Bell excited about first Pirates opener in 17 years

Bell excited about first Pirates opener in 17 years

PITTSBURGH -- As the Pirates went through a preseason workout on a surprisingly mild and dry Sunday afternoon, many of them could look forward to their first season opener at PNC Park. That is just an obvious consequence of your Opening Day roster having 12 newcomers from last season to this.

However, only one man in a Pittsburgh uniform could anticipate a deja vu experience with a 17-year delay. Jay Bell, the club's new hitting coach, is excited about his first Pirates opener since 1996, the last of his seven seasons as the team's starting shortstop.

Oddly, however, the Pittsburgh opener that Bell remembers most was a bittersweet personal occasion. It was in 1989, when the Bucs went into the home opener at Three Rivers Stadium off a season-opening series in Montreal in which Bell went hitless.

"We came home, in my third at-bat I finally got a hit -- infield single to shortstop -- then after the game I got sent down," recalled Bell.

It wasn't until late July that he came back up, and this time it was for keeps.

"It's just so great to come back here and see these fans here for a workout," Bell said, surveying fans crowded around the Pirates' dugout. "We didn't have anything like this [a free workout for fans] in Three Rivers.

"One thing I've always been impressed with Pittsburgh fans: They covet their home opener and come out en masse, looking for the brand of baseball that reflects who they are."

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.