PHOENIX -- Seventeen years ago, when the first of too many Pirates rebuilding programs were launched, the building blocks of the future were Carlos Garcia, Al Martin and the gent shepherding 15 pre-pubescent baseball players around the Pirates dugout amid batting practice last night.
Imagine that: Kevin Young, manager of 12- and 13-year-old Arizona Pirates, who wear black and gold sleeveless uniforms that are almost exact duplicates of his former employer's togs from last year.
"I try to keep up with them," Young said, punctuating it with a smile recognizable from his 1992-2003 days as a Pirates stalwart. "It's a great transition. You miss the game, obviously. Then you realize you'd rather coach your kids."
Kaleb, the next generation of a KY, plays for dad's Pirates.
Dad's old Pirates, the Pittsburgh variety, welcomed him and the team into the visitor's dugout and their game last night against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field. He reacquainted himself with some former Pirates he recalls -- Paul Maholm, Ryan Doumit, Matt Capps, John Grabow and Jack Wilson are among the last remaining few who were even with the organization a half-dozen years ago when Young exited. He exchanged hugs and laughs with several players who identified him and off-field Pirates personnel who remember him well.
Now, about that 17-year span ...
"I didn't know they would still be building," joked this former building block, who was the only one of the original three from 1993 to stick with the Pirates -- he finished with 144 homers, 606 RBIs and a .258 average in 12 seasons and 1,205 games -- all with the Pirates except for 55 games in 1996 in hometown Kansas City.
"It's tough," he added of the near-generation of losing. "I'm cheering for them all the time.
"I like this [Andrew] McCutchen kid. You can sort of build around certain tools in there. Hopefully, they can build around Maholm and the pitching staff. Maybe you sign guys around them. And then hold them together -- that's the big thing."
He turned 40 a month ago, though he looks the same as when he played the game. This Phoenix-area resident and former major leaguer Tim Salmon started an online baseball-education program called Protege Sports, modeled after iTunes, he said: downloadable instructions and fundamental work. So he is staying in baseball to a degree, along with his Arizona Pirates, who, if they keep winning, could advance to the Ripken national tournament in Aberdeen, Md., next month.
Young knows one thing about his Pittsburgh Pirates: He expects them to win in his lifetime.
"I know the first playoff game they're in," he said, "I'll be there."
The Pirates' double-play combo were given the night off together last night because of ailments. Jack Wilson missed his the fourth consecutive game after his left hamstring was injured Monday on a defensive gem. Freddy Sanchez sat out likely this one night only after awaking yesterday morning to "just a tweak" in his left knee.
No big trade-deadline-approaching conspiracy there.
Manager John Russell figured Wilson to return to the lineup today at the earliest, tomorrow "for sure."
• Jeff Karstens has a no-hitter ... as a reliever. After 11/3 innings Thursday, he has pitched 10 in a row without yielding a hit. Overall, he has held opponents to an .056 average in his past six appearances. "He's always had the calmness, the confidence, the attitude. He's a fierce competitor, he loves to be in the thick of it. I think that's why he's maybe very effective out of the bullpen," Russell said.
• Altoona catcher and Pirates 40-man roster member Steve Lerud was placed on the Curve's disabled list because of a concussion, retroactive to Thursday.
• Remember, last night through tomorrow constitute the three-game set that could mean lower ticket prices, if not potentially free left- and right-field box seats, for next weekend's series against Washington in the return of Nyjer Morgan. One dollar will be knocked off the ticket price for every run the Pirates score against Arizona last night, tonight and tomorrow. If they score 24 runs or more, those seats are free. Tickets go on sale Monday.