Brown excited about present and future of Pirates

Broadcaster believes the team still has 'something to prove'

Brown excited about present and future of Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. -- No citizen of Pirates Nation had to pinch himself harder over the team's changed fortunes than broadcaster Greg Brown, who five years ago called the play-by-play of 105 losses.

"A couple of days ago I was reading that Buster Olney of ESPN had [predicted] the Pirates and the Mariners in the World Series and the Pirates beating the Mariners," Brown said. "I actually paused and reread it to make sure. It's an odd feeling for me, but it's a great feeling."

For a long time, the only flag Pirates fans could realistically dream about was the Jolly Roger that Brown many years ago got them to raise -- and even that was only about 65-70 times a season. Looking forward to the flag, a National League Central Division title, is "a bizarre feeling," according to Brown -- and not necessarily misplaced.

"I liked that [manager] Clint Hurdle said, 'We enjoyed the Wild Card for a couple of years, but we're done with it. We want to win the division.' I think they're solely focused on that," Brown said. "Then go from there. I get a sense of a quiet confidence and a lot of fun. They're enjoying the status of a team that's considered top contenders."

If the confidence is quiet, it matches the tone of a Spring Training in which the absence of true competition for jobs merely drove home the point of the team boasting a solid core.

"Really, it's been one of the quietest Spring Trainings that I can recall in a long, long time," Brown said. "Everything's done, maybe save one position spot, and perhaps a battle for one of the spots in the bullpen.

"It tells you the club is established now and that's another reason why they're considered one of the top teams in baseball."

Like the fans for whom he is the eyes and ears for at every game, Brown was clearly energized by the Bucs' upstart successes of 2013-14. He relished them dealing comeuppance to all the teams that had taken advantage of them through the famine. Success will cost the Pirates that underdog edge, but in his view, the passion remains.

"I do feel like they have the hunger," Brown said. "They walk around here with a purpose. I get the sense that they're a very relaxed team, but a team that knows … [that] they're good. They read what we read. They know around the country, the pundits are saying they Pirates are one of the top teams in baseball. They still have something to prove."

They have to start off with proving they are still one of the elite teams in a tough division that has only gotten tougher.

"The Cardinals [are] always there, the Brewers [are] highly motivated, the national pundits want the Cubs to get back in and win that division, the Reds will be there. I think it's going to be great competition throughout the year," said the man who will be the voice of it all once again.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.