Pirates greats of yesterday, today honored

Pirates greats of yesterday, today honored

PITTSBURGH -- It was a glorious day to observe the glory -- present and past.

Showered by brilliant sunshine on a cloudless, mild Monday afternoon, the Pirates took an Opening Day spin … back to the future? No -- ahead to the past.

They stood shoulder to shoulder behind home plate, the icons of the past and their successors. Dick Groat and Andrew McCutchen and Barry Bonds. Jack Wilson and Pedro Alvarez. Jim Leyland and Clint Hurdle.

The early-arriving PNC Park sellout crowd roared its welcome: loud for Leyland, much louder for Groat, even louder to Bonds -- albeit his noise was a mashup of cheers and some boos.

"I played for a great manager [Leyland] in a great city, and I'm honored to be back here," Bonds had said minutes earlier. "I loved it here. It feels good to come back where it all started."

As the PNC Park stands filled, the table set up behind home plate, laden with awards, quickly emptied.

Wilson presented 2013 National League Silver Sluggers Awards to McCutchen and Alvarez. Leyland handed the NL Manager of the Year Award to Hurdle. Francisco Liriano, busy at the time in the bullpen preparing for his start against the Cubs, was heralded as the NL Comeback Player of the Year.

Then, as the coup de grâce, Bonds palmed off the NL MVP Award to McCutchen.

"He's got the formula now. When you do it once, you're expected to do it again," said Bonds, who did it seven times.

Four years ago, Hurdle had come in planning to reconnect the Bucs not only with their fans but also with their storied history. The reception to the 2013 glory had already confirmed the former. A reason for Messrs. Bonds, Groat, Leyland and Wilson to return now signed off on the latter.

"I'm a big believer in honoring tradition," Hurdle said, "and also honoring the present in the best fashion we can. This is part of who we are and what we used to be and how far we've come and where we're going."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com 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.