Luke Henne | Staff Writer
October 15, 2020
John Wehner, a current broadcaster and longtime member of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, has seen just about everything, but even he could not prepare for a season like 2020.
During the shortened regular season with 60 games, all 30 Major League Baseball teams played games without spectators as a precaution against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The effect of no fans in the stands was certainly felt by the players, but also by Wehner and his colleagues at AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh.
“Making the games was different. We were not allowed to travel on road games, but at home you got a little used to it, Wehner said. “Tea [artificial] the amount of noise was a big factor that helped a lot, although there was sometimes cheering when it shouldn’t [have been]. It was just different not to have fans and not to have contact with the players. ”
During the shortened season, in an attempt to speed up the duration of the game, the league implemented temporary rules, such as both the American League and the National League, using a designated hitter, while a runner started each additional round on second base.
Wehner – as traditional as they come – was not a fan of the earlier of these modifications.
“I do not like DH. I like the strategy of the game. I was a bench player. “When you have DH, you basically take away bats from your bench players, and you do not need a bench unless someone is injured,” he explained.
However, Wehner ended up being more accommodating to the latter rule.
“I did not think I would have the runner in second place in extra innings, but I thought it was interesting and quite nice. “Obviously it shortens the games,” said Wehner. “You don’t play 15-, 16- or 17-inning matches anymore. You’re not at the ballpark in seven hours. I do not know if it holds up, but I liked it. ”
Now 53, Wehner grew up in Pittsburgh, graduating from Carrick High School, just seven miles from PNC Park. After playing college baseball in the Big Ten at Indiana University, Wehner was drafted by the Pirates in 1988. He got the chance to play for his hometown team from 1991 to 1996, and again from 1999-2001.
The hard-nosed tool player was overjoyed at the opportunity to represent the team he grew up and cheered on on a daily basis.
“I often used to go down to Three Rivers Stadium, and my dream, from a young age, was to play in the big leagues. To be able to sign with them, go through smaller leagues and get that summons was incredible, “said Wehner.
His career on the field was certainly full of unforgettable memories.
“From beating the last home race in Three Rivers to taking the final in Three Rivers, it’s just crazy for me. It’s amazing that a guy from Carrick could spend so many years with an organization, “he remarked. “It’s not something I ever thought could happen, and it’s definitely something I do not take for granted. I’m incredibly grateful. ”
Squeezed between Wehner’s two stints with the Pirates was a two-year detour (1997 and 1998) to Miami for a trip with former Pirates boss Jim Leyland and the then Florida Marlins. In the first of Wehner’s two years with the Marlins in ’97, the franchise won its first World Series title and defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven games.
One small step on the road to Marlin’s victory stands out in Wehner’s mind.
“To [Jim] giving me the opportunity to get down there and be a part of it was amazing. Hits [Atlanta] The braves in a series were huge, ”Wehner recalled. “You do not forget it because of what the Braves had done to the pirates [in 1992], and there were so many former pirates on the team. ”
The impact of always being known as a world champion has stuck with Wehner.
“Participating in winning a world series is almost difficult to explain. Being able to celebrate the fact that you are the best team was really cool. There are many great players who have never won a World Series, so for me to say that I have a World Series ring is very nice, “said Wehner.
Since 2005, Wehner has worked as a color commentator for Pirates. As grateful as he is at the moment with the franchise playing, he can be even more grateful for the chance to be a broadcaster for the team.
“I do not know what is more far-reaching and ridiculous: to get to the big leagues that play from Carrick or that broadcast from Carrick. I have bad Pittsburghese; it would just work here in Pittsburgh, ”Wehner said, laughing.
Like many Pittsburghers, Wehner has seen the franchise suffer through many painful seasons, while witnessing a triumph along the way. As a broadcaster, a September night will always be rooted in Wehner’s mind.
“When we finally got to the post season again, in 2013, it was something else. I remember I was with [play-by-play partner] Greg Brown, ”said Wehner. “To be able to celebrate that victory [at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs] was amazing. It was certainly a long journey. ”
In parts of 11 seasons at the big league level, Wehner struck. 249 with four home races and 54 races entered. Despite all the adversity he encountered along the way, he persevered and persevered, not forgetting the work ethic that helped build his success on the road to a professional career.
“The odds are stacked against you. You have to work hard and play the game properly. You must want to go to practice. For me, it was never an option to do anything other than continue to practice and play the game with respect, sportsmanship and basics, “said Wehner.