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.