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Derek Shelton is 'excited' to receive Jim Leyland's ceremonial first pitch at the Pirates' home opener

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Derek Shelton smiled and laughed when asked about Jim Leyland throwing the ceremonial first pitch before the home opener against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday at PNC Park.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Derek Shelton smiled and chuckled when asked about the significance of Jim Leyland throwing the first pitch before the home opener against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday at PNC Park.

Then Shelton quickly added an honorific to describe Leyland, who achieved three division titles as a manager for the Pirates before winning the 1997 World Series with the Miami Marlins and leading the Detroit Tigers to an AL pennant.

“Hall of Famer Jim Leyland,” Shelton said Thursday afternoon while sitting in the visiting dugout before the Pirates played the Washington Nationals. “I’m really excited about that. It’s very well deserving.”

So it’s no surprise that Shelton will be on the receiving end of Leyland’s first pitch.

Their friendship began when Leyland called to congratulate Shelton on being named Pirates manager in November 2019 and invited him to breakfast at Chartiers Country Club. It became a regular meeting, and Shelton said he had breakfast with Leyland a few days before he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Dec. 3. Shelton also participated in a Hall of Fame news conference for Leyland during the winter meetings in Nashville.

“I think everybody is very aware of what he means to me both personally and professionally. He’s a sounding board for me,” Shelton said. “This is a guy who is one of the best managers in the game and, in July, they’re giving him that plaque in Cooperstown. To say Jim Leyland, my friend, is going into the Hall of Fame and will be there opening day, it’s very special to me.”

Shelton is also looking forward to watching Rawlings present the NL Gold Glove Award before the game to Pirates third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, who won it for the first time last season to end the run of 10 consecutive by St. Louis Cardinals star Nolan Arenado.

“Kinda doubling down on how I feel about Leyland, I think it’s been known how I feel about Ke’Bryan getting a Gold Glove,” Shelton said. “The fact that we’re able to celebrate it is really special because this guy is really one of the best defenders in baseball.”

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