11. Reality Check
    June 5, 2012 5:06 pm

    Douchy self-entitled jocks are douchy and self-entitled. Pick up the little ball and play with it, clown.



  12. burghbaby
    June 5, 2012 6:40 pm

    That’s church.

    Well, except for the part about “something bad happened.” Nothing bad happened to Appel, except perhaps that lofty expectations fell a bit short. Perhaps that is the problem. Perhaps nothing truly bad has happened to Appel and that is why he is seemingly acting like a spoiled child even as he is living the dream.



  13. Sam I Am
    June 5, 2012 6:46 pm

    I just love your blog so much Ginny! You always write the words that I wish I could. Well done!



  14. Suzie-Q
    June 5, 2012 7:57 pm

    Excellent…..true…..CHURCH…..thanks Ginny…..written perfectly with deep insight…..as usual!!!



  15. bluzdude
    June 5, 2012 8:43 pm

    Pittsburgh: Our hills are OUTSIDE the ballpark, not in freakin’ centerfield.



  16. drea
    June 5, 2012 10:12 pm

    Ginny – if you haven’t read The Alchemist, I think you would really like it.



    • Virginia
      June 6, 2012 6:51 pm

      I’ve heard of it, obviously, but haven’t read it. I’m curious as to what makes you think I’ll like it? I’ll put it next on my list of books to read.



      • Drea
        June 6, 2012 7:26 pm

        Because of this comment in your post – I have a thing I say … every bad thing that happens in life will eventually bring you to exactly where you’re meant to be. It is the churchiest, truthiest thing in my life.

        I would be happy to loan it to you – send me an email if you are interested in borrowing (could drop it at the restaurant).



        • Dr Kevlar
          June 7, 2012 5:22 pm

          As a counter to that I would recommend Barbara Eherenreich’s: “Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America.”

          It provides excellent insight to the notion that somehow when bad things happen they are really good things or result in good things happening.



  17. Kacie
    June 5, 2012 10:39 pm

    “it’s a one-way street so there’s no turning back now”

    it is known as Forbes and it is one-way in both directions. Figure that one out, Mark Appel! Loop around and you may cross a river.

    /took me 3 years to figure out how to navigate Pittsburgh without a GPS
    //moved away a year ago
    ///miss yinz, n’at!!



  18. Susan Helene Gottfried
    June 6, 2012 6:55 am

    Seems to me the last time someone was this petulant about being signed to a Pittsburgh team, they became the sport’s top star, made millions, poured millions back into the city, saved that very same team that had the audacity to draft him in the first place, and now has a statue in his honor.

    This kid would do well to learn from that. Except the petulant part, but he’s already got that down.



  19. MissChris
    June 6, 2012 8:36 am

    He’s a kid. He’s stupid. He will learn quickly that if there is one thing we don’t tolerate in Pittsburgh it’s arrogance.



  20. Jim W.
    June 6, 2012 8:36 am

    I’m sorry, I’ve been to Houston. It’s awful. It’s hot and run down, and filthy. That said, I moved to Pittsburgh for my first REAL job from Montana about 18 years ago and thought to myself. . . “Pittsburgh is about the last place I’d ever want to live. . . smog, steel mills, filthy people, street urchins. . . ” Everything I thought I knew about Pittsburgh had been gleaned from my 8th grade social studies class that taught me all about the industrial revolution and the soot stained “Steel City”. I was young, and dumb, and didn’t know what it was like to live anywhere but Montana.

    And then I got here, disappointed though I was, and was impressed. What’s more, because my expectations were so low, Pittsburgh blew them away. I love Pittsburgh now, but if they had press conferences for young Chemical Engineers about to take their first job in a new city, I’ll bet my reaction (at 20. . . okay, 24) would have been just about the same.

    Yeah, he’s a dumbass. . . but I can forgive him his preconceived notions about Pittsburgh. We just need to show him how wrong he was.



    • SJ
      June 7, 2012 1:35 pm

      You’re the dumb-ass here, don’t assume things when you don’t even know they guy. So tired of hearing people bash on someone they haven’t met.



  21. spoon
    June 6, 2012 8:47 am

    Every time I hear of a cocky pitcher draft pick I think of Todd Van Poppel. See how being an arrogant p(r)ick turned out for his career. I was going to throw Ben McDonald in that mix but he at least had a mediocre career.



    • bucdaddy
      June 7, 2012 12:56 am

      McDonald wasfairly good when he could actually pitch, which he couldn’t often, what with being hurt all the time.



  22. George
    June 6, 2012 10:44 am

    Being a life long Pittsburgher, I can understand to a certain degree the love that people have for Pittsburgh as a town. It does have some wonderful amenities.

    But with all due respect, if I was a soon to be professional baseball player – Pittsburgh is the last organization that I would want to be drafted by.

    Personally I would equate it to be in the same category as being told by my employer that my job was being relocated from the sunny Caribbean to Siberia.



  23. YinzerInExile
    June 6, 2012 12:56 pm

    @George—but entering the draft as a top prospect you *expect* to go someplace shitty. That’s just the nature of the beast. He’s just picky he didn’t go to an even crappier baseball team than Our Beloved Buccos.

    I know Houston is his hometown; maybe he just likes that sort of thing–heat, sun , humidity, sun, endless suburban sprawl, irrational and inhuman urban planning, and a glaring ball of cancer-inducing skyfire. In that case he’s going to be really disappointed in Pittsburgh. He’s also going to want to limit his real estate hunt to the north hills. Oh snap.



  24. Rachel
    June 6, 2012 1:20 pm

    Didn’t Mario refuse to put on the Penguin jersey when he was drafted? Now look at him ;)



    • bucdaddy
      June 7, 2012 1:00 am

      My memory says he did. Or the cap, or something.

      He also ran a terrible hockey team for four years that drew some of the worst attendance figures in the league, and then topped that by threatening to move it to Kansas City if he didn’t get a new building for it to play in.

      And they just built a statue to the guy.

      Funny what Stanley Cups will make people forget.



      • Sam's Dog
        June 7, 2012 9:31 am

        Buc,
        Gotta respectfully disagree- the team was one of the worst in the league due mostly to financial issues not created by Mario. He certainly could have sold his interests in the team and walked away, but instead chose to stay and help make this team into the jewel it is.

        As to the arena, while I don’t enjoy being strong-armed either, that’s the way major league sports do business these days, not entirely different from the tax breaks, etc. given to businesses to relocate to or stay in any particular location. Yeah, it sucks, but that’s the reality of the situation. Without the Pens, we would be seen as more of a second -class city, without all of the tax revenue that hockey and all of the other attractions held at Consol provide. Like most issues, it’s not all black or white.

        Stepping down from my soapbox now….



        • Butcher's Dog
          June 7, 2012 4:03 pm

          Money for the arena pales in comparison to what the oil companies are set to get for building in Beaver County. To attract jobs that may or may not be forthcoming; there are no guarantees attached to the tax breaks. The arena will turn out to be profitable eventually due to the increased number of events there vs. Mellon/Civic.

          I’m off my soapbox now, too.



    • Dr Kevlar
      June 7, 2012 11:12 am

      Yes, Mario refused to put on the jersey when drafted by the Pens. He was also vilified at the time for doing so…



  25. biggeorge
    June 6, 2012 6:09 pm

    This is why I read what you write. This is why you are a writer.

    Thank-you,
    biggeorge



  26. Adriane
    June 6, 2012 6:26 pm

    I completely agree. He’s 20 years old and he’s taking his marbles and going home because he didn’t get his way. Seems like Jason Bay made it work with the Bucs on ascent to fame and fortune (at this point, it’s a distant memory). So man up, Mark Appel. Of course, that being said, Eli Manning did the same sort of thing with the San Diego Chargers and ended up in NYC where he wanted to be. The rest is history.



  27. cmd_45
    June 6, 2012 6:32 pm

    Regardless of what the Pirates have to offer this kid, he is soooo lucky. The average college graduate with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn, if lucky enough to get a job, maybe just enough to buy a 1999 Chevy Cavalier. A little perspective is what this kid needs. And you know if he turns out to be awesome, Pittsburgh will love him forever.



  28. matt
    June 6, 2012 6:43 pm

    I agree fully, with one tiny exception: The conference call.

    Someone on ESPN wrote exactly what I was thinking: It’s a non-issue really. If the Pirates want him to act like an employee, then hire/sign him. He’s under no obligation to do any sort of PR-type work (let alone baseball-type work) without being under contract.

    Just because others are writing articles for free (OK, lame example because you DO write basically for free – witness above) doesn’t mean you have to – or should.

    I’m not a Pirates fan (though I’ve been to a couple of Pirates’ games at PNC when I’ve been in Pittsburgh and LOVE the stadium) but I hope he ends up signing – I really do. I think it will be a benefitial arrangement for all involved.



  29. Sarah
    June 7, 2012 12:25 pm

    Hi Virginia,

    as someone who personally knows Mark Appel, all I ask is for you to read this article.

    http://www.samfishersblog.com/2012/06/07/defending-mark-appel/

    Thank you.



    • Dr Kevlar
      June 7, 2012 5:13 pm

      Sarah,

      Thank you for posting this. Unfortunately, many folks here are so insecure about living in Pittsburgh that in their rush to skewer the young man they aren’t going to let gathering any facts/impressions/information about him get in the way.

      I feel bad for him. He was drafted lower than he hoped to be by an organization not known for its ability to bring talent to the big leagues, he is in the middle of an important tournament, finals and now he is being savaged for not participating in a conference call.

      You know, it is a shame that we really need to do this to someone in order to somehow validate our feelings or more accurately our insecurities. Talk about treating people the way they expect to be treated themselves…its a shame…



      • YinzerInExile
        June 7, 2012 8:16 pm

        I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that most of the city’s irritation stems not from feeling slighted or insecure, it’s over some kid in college getting huffy over the prospect of a *mere* 3.something million dollar paycheck. He chose to enter a human lottery knowing nothing was guaranteed, and when he didn’t get what he wanted he didn’t deal with the situation in a particularly elegant manner. He’s 20, not 2. I get that it’s disappointing on some level, but so is life (broadly-speaking) and I can’t stand ADULTS whose poor behavior is allowed to slide because they’re “only” X years old.

        Professional sports are an inherently public endeavor. How old must players be before we expect them to start acting human?



        • Dr Kevlar
          June 7, 2012 9:18 pm

          Getting huffy? And what exactly has he said? The folks getting “huffy” are the folks here making assumptions about what the young man intends, about what the young man is thinking or what his character or lack thereof is.

          This has given folks carte blanche to call him a “pecker’ and a “brat” and worse. Further, no one has actually given thought to the fact that this IS finals week at Stanford and that the team is getting ready to play for a title this weekend. God forbid that this guy might actually think that dealing with those obligations takes priority over participating in a conference call with a team he may not even sign with let alone ever play for.

          if this young man is suffering from a lack of perspective, than I would suggest that folks who think that he owes us or the PBC anything at this point suffers from a similar affliction.



    • Bram R
      June 8, 2012 8:30 pm

      Hopefully it’s just a passing mood of grudging bitterness, and Mark has already awaken to his better angels. The guy just crisply told an organization and a fandom, “Thank you, but ew, no,” and so it’s only natural to think him a bit of a shit. Unless you never, ever, EVER gossip or have ill feelings about any celebrity — it seems unnecessary to single him out for any kind of kid gloves treatment.

      He has an image to protect now. That’s his responsibility, not as much ours.



  30. Dan (Not Onorato)
    June 7, 2012 12:48 pm

    oh man….this may get ugly in a hurry



  31. Katie
    June 7, 2012 3:05 pm

    Great piece! I think his “friends” who are reading it missed the parts where you said how great he was and how loved he’d be very soon. I read that other piece that someone posted..and can see that point but…let’s be honest..you take 10 min..say hi to your new town..finals..ballgames or not…and everyone is happy. And in the grand scheme of things..what’s 10 mins even during finals week to breed some good will instead of ignoring people and starting your own bad press. Me personally..I can’t wait to see what this kid can do and will enjoy watching him play in black and gold! Let’s go Bucs!



    • Dr Kevlar
      June 7, 2012 5:16 pm

      He has not signed a contract, so really the town is not “his” is it? In fact, he could decide to go back to Stanford and finish his senior year and re-enter the draft next year.



      • YinzerInExile
        June 7, 2012 8:19 pm

        This is absurd. He entered a draft. He was picked. There’s no way he *didnt* know he’d be expected to have some sort of public reaction to it, whether or not it was the team he wanted to be picked by.



        • Dr Kevlar
          June 7, 2012 9:23 pm

          What is “absurd” is your expectations over what his “public reaction” is supposed to be.

          He gave a statement. That would, I believe, fulfill the public reaction requirement. It didn’t fit the format that you wanted. So now he is not “acting human.”

          If public reactions are the guideline to determine if one is “acting human” then most of us would be failing miserably based on this level of expectation.



  32. JMetheny
    June 8, 2012 7:55 pm

    Hell,for a couple million bucks and a chance to play pro ball,I might even move to Cleveland.



  33. McSmooth
    June 11, 2012 8:50 am

    The karma boomerang got him on Friday night in the NCAA Super Regional game against Florida State.

    He was charged with 7 runs (5 earned) on five hits, walked four, hit two batters, and struck out three in just 4 innings.



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