PITTSBURGH -- When the Pirates were introduced one by one to the crowd at PNC Park prior to Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, outfielder Andrew McCutchen, third baseman Pedro Alvarez and pitchers Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano were among those who received thunderous ovations.
Then when Kevin McClatchy, Pittsburgh's former managing general partner, took the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, he received a warm reception from the fans as well. Although he wasn't expecting to have the honor bestowed upon him, McClatchy gladly accepted when Bob Nutting -- the team's current boss -- called and made the offer.
McClatchy was the leader of a group of investors that purchased the Pirates back in 1996, and the franchise experienced mostly lean years during his tenure, which ended in 2007. Although McClatchy is no longer involved in the operation, he still has deep emotional ties to the team, and he's thrilled to see Pittsburgh in the playoffs for the first time since 1992.
"That moment out there was everything we've worked for," McClatchy said shortly after he came off the field. "It was a lot of hard work on a lot of people's parts. To see the city electrified is great. The fans deserve this more than anybody. They stuck with us through tough times. This is a baseball town, but they went through some pain and suffering for a long time and deserve hazard pay. You can tell by the energy here today that they've had this bottled up."
McClatchy was wearing a black Pirates jersey that featured No. 8, in honor of Hall of Famer Willie Stargell, whom he became close friends with before the former slugger's passing in 2001, the night before PNC Park opened.
"I called Willie's widow, Margaret, and told her I'd be wearing his No. 8 on my jersey and in my heart," McClatchy said. "When I went out on that mound, I just thought about Willie and how happy he'd be that this city is on fire and having fun again."
Prior to McClatchy throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, the national anthem was performed by Nashville-based recording artist Sarah Marince. The 23-year-old Pittsburgh native has handled that duty at Bucs games, Penguins games and other events around the country since she was 15, but never in such a spotlight.
"People always ask me how many times I've sang the national anthem, and I've honestly lost count," Marince said. "But this is my first playoff game ever, so I'm a little extra nervous. The city of Pittsburgh is just so hyped up right now, and I'm excited to be here to feel that energy and do my thing."
Singing the national anthem for the Pirates isn't Marince's only connection to the game of baseball. Her boyfriend is Casey Bond, the actor who played Oakland Athletics pitcher Chad Bradford in the 2011 movie "Moneyball." Bond, a former Minor League outfielder for the San Francisco Giants, landed the role because of his ability to imitate Bradford's unique submarine-style delivery. He's currently in Los Angeles shooting another baseball-related movie called "Undrafted."
Jim Lachimia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.