The Pittsburgh Pirates Have Their Fans at a Fever Pitch-Thinking More Than .500

John BaranowskiCorrespondent IJune 27, 2011

PITTSBURGH - JUNE 24:  Ronny Cedeno #5, Neil Walker #18, Jose Tabata #31, Andrew McCutchen #22, and Xavier Paul #38 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrate in center field after their win against the Boston Red Sox on June 24, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

There’s a transformation taking place on the north side of Pittsburgh. No, it’s not Renaissance III or another hotel or parking garage being built, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the Steelers or the Rooneys.

With young promising players such as local kid Neal Walker, who’s leading all second basemen in Major League Baseball in runs batted in and budding superstar Andrew McCutchen, baseball is becoming the "in" thing in Pittsburgh. 

It’s not just about the food or the beautiful ballpark any more. It’s not just the racing pierogis and the bobbleheads and the fireworks. Night after night, more and more Pirate flags are being waved in the stands, and Pirate mania is growing.

Bucco fans, young and old, are starting to bring brooms to PNC Park, not to help with keeping the ballpark clean. But rather after taking the first two games of a series and going for a sweep of the series against such stalwart teams as the Tigers, Phillies and Red Sox. It wasn’t that long ago fans hoped their Pirates weren’t the team being swept at home. 

Not since 1992, the franchise’s last winning season, has there been this much excitement for Pirate fans. Now, baseball games have some meaning approaching the All-Star break. The dreaded June swoon didn’t occur, thanks to solid starting pitching. The starting rotation of Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens, James McDonald, Charlie Morton and Paul Maholm have kept the Pirates in games all season long without great run support, as the Bucs are only hitting .240 as a team.

Pirate fans no longer leave in droves when the team's behind after the seventh inning. Should they be ahead, closer Joel Hanrahan has been a sure thing with 22 saves in 22 save opportunities. 

The Pirate players and their fans are undergoing a Hurdlization as new Pirate skipper Clint Hurdle has the young Bucs and their fans believing they can win. The energy at PNC Park is almost palpable and no longer are the Pirates an easy win and an easy series for their opponents. Just ask the Tigers, Phillies, and Red Sox. 

After 10 long and lean years, maybe the crown jewel of a ballpark on the Allegheny River has a Pirate team worthy of playing in it, finally.

Pennant race anyone?