Pirates notebook: Game has catch to it for Tony Sanchez

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In a way, Tony Sanchez has done this before.

He has run out of the Pirates dugout with his catching gear, crouched behind home plate and felt a major league fastball collide with his glove -- only he was warming pitchers up.

Tuesday, Sanchez started his first major league game at catcher.

"The feeling I get when I go out and warm up pitchers, if it's anything like that, I'll be fine," Sanchez said before the game. "Then I've got to start calling pitches, Carlos Beltran steps up to the plate, and it's a whole different world."

The Pirates drafted Sanchez with the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft. His first game in the majors came July 23, when he went 1 for 3 against the Los Angeles Angels as the designated hitter. He played again July 25 against Seattle, going 1 for 5 as a DH.

With Michael McKenry on the 15-day disabled list, and the Pirates playing their first doubleheader this season, Sanchez started the second game against St. Louis, but this time as the catcher.

Manager Clint Hurdle said he didn't have any kind of talk with Sanchez before the game and joked that Sanchez is "an old pro" at playing in the majors by now. Still, he didn't hide his excitement to see Sanchez get a chance to show why the Pirates drafted him so high.

"I think everybody in the organization [has] looked forward to the day he was able to get back behind the plate," Hurdle said.

Even though Sanchez wanted to treat it like a regular afternoon at the ballpark, he knows it was not.

"You try and treat it like the same day," he said. "I worked 20-something years to get to this point, being a big league catcher. Today, I'm gonna be one."

GIF of a lifetime

When Zayne Minnite, his parents and his girlfriend took their seats in the front row of the left-field bleachers, they offhandedly discussed the possibility of a ball coming their way. It was more of a joke than anything.

A few innings later, Minnite, 22, wouldn't be joking. His phone started buzzing. His friends and family in Parkersburg, W.Va., had just seen him on television. Minnite -- alongside Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday -- starred in a GIF making its rounds on Twitter.

In the fifth, Andrew McCutchen slapped a line drive toward the Sonoco advertisement in left field. The ball bounced off Holiday's glove and into the bleachers to extend the Pirates lead to 4-0 in the second game of the doubleheader.

"With the booze and the moment, I was in the zone," Minnite said. He taunted Holliday, who stood directly below him.

"I was yelling at him," Minnite said. "Talking mad smack."

Minnite and his family drove three hours to make it to the game and now have a memory they'll be able to cherish for quite some time -- including the GIF of Minnite.

So much for an offhanded joke.

"I never thought in a million years that a ball would get hit right here," he said. "I don't care if I get the ball as long as [McCutchen] gets the home run. You've got to play for the team."

Birthday party

There was a little extra meaning in the doubleheader for Hurdle. He celebrated his 56th birthday at PNC Park. "In the words of Frank Sinatra," Hurdle said. "All I want for my birthday is another birthday."

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Mike Vernon: mvernon@post-gazette.com and Twitter @m_vernon.


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