MILWAUKEE — From the top step of the visitors dugout at Miller Park, Vince Harrison leaned on the railing and took in batting practice before Sunday’s game against the Brewers.
Lined up to his left and right were 18 other team dads, who have tagged along with the Pirates this weekend as part of a special father-son weekend.
Vince is the father of Josh Harrison, and has been over the moon to share the bonding experience.
“This is a good thing, it really is,” Vince Harrison said. “I am telling you, it’s just the camaraderie. As fathers, it has brought us closer as it relates to our kid. They’re all striving for the same thing.”
Taking part were Clint Hurdle Sr., along with fathers of Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton and more than a dozen other fathers of players and some team personnel.
Rick Mercer, the father of Jordy, left 1,100 acres of wheat fields and 110 cattle back at Mercer Ranch in Taloga, Okla., to join in the experience.
“You get to see all the work that the coaches and everybody puts in. It’s amazing,” Rick Mercer said. “Most people don’t understand there’s a lot more to just coming to the park and playing the game. It’s really more in-depth than even I thought it was.”
The fathers have been able to shadow everything the players do, from pregame meetings in the clubhouse to shagging balls in the outfield.
It was an idea manager Clint Hurdle said he always had when he was with Colorado, but was never able to pull off. When he came to the Pirates, he said he got immediate support from president Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington. The team did the first fathers trip a year ago at Wrigley Field at the time the All-Star team was announced.
“We all got together and thought it could be a priceless memory,” Hurdle said. “We were out earlier [Saturday] and they’re running around. It’s just a blast. These are the guys you’ve been connected to since you were 6 in the backyard. … It’s not about doing it at the right time, when the season works. You just do it.”
Huntington said the fathers have been a good-luck charm.
“We’ve told the dads that if we end up sweeping, we’ll have to make it an every-Milwaukee trip until their luck runs out,” Huntington said. “It’s been an absolute joy to see our staff and players in the clubhouse, going through the advanced report, eating, shagging on the field. It’s been absolute joy to watch the dads interact with their sons. A lot of proud dads running around this clubhouse right now.”
Not so fast on Alvarez …
Huntington said the team has not ruled out Alvarez returning to third base next season.
For the remainder of this season, he will play first or bat off the bench, but his future position is yet to be determined.
“We’ll certainly revisit it after the season,” Huntington said. “A guy that’s capable of hitting .250 with 36 home runs and 100 RBIs and playing adequate defense at third base? That’s a pretty good player for an organization to have. We’re not ready to close the door on that long term.”
Rested and ready?
Gregory Polanco returned to lineup Sunday, hitting second and playing right field.
Polanco had four consecutive games off to rest and work on his swing.
“He’s gotten rest, and his [batting practice] work has shown some improvement. [But] it’s BP, that doesn’t count,” Hurdle said. “It’s time to get him in a game and really see if there’s been some progress made.”
Stolmy Pimentel had a rough rehab outing for Class AA Altoona Saturday night. His outing ended after just a third of an inning. He threw 25 pitches in that span, giving up two runs and three walks.
“Mixed bag. Command wasn’t efficient. Had a bunt play to make, didn’t make it,” Hurdle said. “All in all he threw 25 pitches. And it wasn’t an efficient outing.”
Pimentel (ankle sprain) is not eligible to return from the disabled list until Friday.
Clint Barmes (groin strain) played a full game Saturday night and is on track to potentially rejoin the team this week against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Jenn Menendez firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez.