The Pirates' most tenured, most popular player is preparing to say goodbye.
So sure is shortstop Jack Wilson that the team will trade him -- and the $7.25 million he is due in 2009 -- this offseason that he has been exchanging farewells, signing memorabilia and ... yes, hoping he can get into the home finale this afternoon as a pinch-hitter.
"The whole day's going to be reflective for me," Wilson said. "I was just talking to somebody about those first exhibition games we had here against the Mets and how that felt to walk out there."
Those were the first two events at PNC Park, just before his rookie season in 2001.
"Just looking out on the field, remembering certain plays, some fun we've had. You always think about the positive. I'm that kind of guy. Regardless of the record or good years or bad years, I've had a really good time here. I've loved playing in Pittsburgh, and I've loved living here and raising my kids here."
Wilson last night made his first plate appearance -- a flyout to center in the fifth inning -- since his right index finger was fractured Aug. 31. He received a warm ovation from the crowd.
The Pirates again will not be represented at the next two hearings in the Pedro Alvarez case, Tuesday and Wednesday in New York. Team officials have not been asked to attend, yet another indicator of how long the process might drag out.
It is likely that the only testimony arbitrator Shyam Das hears this week is that of more Major League Baseball officials.
Team president Frank Coonelly promised that the Pirates will not reprise the Fan Appreciation Day debacle of last year, when only a handful of players -- including Wilson, who made a special trip out of the hospital despite a concussion -- participated in what has become a Pittsburgh home-finale tradition of meeting with the fans after the final out.
"The only similarities I see between the 2008 Pirates and the 2007 Pirates is, unfortunately, the record," Coonelly said. "The players this year have been terrific in the community and with our fans here at the ballpark. They understand that we all must go above and beyond to demonstrate how much we appreciate their support throughout what has been difficult season. I know that we will all see that same sincere appreciation when we close our PNC Park schedule with a day full of events and activities."
One new addition will be a jerseys-off-their-backs giveaway, similar to the one the Penguins have done for years. A player will deliver a recorded message from the video scoreboard to a fan in a specific seat number, promising his jersey, and the giveaway will happen after the game.
• The Pirates named former Pitt standout Jim Negrych their minor league player of the year and reliever Jeff Sues their top pitcher. Each split his season between Class A Lynchburg and Class AA Altoona. Negrych hit a combined .359 with 41 doubles, five home runs and 72 RBIs. His average ranked ninth among all minor league players. Sues had a 3.22 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings. They will be recognized with a pregame ceremony today.
• Manager John Russell on the chance that center fielder Nate McLouth -- zero errors -- will win a Gold Glove: "One look at the numbers, and he's certainly very deserving. But those tend to go to guys on winning teams. I wish I could vote for him." Managers do the voting, but cannot choose their own players.
• Catcher Robinzon Diaz's right ankle has been cleared for action.