PITTSBURGH — Oct. 1, 2013 serves as one of the most memorable days for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 21st century.
After 20 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1992 with a home Wild Card game against the division-rival Cincinnati Reds.
The game couldn’t have gone better for the Pirates.
In front of a sea of black of over 40,000 fans filling PNC Park past its seating capacity, the Pirates defeated the Reds 6-2 to punch their ticket to the National League Division Series in St. Louis.
If you close your eyes, you might still be able to hear the ‘Cue-to, Cue-to, Cue-to’ chants echoing throughout the stadium that night to rattle Reds starter Johnny Cueto
Though he wasn’t a Pirates’ player quite yet, David Bednar, a freshman at Lafayette College at the time, reminisced about the game and his beloved Buccos that season.
“I remember wanting to come back (to Pittsburgh for it), but we had fall baseball stuff,” he said. “Every time I watch the video and just see the little highlights, I still get chills to see how electric that was.”
2013 was an especially memorable year for one Pirates’ player in particular. Then manning center field, Andrew McCutchen was named that year’s National League MVP in addition to being an All-Star and a Silver Slugger recipient.
After getting traded in Jan. 2018, McCutchen returned to the Pirates again as a free agent for the 2023 season, giving Bednar a chance to become teammates with a player he and many others in Pittsburgh at that time grew up idolizing.
“Growing up, you know what he did on the field, but to get to know him as a person and realize he’s just as good a dude if not better than he is as a player,” said Bednar. “Just the kind of teammate, kind of guy he is, it just speaks volume to him. He’s unbelievable. The whole experience has been really cool.”
For Bednar, it’s pretty compelling to think that an 18-year-old who was attending a college that produced only three big leaguers since World War II would pitch for his hometown team 10 years later, but here we are.
It’s something that Bednar still finds himself appreciating, three seasons after being acquired by the organization.
“I’d come to a bunch of games each summer and always follow along,” he said. “To be here, it’s still like a pinch-me moment every time driving in and every time going home. You kinda look around and every now and again have some flashbacks of, ‘I watched a game, I sat there and sat there.’ Now to be playing here, it doesn’t get old.”
The right-hander’s tenure with the Pirates has coincided with the organization’s rebuilding efforts. He’s seen much more losing than winning.
But now that he wears a black and gold uniform, Bednar is even more starved to get the Pirates back to the postseason than he was as a fan in 2013.
It’s been a while. The Pirates haven’t been in a postseason game since 2015. They haven’t won one since the NLDS in 2013 and they haven’t won a playoff series since they took home the 1979 World Series trophy over the Baltimore Orioles.
With a strong finish to the 2023 season as a team, Bednar feels a playoff return is closer than ever. It would be quite a story for Bednar to help get his hometown team back there.
“It would be unbelievable…special on so many different levels and for so many different reasons. We’re really close. It’s an unbelievable fanbase with the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins. They showed out this year and it’s been a lot of fun. They’re hungry for it as much as we are.”
A lot has changed with the Pirates in those 10 years since the first ‘Buctober’ night in the history of PNC Park.
Bednar’s affinity for the Pirates has not, and his wish to experience a playoff atmosphere in Pittsburgh is stronger than ever.