BRADENTON, Fla. -- It was a door, a simple glass entrance with a handle.
But when Pedro Alvarez walked through it last night a few minutes after 7 p.m. at Pirate City, it signified a whole lot more than just another 21-year-old showing up for his first day of work after the culmination of his college days.
He was walking into the rookie-level Florida Instructional League, and, with it, the biting reality of having to work for that recently finalized four-year, $6,355,000 contract.
He was walking into his workplace after failing to report for duty through a long and contentious "will-he or won't-he end up with the Pirates" period, replete with a union grievance, bickering and an obvious tug-of-power between superagent Scott Boras and Pirates president Frank Coonelly.
Perhaps most important, Alvarez was walking into his first few moments with his feet planted on the property where he'll work to mold himself from a much-ballyhooed prospect into the anticipated middle-of-the-order power guy. His magical left-handed swing has been saddled with the responsibility by many in the Pirates' fan base as the precise dimension that could extract the club from the depths it has dug by posting 16 consecutive losing seasons, the latest of which wrapped up yesterday more than 2,400 miles away in San Diego.
So, what about all of this, Pedro?
"I came down [to Pirate City] and I am willing to work," Alvarez said just after walking into the complex, in what has become his signature, straight-to-the-point nature. "I am willing to work hard."
When he finally signed his contract Wednesday at PNC Park, Alvarez repeatedly said, "I will work my hardest."
Today will be a true measure of that hard work. He'll trade the street clothes for workout gear, and indications are his regimen will involve a decent amount of running and conditioning the first few days here.
Alvarez will be at Pirate City through the middle of next month, when Instructional League play comes to an end. From there, director of player development Kyle Stark said Alvarez, "most likely will head home with a specific plan for the offseason, because the [contract] ordeal drug out long enough" that there are no available spots in the Arizona and Hawaii Fall leagues.
As Alvarez checked into the complex last night, he looked the part of a wide-eyed, elated kid getting dropped off at summer overnight baseball camp -- right down to his glove affixed to the outside of his bag, a fresh Pirates cap pulled atop his head and a beaming, radiant smile as he made his way to his room.
"To me it is baseball, it is fun, it is always fun," he said. "That is how it is always going to be. No matter what the situation is, that is not going to change. ... I'm just glad I can start working and start my professional career."
A professional career that will be bursting with new things to digest.
"Pedro has played at a high level of competition and I think it will be information overload for a while, but that is common with everyone," Stark said. "Right now, there is a lot he's going to have to learn and a lot that we are going to put him through, but he understands that."
Stark understands there is no way to make up for lost time, and there is no reason to harp about it, either.
"The reality of it is that my job is just baseball," Stark said. "Now, starting with him getting to Bradenton, we are all able to focus on our job, and that is baseball. That is what he does best, is to play baseball, and that is what our staff does best, is to instruct baseball.
"This is a big relief, because we know how talented Pedro is and why we ultimately selected him. Now he can show us firsthand."
Alvarez quickly pointed out, though, while people might grow accustomed to listening to the crack of his bat in the coming years, it is his listening that might prove most beneficial in the immediate future.
"I'm just going to let these guys kind of take me under their wing and instruct me," he said. "That is why I am here and I am going to absorb as much as I can."
Rest assured, there will be plenty of it to absorb.
Colin Dunlap can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .