It’s been 21 years since the Pittsburgh Pirates last visited the MLB playoffs. Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown was 2 years old then, raised in a city starved for baseball success, and he soon was receiving yearly lessons in disappointment as part of the team’s long-suffering bandwagon.
On Tuesday night, the Pirates will begin their first playoff appearance since 1992 after clinching one of the National League’s wild-card spots. Francisco Liriano will climb the mound at PNC Park for a one-game playoff against the Cincinnati Reds for the right to advance into the National League Divisional Series.
After a long afternoon of answering questions about the Maryland football team’s No. 25 national ranking and its impending matchup against No. 8 Florida State, Brown seemed more than happy to toss a little rooting interest into the conversation on Tuesday.
“Tonight’s big,” Brown said. “Tonight’s big for the Buccos, baby. I’m looking forward to that, without a doubt. I heard they’re calling for a blackout in the stadium. First time since I’ve been alive they’ve been in the playoffs.”
Brown grew up a baseball fan, playing on travel teams and cheering for a franchise that, since 1992, hadn’t cobbled together a winning season until this fall. He cheered for catcher Jason Kendall and outfield Brian Giles “back in the day,” but his allegiances have turned to second baseman Neil Walker.
“I’m not even going to jump in and say I’m a bandwagon fan, because I’ve been going to Bucco games since I’ve been alive,” Brown said. “It’s been exciting, especially for the town, because the Steelers aren’t too hot, and then the Penguins are starting up now. It’s good for us, especially in that stadium. It’s a great facility, great arena.
“ I didn’t know any different. I enjoy going to games. Tickets were always cheap. Had great seats. I’ve always been a baseball fan. It’s exciting to see that, when everyone’s there, it’s a great venue to watch the game at.”
But has Brown rallied together some Terps teammates to watch the big game?
“No,” he said, sounding almost disappointed but not the least bit surprised. “No one’s a Pirates fan. Half the guys on the team don’t even know the playoffs just started.”