Site Updates: New Morgantown Writer, Live Dominican Academy Reports, and More

Ever since this site started, there was one primary focus that we’ve had in covering the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league system — live coverage.

The site originally started with me covering the 2009 Lynchburg Hillcats during their championship season. It slowly expanded to a few games here and there at different affiliates in the system, to the point where we covered every affiliate in the system at times throughout the year. And when we switched over to a subscription model, the main goal stayed the same, to provide as much live coverage as we could, and even more than we had in the past.

This year we have covered games in all of the full season levels. And now that the short-season teams have started up, we will have coverage there. The first team to start their season will be the West Virginia (Morgantown) Black Bears. And, of course, Pirates Prospects will be covering their games this year.

The Black Bears open their season this weekend with a three game series at home, featuring a home opener tonight that will have Tyler Glasnow making a rehab start. We will have two writers at the game. Wilbur Miller is going to have the recap for our nightly Prospect Watch, while our new Morgantown writer will have the story on Glasnow.

Speaking of that writer, I’d like to welcome Jamey Conlin to the site. Jamey had originally applied for a writing job with us back in 2013, at a time when there wasn’t a team close to him, which was one of the main things preventing us from adding him at the time. Now that the Pirates have a team near him, I was excited to get him into the mix. This will be his first experience in a writing role, but Jamey is very experienced when it comes to the game of baseball.

Jamey has been a high school baseball coach for Wheeling Central in Wheeling, WV for 14 years, and has been part of several Single-A State Championships during that time, with the most recent win coming in 2011. He took over as the head coach this year. He also played the game up to the high school level.

We’ve always provided a balance of statistical analysis with our live player reports, but I’ve always felt that the live reports are far more important in the lower levels, since the numbers don’t tell the complete story. Having someone cover the Morgantown team with Jamey’s experience in the game of baseball will provide us with a unique view of the newest prospects in the system, and will only continue adding to the excellent live content we’ve got on a daily basis here at Pirates Prospects.

Please join me in welcoming Jamey to the team!

That’s Not All…

Remember that thing I said about live coverage being important to us? Well, Jamey’s debut won’t be the only thing happening on the site this weekend. Sean McCool will have his usual coverage in Altoona as they return home, and should see the debut of Steven Brault at the Double-A level in the next few days. Pete Ellis will be covering the West Virginia Power for a three game series over the weekend, getting a look at two of their best pitchers in Austin Coley and Stephen Tarpley.

As for me, the Marauders are on the road, and the GCL Pirates don’t start until next week. So I will be flying down to the Dominican Republic on Sunday, where I will spend three days touring the Pirates’ Dominican Academy, and watching a few DSL Pirates games.

This is a long way from the majors, and odds are 90% or more of the players I’ll be watching won’t reach the majors, while 50% or more won’t ever make it to the United States. But anyone who has been following the Pirates’ system knows how important their Dominican operations are. And if you don’t know that, all you need to do is look at Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco in the majors, or top second base prospect Alen Hanson in Triple-A. All three were signed for a combined price of a little more than $300,000, and they could make up three starting roles at the Major League level in the coming years. My focus here isn’t necessarily to find the next Polanco, Marte, or Hanson, but to get a closer look at what led to those three, and what could lead to more in the future.

I will return on Wednesday, and will cover my first GCL game of the season on Thursday, followed by the Marauders next weekend, which includes an expected Jameson Taillon start on Sunday.

The best part about this is that in the next ten days, we will have live coverage of every Pirates’ affiliate in the system. Nate Barnes will be covering the team in Pittsburgh. Ryan Palencer will have his usual coverage in Indianapolis. Sean McCool will be in Altoona. I’ll have the Marauders, GCL Pirates, and the DSL Pirates. Pete Ellis will have West Virginia. Jamey Conlin will have Morgantown, and will be joined by Wilbur Miller. And our photographer, David Hague, will be shooting games in Altoona on Saturday, and Morgantown on Sunday, before returning to PNC Park for Pirates games next week.

The only one left out is Bristol, and we’re in the process of adding someone for that level, which I hope to announce shortly.

What other site gives you this much live coverage of the Pirates’ system? What other site focuses this much on every single level, even the lowest levels of the minors and teams in different countries? If you find another one besides us, let me know.

First Pitch Will Return With a New Format

You might have noticed that I haven’t had a First Pitch in a while. For the last week I’ve been busy with a lot of behind the scenes stuff on the site, upgrading the membership software, as well as doing some hiring and other business aspects of this job that don’t allow me to write as many articles as I’d like.

I started First Pitch several years ago as a nightly column, with the main focus being a spot that provided a roundup of links from that day. This was important, as we usually post about 8-10 articles on average per day, and it can be easy to miss those. The feature quickly became the most popular one on the site, with some of the highest traffic totals, back when that mattered a lot to us. But I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t handle the workload of that article, and handle the workload of the site, and write all of my other daily articles, and keep up with news, and cover games, and respond to any support requests, and so on.

It became difficult this year to come up with extra article ideas at the end of the day, mostly because all of the article topics available were either claimed by one of our other writers, or were things I couldn’t devote a lot of time into researching and writing, due to the rest of my workload. I started taking one weekend night off, and that turned to a few weekend nights before the draft, and I haven’t written one since the draft finished.

I don’t want the feature to die, because it is popular, it provides a purpose for rounding up the day’s news, and it provides a great area for personal opinions on any subject. I’ve come up with a new format that I’m very excited about, which capitalizes on all of our live coverage and insider views into the system. We’re still working out the fine details, and I’ll have more on that in next week’s update, with the new format rolling out after that update.

Subscription Information

If you haven’t subscribed to the site, you can do so on our subscription page. The plans start at $2.99 per month, and go lower per month if you sign up for an Annual plan or our three-year Top Prospect plan. That’s an incredibly low price for all of the coverage you get here. In fact, it seems like every day I’m getting an e-mail from someone who decided to sign up after holding out for two months, and that e-mail always has the person raving about how they missed the site, and how great the coverage has gotten under the new model. I hope that many more of you will continue subscribing, since that will only continue our growth and additional live coverage.

  • Welcome to pp Jamey! Thanks for all the coverage. This is the only site I subscribe to because apparently I have the need to know everything happening within the organization and this is the hands down the best place to get it.

  • Gets better every day on here. Great job Tim and all other writers! And very knowledgeable and thoughtful (as well as civil) discussions in the comment section. All in all, well worth the small monetary investment.

  • Finally! I love first pitch