Bay knows what it takes in Pittsburgh

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 PM ET

Now that he has spent endless hours car-pooling with Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby seems to have only one more prominent Pittsburgher left to meet.

A 10-minute drive across the bright yellow Clemente Bridge brings you from the Mellon Arena to glorious PNC Park, a stadium that allows a simultaneous view of one of America's nicest skylines and worst baseball teams.

A Canadian is the star of stars here for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Jason Bay, 26, was the National League rookie of the year last season and he is following up his inaugural season with an even better one.

Playing on an astonishingly talentless team, the Trail, B.C., native entered last night's doublehdeader against Cincinnati hitting .301 with 29 homers and 86 RBIs. One statistic favoured by truly troubled seamheads, Value Over Replacement Players, puts Bay behind only the Chicago Cubs' Derek Lee, St. Louis Cardinals star Albert Pujols and the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez for all-round excellence.

"I've heard about him a little bit," Crosby said when Bay's name came up. "Hopefully I will get a chance to meet him. Two Canadians here doing well, it's nice.

"I hear they have a beautiful park. I'd definitely like the opportunity to go out there."

The Pens and Pirates are working on a date for Crosby to take batting practice at PNC. It is in this way and so many others that Crosby is different from the rest. Penguins prospect Colby Armstrong better not be sitting around for an invite.

Bay's circumstance is different from Crosby's. Crosby has been stalked and analyzed since he was 14. Bay, meanwhile, gave up hockey for baseball at 13, thus assuring him a level of anonymity Crosby could only dream off. Taking several years to work his way through the minors didn't make Bay any more noticeable.

Bay was a 22nd-round choice by the Expos who hadn't seen any major league time despite being bandied between Montreal, the New York Mets, San Diego and Pittsburgh before winning the Pirates' first ever rookie of the year award.

"For someone like Sidney, who's very young and is going to have all the eyes and all the pressure on him, I think it'll be a challenge," Bay said. "But he has had that pressure on him in hockey his whole life. It's magnified but it's not different."

Bay predicts Crosby, a hardworking player who likes the rough going, will be a hit in Pittsburgh.

"Obviously, everybody refers to Pittsburgh as a blue collar town," Bay said. "They like people to go out and work hard no matter what sport. That's just the way Pittsbrugh is. If you go out and play hard they'll embrace you."

Age presents the greatest gap between Crosby and Bay, they are nearly a decade apart. The physical part, warns Bay, is just the beginning. The Pirates will lose nearly 100 games this year and lost 89 times last year. Learning not to accept defeat but to move on will take time.

"Everyone tells me that's what separates the good players from the not so good, especially in baseball," Bay said. "If you're going to let what you did yesterday affect what you do today, it's going to be a long season. I'm sure hockey and football are the same way. The quicker you can put things behind you, good days and bad, the better off you're going to be.

Bay's advice to Crosby: don't stop doing what you do.

"The biggest thing I learned was it's the same game you played growing up your whole life. That applies to baseball and it applies to hockey. It's the same game. Do what you did.

"Do what got you here."

THE DEAL WITH ... JASON BAY

Statistical categories in which Jason Bay leads the Pittsburgh Pirates and the player/total closest to him:

- Home Runs, 29

(Daryle Ward, 12)

- Runs, 100

(Rob Mackowiak, 54)

- Hits, 162

(Craig Wilson, 141)

- Average, .301

(Mackowiak, 279)

- Total bases, 302

(Jack Wilson, 185)

- Walks, 88

(Mackowiak, 40)


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