Thursday, October 12, 2006

2006 Pittsburgh Pirates Award Ceremony: Ronny Paulino

Ronny Paulino: Only person to ever prove John Wehner wrong

The scene: early June, about a month after Ronny Paulino has forced his way into the starting lineup due to Ryan Doumit's inability to have all of his body parts functioning at the same time and Humberto Cota's utter uselessness. Ronny has jumped out to a brisk .320-or-so clip with the bat, but John Wehner, hardass that he is, decided to assert his opinion that having been Ronny's hitting coach in 2004 with the Altoona Curve, Ronny will not be a .300 hitter in the Major Leagues.

Paulino took umbrage at the remark, and while most ordinary players would curl up in the fetal position rather than challenge the ruggedly dashing good looks of John Wehner, Paulino had the cojones to stare Rock in the face and not break down and start crying.

Who would dare defy such a beautiful face?

As it turns out, Ronny had a lot more intestinal fortitude than we (or at least, Dave Littlefield and Ed Creech) gave him credit for. He also turned out to handle the bat pretty well at the Major League level, Rock's prognostication be damned. In fact, after coming away from his showdown with John Wehner victorious, a feat so few have on their resume, Ronny was now essentially a certified badass. Opposing pitchers? All victim to Ronny's vicious line drives. Opposing baserunners? Well, see for yourself:

Ronny hovers over the soon-to-be carcass of Lew Ford, preparing to move in for the kill.

However, Ronny still has a couple of weaknesses. Namely, pitches that bounce before they get to him. If John Wehner had predicted, say, that Ronny Paulino would not block a single ball in the dirt all season, he'd be enjoying the last laugh and Ronny's confidence would probably be completely shattered. Ronny also showed a strange aversion to outfield walls. As in, baseballs he hit rarely reached them.

If Ronny can overcome these fears, he could become an unstoppable force behind the plate the likes of which has not been seen in Pittsburgh since the days of Don Slaught.

Coming full circle: Don Slaught and John Wehner were teammates and presumably drinking buddies on the Pirates for five seasons from 1991-1995.

No comments: