Jonathan Broxton toed the rubber and delivered another blazing fastball. It was thigh height, inner part of the plate, touching 97 miles per hour as it left his hand. Lastings Milledge took a powerful swing, hoping to send the hurtling sphere right back to its source. He fouled the ball off to the right, evening the count at 2-2. Milledge stepped out of the box and regrouped. Right before returning to his stance, he took two focused practice swings. The cuts were short, on a 45-degree angle toward the dirt. You could almost see Milledge telling himself, “Swing through the ball, not around it.” He returned to the box. Once again, Broxton came set. His next pitch was in the same exact location, this time registering at 98 miles per hour. Milledge took a controlled swing and lined the ball into right-center field. As Andre Ethier desperately tried to pick up the ball, Pirate players circled the bases. Garrett Jones touched home and the comeback victory was completed.
This was a fun win for the Pirates, as well as the fans who witnessed it at PNC Park. It was the type of game that could take the weight off the players’ shoulders, allowing them to relax and play with confidence. But for me, the most important moment was when Milledge stepped out of the box and regrouped. Many times, he has talked about the adjustments he has been making since joining the Pirates’ organization. Once, he briefly mentioned the work he has done on his swing plane. Watching him take a second during a pivotal situation, remind himself of the work he has been doing, and immediately deliver the big hit was very satisfying for me.
The Pirates are currently in the painful phase of the rebuilding process. If you are looking for positives right now, watch for individuals taking very small steps toward becoming successful major league players. If you look closely, you will see some progress.