With the Pirates looking to cut into the 21/2 games that they trail the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers and with commissioner Bud Selig in attendance, Tuesday was a big day.
But for a few hours before taking the field at PNC Park, the organization had the chance to put all such things aside as Andrew McCutchen and the front office helped to turn the dreams of a 12-year-old boy from Colorado into reality.
Matthew Beichner, a native of Colorado Springs, is battling a rare disease call germinoma, a cancerous germ-cell tumor. The malignant tumor is fought using chemotherapy, a process that causes frequent pain.
Make-A-Wish recipient signs with Pirates
Make-A-Wish recipient Matthew Beichner has lunch with Andrew McCutchen and signs a one-day contract with the Pirates. (Video by Andrew Rush, 7/22/2014)
A lifelong fan of the Pirates -- his father is from New Castle -- Matthew put in a simple request to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia: the chance to meet his hero, McCutchen, and have lunch with him at the ballpark.
When lunch and a game of catch with McCutchen was over, Beichner was presented a one-day contract by Pirates president Frank Coonelly in front of the media.
The expression on his face was one of pure joy and excitement.
"Pretty good, playing MLB at 12 years old," Matthew said about how it felt to be a member of the Pirates for a day.
The reality of meeting his favorite player did not fully sink in for Matthew and his parents until they saw McCutchen walking across the field to meet them in front of the center-field wall for a picnic.
Soon after their introduction, Beichner and McCutchen were sharing stories of their experiences playing baseball.
They included the time Matthew spent a week in chemotherapy, but pitched a game just three days later. And he didn't just play the entire game -- he threw a no-hitter.
"It doesn't surprise me that he threw a no-hitter, and he probably did it left-handed. He's right-handed," McCutchen said. "I'm trying to get some pointers before the game, so we'll probably go into the cage, and he'll give me some tips."
While Matthew tried not to show too much excitement about his time at the ballpark, his parents Kim and Rick Beichner could not hide their emotions.
"It's amazing, it's more than we could have ever wished for," Kim said. "I'm glad to be able to do it with him, after every thing that he's been through."
He spent the rest of the day touring the clubhouse, meeting the rest of the team and participating in batting practice.
"There's not one thing that sticks out, it's everything, every minute, every moment," said McCutchen about the best moments of the day. "We're just living in it and we still have a full day ahead of us."
Matthew was to complete his dream day by stepping out onto a major league field to throw the first pitch in front of a big crowd.
When he returns to Colorado and sees his friends, he said he knows exactly what he will say.
"I would tell them that it was one of the best days ever."
Alex Nieves: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @alexdnieves5.
First Published July 22, 2014 12:00 AM