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Pirates ‘off day’ will be spent in Cooperstown |

Pirates ‘off day’ will be spent in Cooperstown

| Monday, May 15, 2006 12:00 a.m

More than anything else, the Pirates could probably use an off day right now.

Instead, they are playing their seventh exhibition game of 2006 against the Cincinnati Reds — at 2 p.m. today in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Cooperstown, of course, is home to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

With the worst winning percentage in the National League (.289), the Pirates probably don’t belong anywhere near the home of baseball royalty … unless, of course, one counts their on-going march toward the major-league record for consecutive losing seasons.

Still, the Pirates must play the Reds in Cooperstown.

While seemingly nobody on the Pirates’ roster would willingly trade a day off for this one-day trek to participate in the 60th annual Hall of Fame Game, at least some of them plan to enjoy the rare in-season opportunity to enjoy everything that makes Cooperstown special.

“It’s a really great place; you’ve just got to see everything in the Hall of Fame to really appreciate it,” infielder Freddy Sanchez said. “There is just so much historical stuff — I had a hard time taking it all in.”

Sanchez’s only visit to the baseball hall was in 2000. Admittedly, he wasn’t expecting to dig it much.

“I’m not into collecting anything, so I didn’t expect to be wowed by any of the stuff inside the hall,” Sanchez said. “I get in there, look around, and I’m, like, ‘Man … there is some history in this place.’ I actually enjoyed it.”

Manager Jim Tracy will use the Hall of Fame Game to look at some of the Pirates’ prized prospects — such as pitcher Josh Sharpless, catcher Neil Walker and outfielder Andrew McCutchen.

Although name players such as Jason Bay and Jack Wilson will accompany the Pirates to Cooperstown, they will not likely play — especially with a critical three-game series against the Reds at PNC Park set to begin Tuesday.

“You just don’t want to come out of this game with one of your players getting hurt,” Tracy said. “You want them to enjoy the experience, but you want to come home healthy.”

Tracy hopes he, his coaches and his players get a chance to walk through the Hall of Fame’s doors.

He’s done it before and plans to do so again in his post-managerial days.

“I’m not really big on tourism and stuff, but when I got in there I was overwhelmed,” Tracy said. “You could spend some serious time in that place.”

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