INDIANAPOLIS – Very rarely does a baseball player’s professional journey start in the major leagues. These athletes normally have to claw their way through years of baseball in the minor leagues before they can get a taste of playing in the pros.
The Pittsburgh Pirates‘ 2016 roster features plenty of homegrown talent that has churned through the team’s minor league system, complete with a stop at the final destination before reaching the majors: Indianapolis.
Before reaching the big leagues, Pirates prospects looking to make the jump to Pittsburgh must go through the team’s Triple-A affiliate in the Indianapolis Indians. The Tribe have been the Pirates’ Triple-A team since 2005 and just recently signed an extension to remain in that position through 2020.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said that Indianapolis may just be the “crown jewel” of Pittsburgh’s minor league system. “This has been a great place for us to grow up some men and future Pirates,” said Hurdle.
Some of today’s most talented Pirates man the outfield and each one came through Indianapolis at one point. Before the starting trio of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco made their way to the majors, they all perfected their craft with the Tribe in Triple-A. Considering Indianapolis is a large metropolitan city and Victory Field is one of the nicer ballparks in all of minor league baseball, it is not lost on players like this that time spent developing in a city like Indianapolis is important.
“It kind of prepares you for when you make it to the majors because honestly the only difference is the stadium is just a little bigger,” said McCutchen. “It’s a great experience.”
Throughout the years, Hall of Fame players such as Randy Johnson have come through Indianapolis on their way to the big leagues too, but with all of the recent big league talent to put on an Indians uniform, it is not surprising the Tribe have been very successful on the field over the past decade.
Coming into 2016, the Indians have posted a winning record in five consecutive seasons and finished just one win short of an International League championship last year. Since becoming the Pirates Triple-A affiliate 11 seasons ago, Indianapolis has not finished with a season record worse than eight games under .500.
The future of Pirates baseball shines brightly as well, with some of the team’s top prospects set to begin the 2016 regular season just a step away in Indy. Pitchers like Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon and hitters like Josh Bell and Willy Garcia are following in the footsteps of today’s Pirates by paying their dues and preparing for the big leagues in Indianapolis.
With the Indians’ 2016 regular season just two days away from getting underway in Columbus, fans will be able to catch a glimpse of Pittsburgh’s future in Indianapolis just like they did with the Pirates’ stars of today.