Goodbye to Jason Bay

At some point early in 2007, I realized the Pirates needed to trade Jason Bay sooner rather than later. They simply did not have the talent necessary to build a competitive team around him. Obviously, the thought of Dave Littlefield executing a trade of Bay scared the hell out of me. I was terrified that I might wake up one morning and read that Bay had been dealt for Mark Grudzielanek.
But Littlefield never got that opportunity. Ownership replaced him, along with the rest of the front office, with very competent people late last season. On Thursday, Bay was finally traded. And it wasnít for garbage. The Pirates received a great group of young players in the deal. But that doesnít make it any easier.
I pulled up the Red Sox game on my computer last night. And I watched as Jason Bay stepped to the plate in an unfamiliar uniform. Boston fans stood and gave him a loud ovation, warmly welcoming a player that deserved every moment of their applause. Bay tipped his cap and attempted to step into the box. As the unrelenting cheers continued, he called time and stepped back out. With all of the emotions I was experiencing, I could only imagine what was running through his head. I was extremely happy for him, suddenly thrust into a pennant race with home fans that immediately adored him. I also felt some frustration. For some reason, the fans in Pittsburgh never appreciated him in the way he deserved. No matter how well he performed, many remained unimpressed. And I was also sad. He should have been in that situation in Pittsburgh. He should have experienced winning baseball with us.
In the early part of this decade, I inadvertently began paying less attention to the Pirates. I was finishing high school and heading to college, and I was worried more about things like my social life than baseball. In 2004, I had kind of a baseball resurgence. It started with a four-day, five-city trip in June. Several friends and I attended games in Detroit and Cincinnati before making our way to Wrigley Field for a Pirate game. I attended numerous games over the remainder of the season, as my focus returned to the game and the team that I had always loved. Of course, Bay was in the middle of his Rookie of the Year campaign. I was recalling how important the Pirates were to my life, and Bay was leading the charge.
Since then, there have been several memorable moments. Two eight RBI games. 96 home runs in a four game span. 21 stolen bases in 22 attempts. The sight of Bay bowling over the catcher to beat the Astros in the 18th inning. The 2006 All-Star game at PNC Park. The standing ovation he received as he left the field on the final day of the 2005 season, after finishing a remarkable year in which he played in all 162 games. The way he played through painful knee injuries, without making it public in any way. His revival this year after a dreadful, injury-filled 2007 season. I remember sitting just above the left field wall for a game in 2005. On a drive to the track, Bay threw himself forcefully into the fence, making the catch. This was just a few feet from where I was sitting. I think that single play made him one of my favorite players.
You know that feeling you get when a close friend moves out of town? Or when you break up with a longtime girlfriend/boyfriend? After spending much of your time with that person for years, you suddenly realize that you may never see them again. That comfort of familiarity is abruptly jerked away from you. Thatís how I feel right now about Bay. In the occasional blowout, when Bay is replaced in left field, there is an eerie feeling in the air. Something just isnít right. Every game from this point forth will have that same feeling. Left field at PNC Park belongs to Jason Bay. And it will be quite a while before that changes.
Good luck, Jason Bay. You have given this team and this city more than we ever expected. You have earned the chance to play for a ring, and I look forward to watching you play for that opportunity in October.

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10 Responses to “Goodbye to Jason Bay”

  1. Joey Says:

    That was moving

  2. Craig Says:

    “96 home runs in a four game span”
    I’m confused……

  3. Seth Says:

    96 home runs in a 4 game span? Wow, that is quite impressive; I don’t know how I could have missed that.

  4. Matt Bandi Says:

    Okay, so it was more like ten home runs in ten games back in May 2006. I have a tendency to exaggerate at times.

  5. Chris Galloway Says:

    Amazing article. Captures exactly what I was feeling when I watched him make his first plate appearance in Boston.

  6. Randy Linville Says:

    Bay is my five year old daughter’s favorite player. When I told her about the trade, she told me that the Red Sox are her new favorite team.
    He hit a three run homer today as the Red Sox rolled easily. I’m happy for him. He deserved better (in terms of having a decent team to play on) than what the Pirates gave him.

  7. JackSplat58 Says:

    Bay is an extremely underrated player. I think he is as good as Manny. He was a total professional in his tenure here, and I will miss watching him play. I do get the baseball package on sat and I do admit looking in on the Red Sox more than I used to…
    I’m glad we got some exciting young players back in the two trades, I think that will make it more palitable.

  8. BIllG Says:

    What saddened me was the lack of response from the fans on Wed during his last game. Most knew he was probably gone and few made him feel appreciated. If Bay was here as long as Stargell or 21, he would be mentioned among the all time Pirate greats. Don’t know why he became fans “whipping boy”. Guy never dogged it, ran hard to first, played in pain and kept his mouth shut…and was very productive. Hope Pitt fans who bashed him understand and become aware of what they are losing. Great story by Matt, but I don’t agree about the eight or trading him. Of course, I’m in my forties and have seen this before from Pirate mgmt. I like McCutchen and Hansen, but I’m not sold on the others ( though I know litttle of Morris).Great for NH and the PBC that they can slant this many ways because they have a grace period of 2 1/2 -3 years. Wait and see…this will be Nate and Doumit in July being shopped in 3 years. Honestly, in 2004, did any of you think Bay would be shopped in 2008 with all of his promise and stats ? I’ve been living through all 16 years of this debacle…they no longer deserve my loyalty. Perhaps it truly is a time to change after 40 plus years of loving this team.I’ll pull for Doumit…but I’m pretty sure I’m done.

  9. BIllG Says:

    What saddened me was the lack of response from the fans on Wed during his last game. Most knew he was probably gone and few made him feel appreciated. If Bay was here as long as Stargell or 21, he would be mentioned among the all time Pirate greats. Don’t know why he became fans “whipping boy”. Guy never dogged it, ran hard to first, played in pain and kept his mouth shut…and was very productive. Hope Pitt fans who bashed him understand and become aware of what they are losing. Great story by Matt, but I don’t agree about the eight or trading him. Of course, I’m in my forties and have seen this before from Pirate mgmt. I like McCutchen and Hansen, but I’m not sold on the others ( though I know litttle of Morris).Great for NH and the PBC that they can slant this many ways because they have a grace period of 2 1/2 -3 years. Wait and see…this will be Nate and Doumit in July being shopped in 3 years. Honestly, in 2004, did any of you think Bay would be shopped in 2008 with all of his promise and stats ? I’ve been living through all 16 years of this debacle…they no longer deserve my loyalty. Perhaps it truly is a time to change after 40 plus years of loving this team.I’ll pull for Doumit…but I’m pretty sure I’m done.

  10. TheLittleEngineThatCouldnt Says:

    The greatest moment I remember Jason Bay for isnt while playing baseball. It all started back in 2007. I was at a very upscale restaurant up in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. I had just finished my meal of Salted Chicken lips with mango salsa and excused myself to go to the latrine. There I am standing there taking a leak at the urinal when he comes walking in and takes the urinal next to me. I said oh my god your Jason Bay!!! Without dropping his bat he shakes my hand. To this day I have not washed my right hand. Good Luck!!!


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