Baseball lore: He'd been her angel, and now he might be one for Bucs as well

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I met him at a Pirates game in 2006.

It was around the top of the fifth when he came storming into our section. It was a 10th grade field trip of sorts, but his dad had season tickets so he was just coming by to say hello to what turned out to be some of our mutual friends.

It was quite common among North Allegheny students that you didn't know everyone in your class of nearly 700, so his face was unfamiliar. But with each goofy comment he made, I giggled nonetheless, and before I knew it he had left.

Tenth grade ended, the summer went by and as I walked into my second period class the next fall, there sat the funny boy from the Pirates game. Before long giggles turned into phone calls, calls into dates, and somewhere around the end of our senior year, a prom date turned into a relationship.

After graduation we had one of those summers that you read about in books -- constantly together while enjoying dinner dates, lazy afternoons and, of course, Pirates games. His dad still had season tickets. The Bucs were continuing their losing streak, but he intently watched each play. Any time I would join in the wave or other silly ballpark antics, he'd shoot a look rebuking me to pay attention to the game. He seemed to be the only one not in on the joke, holding out faith regardless of the score.

The relationship continued to grow, quite frankly into a saga that would require a novel. I'd like to think we loved each other too hard too fast, and like most young loves the relationship eventually cracked, during our sophomore year at Penn State.

I came home to Pittsburgh and focused on other things -- missing him and those seats along the first base line all the same. Once he returned that summer after studying abroad, I weaseled a pair of tickets out of him (or rather his dad) saying something along the lines of, "I should at least get a few tickets a year -- part of the 'divorce' agreement, right?"

One thing led to another, and the following summer we wound up back under the PNC Park lights. We weren't saying we were in a relationship, but as we watched another game together and Train took the stage for a post-game concert, his arm slid across my back and we settled into the familiar. It'd be our last big outing together.

Around two years later I ended up walking around North Park Lake with him. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and while we liked to pretend we didn't want to know about each others' lives, we did. We talked and laughed, and I rolled my eyes a lot in the way ex-girlfriends do. We mentioned how we'd see each other again soon.

A call the following day changed all of that.

He had been running the Pittsburgh half-marathon and collapsed somewhere around mile 10. Nothing could be done -- a rare heart condition had always been a ticking time bomb. A condition that could have struck at any moment made its way like a freight train through the city he loved that day.

I'll never forget answering that call about him, with a reaction I thought was only possible from actors and drama queens. When your heart gets shaken to its core, you have no control over anything.

That was five months ago, and nothing has been more shocking since then for me and the city than witnessing the Pirates' success. With each game I kept wishing I could call him to discuss this unbelievable turnaround. That's when it hit me.

Sure, the coaching is excellent, the shark tank is throwing hard and our outfield is finally covered. Maybe years of hard work and dedication are finally paying off after 20 years of misery. But I couldn't help think it was more.

I couldn't help think that with each hit it was Kyle giving a little more air behind the ball. That with each slide into home, it was Kyle giving an extra push to reach the plate. That with each dropped ball by the opposing team, it was Kyle giving a little bump of the hand.

It may be crazy and maybe I'm just an old girlfriend giving who was once the love of my life a little credit. But after so many losing seasons, it's hard for me not to believe that there's an angel in the Pirates outfield to help.

So let's raise the Jolly Roger a few more times and give the ultimate Pirates fan the season he always wanted. After all, Kyle now has the best seat in the house.

The PG Portfolio welcomes "Baseball Lore" submissions through the end of the Pirates season, in addition to other reader essays. Send your writing to page2@post-gazette.com; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255.

intelligencer

Megan Prucnal of McCandless, a copywriter, can be reached at megan.prucnal@gmail.com.


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