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in cold climes such as Pittsburgh, the most comforting words in American English are these: Pitchers and catchers report for spring training. And so they did last Monday, when the Pirates began preparing for another season at their training facility in Bradenton, Fla. But the Pirates, being the Pirates and owning a record of futility with 20 consecutive losing seasons, began their campaign with at least one strike against them. The Bucs' new left-handed pitcher, Francisco Liriano, reported with a Velcro brace on his right arm, which he broke on Christmas Day when he slammed it into a door while going out to play with his children. Elsewhere, the prospects were a little more encouraging. The Bucs welcomed Russell Martin, their new catcher signed in an off-season deal with the New York Yankees. Another season, another invitation to forget recent history and hope.

VALENTINE'S DAY was Thursday, and as the Post-Gazette's Anya Sostek reported, the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project has been making cupid's job easier. Thirteen years ago, it formed the Pittsburgh Sports League, which has given young Pittsburghers an opportunity to meet each other as they compete in 17 sports such as soccer, bowling and volleyball. The league has proved a winner in encouraging romance, with some former teammates teaming up for marriage. It is more healthy than meeting someone in a bar, and Cupid apparently can still hit a likely candidate when he or she is moving quickly to make a play.

"DAISY, DAISY, give me your answer, do ... for you'd look sweet, upon the seat, of a bicycle built for two." The lyrics to that Valentine's Day-appropriate song might soon beckon some of those sporting young Pittsburghers who are on track for love. On June 15, a celebration will be held in West Homestead and Downtown to mark the completion of a 330-mile trail network linking Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. This includes the Great Allegheny Passage, where the last piece of construction continues at the Sandcastle Waterpark. On June 15 a ribbon cutting will be held there followed by a mass bike ride down the trail to Point State Park for a party. Bike riders have waited a long time for this day. Pirates fans, take heart.



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