Christmas comes early for Pirates fans

In honor of the holiday season, the Pittsburgh Pirates will begin their annual winter caravan.

From Dec. 13 to Dec. 15, the Pirates will visit 17 communities in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Players and coaches will meet with fans and the media.

Andrew McCutchen, Daniel McCutchen, Joel Hanrahan, Kevin Correia, Alex Presley, Jose Tabata, Michael McKenry, James McDonald, Brad Lincoln and Jeff Karstens are the team members who will be visiting. However, only two will travel to each city.

Tabata and Karstens will visit Youngstown’s Butler Institute of American Art at noon on Dec. 14 for a luncheon.

Kathy Earnhardt, the Butler’s public relations coordinator, said the museum has hosted the winter caravan for more than 20 years.

“We get a very good turnout. Fans and parents with kids who are fans come,” Earnhardt said.

Members of the team will sign autographs for fans and meet with media to discuss the upcoming baseball season.

“It’s very popular. They sign autographs and give out tickets to a game. It’s nice this year because it’s before Christmas so people can get autographs or tickets as gifts,” Earnhardt said.

The caravan usually spans from one week to several, said Dan Hart, manager of media relations for the Pirates.

“We’re calling it the two-and-a-half-day blitz. We’re usually on the bus for a week, so two and a half days isn’t bad,” said Hart, who has been involved in with the caravan for more than a decade.

Hart credited fans for the inspiration behind the annual caravans.

“It’s a good opportunity to thank the fans for supporting us all season and get everyone excited for the upcoming season,” Hart said.