At Pirates' home opener, plenty of pomp and circumstance

At Pirates' home opener, plenty of pomp and circumstance

PITTSBURGH -- Mother Nature broke out her fabulous best for the Pirates' home opener, but despite 76-degree temperatures at sun-drenched PNC Park, there were no shortage of chills.

The pageantry of the Bucs' 129th inaugural began with presentation of Silver Sluggers to center fielder Andrew McCutchen and second baseman Neil Walker -- for 2014, not for Sunday, when each on cue hit a three-run homer in the Pirates' 10-2 victory in Milwaukee.

As their names were called by Greg Brown, the iconic team broadcaster handling emcee duties, members of the undefeated Detroit Tigers sprinted out of their first-base dugout, across the "Opening Week" graphic sprayed on the grass and lined up along the baseline.

Walker, Cutch receive awards

The sellout crowd politely held its tongue -- but as soon as Brown intoned "Anibal Sanchez," the Tigers' starting pitcher, the black and gold fans roared in anticipation of meeting the '15 Bucs.

According to the noise meter, the biggest cheers welcomed A.J. Burnett back to the Pirates, Francisco Liriano back from paternity leave and McCutchen just back to the city that loves him.

But that wasn't the loudest pregame noise. That rose after the introduction of the last Pirates player -- starting pitcher Gerrit Cole -- as the crowd erupted into its "Let's Go Bucs!" chorus.

Then the house fell silent as Brown recited the names of members of the Pirates baseball family who passed away since last Opening Day -- and after that moment, the grateful cheers heard were in their memories.

With charter Pirates season-ticket holders unfurling a giant flag in center field, Chris Jameson of "The Voice" television fame belted the national anthem.

Harrison's leadoff home run

Then, in response to thousands of "Play ball!" calls, certainly internally if not aloud, the Tigers and the Pirates started belting pitches.

None quicker than Josh Harrison, who sent Sanchez's first pitch into the right-center seats to make it official. The Bucs were home, ready to raise cain, and Jolly Rogers.

Tom Singer is a reporter for 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.