Apr. 9—After several minutes of postgame handshakes, hugs and enough posing for pictures to fill several photo albums, it was time.
David Bednar had to walk away from the crowd gathered along the left-field foul line at PNC Park.
It wasn’t easy for Bednar, a Mars graduate, to leave his parents, cousins and friends, some traveling from Philadelphia and Ohio, all gathered to watch him pitch for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday in their home opener.
When he got to the Pirates dugout on the way to the clubhouse, he turned to the thinning crowd and waved one last time. Leaving is never easy.
“Just really special,” Bednar said later in a conference call with reporters. “I really can’t put it into words.”
Make no mistake: Bednar had been here before. Not here, exactly, but he had stood on five other major league mounds before Thursday as a member of the San Diego Padres.
But none of them sat in the shadow of the Pittsburgh skyline.
And he had not been to any of those other places as a 6-year-old, waving a banner, cheering for his Pirates in the first game at PNC Park 20 years ago.
And his posse wasn’t nearly as large as it was Thursday.
“To hear them go crazy in their section was really cool,” he said. “I’m just really happy they were able to share it with me.”
Said Pirates manager Derek Shelton: “That was the loudest reception we had all day.”
Bednar, acquired by the Pirates in the offseason in the Joe Musgrove trade, only threw one pitch in relief during the Pirates’ 4-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
But it was a big one, with the Pirates trailing by two and a runner on third base in the eighth inning.
One more dramatic touch: His walk-out music, personally chosen, was (and will be) “Renegade” by Styx, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rally anthem during games at Heinz Field.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind to use it as a walkout,” he said. “As soon as I got traded, I was like, ‘You know what? It’s automatic.’ At Steelers games, it always gets everybody fired up so I figured, ‘Why not?’ “
Bednar got the out off the bat of the Cubs’ Jake Marisnick when left fielder Bryan Reynolds made a diving catch of a sinking line drive.
What did he say to Reynolds on the way to the dugout?
“I said, ‘Thanks, man. That was an awesome catch.’ It saved a run.”
That was it: one pitch, one out. Wilmer Difo pinch hit for Bednar in the bottom of the eighth and struck out with the bases loaded.
The loss was the Pirates’ sixth in a row, but Bednar’s appearance was redemption after he had allowed back-to-back home runs Wednesday in Cincinnati to the Reds’ Tyler Stephenson and Aristides Aquino.
“When you have a hometown kid be able to bounce back and get the out, that was outstanding,” Shelton said.
“A special moment for him. Really cool.”
Shelton is no born-and-bred Yinzer, but he understands the significance of “Renegade” to area fans.
“I can’t wait to be at a Steeler game and actually see it in person,” he said. “I think that it’s cool that he did it. What’s going to be really cool is when this place is packed and he comes into a game. They’re going to go ballistic.”
When Bednar arrived at PNC Park on a warm April morning, he made a point to walk across the field, savor the moment and bow to his good fortune.
“Beautiful morning, looking at the skyline, just trying to soak it all in,” he said. “Beautiful stadium. Amazing opportunity.”
Love baseball? Stay up-to-date with the latest Pittsburgh Pirates news.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .