Pitcher Flynn, Black Bears set to open season

MORGANTOWN — The University of Arizona pitching staff, which new West Virginia Black Bear Michael “Mikey” Flynn was a part of just a few weeks ago, earned a nickname from their coach, Dave Lawn.

“He named our staff ‘Pound Down University,’ so we called ourselves ‘PDU,’ but it was pretty self-explanatory — throw the ball down, get ground balls and make good pitches, and that was our game plan going into every series,” Flynn said.

Attacking and making hitters put the ball in play is driven into the heads of every pitcher who goes through the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization, but Flynn is already familiar with that philosophy from his college days.

The Pirates’ sixth-round pick will make his professional debut this week. The Black Bears begin their season June 15, at Mahoning Valley.

Flynn, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound right-hander from Los Alamitos, Calif., posted a 4.89 ERA in 73 2/3 innings, with 72 strikeouts and 29 walks this season with the Wildcats. Prior, he pitched six games in the Alaska Baseball League for the Anchorage Bucs.

While Flynn hopes he can pitch for another Bucs team down the line. He got the call June 5 that Pittsburgh was taking him.

“I couldn’t be more pumped, I was with my parents and they were so happy, too,” Flynn said. “It was my childhood dream that finally came true to get drafted, but I’m not ‘there’ yet.”

It was a quick turnaround from the excitement of signing as a professional to actually getting into the grind of playing every day for nearly four months. During the college season, there are a few breaks throughout the week, but that won’t be the case anymore with the Black Bears, part of the short-season New York-Penn League.

“It’s almost, at first glance, like you’re coming out here to play summer ball somewhere,” Flynn said. “But then, the more you think about it, it’s not summer ball and it’s a job now. All of the older guys that have been in the organization for a few years have made it pretty easy to transition.”

Jared Olivia, who played 56 games for the Black Bears last season, is a former teammate of Flynn at Arizona. Olivia helped Flynn understand what to expect during his time in Morgantown, no matter how long it may be.

“He had nothing but good things to say, so I knew I was going to a good spot and know that I’m in good hands,” Flynn said.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m.

NEW BALLPARK AMENITIES

The Black Bears will introduce a new section to Monongalia County Ballpark this season, as well as new games, gear and food options for fans.

Behind the center field wall, the Backyard Seating Area will include deck seating, picnic tables, concession stands and a kids play area where fans can watch games at eye level. Regular admission will allow fans to use this area.

The Black Bears will also introduce “Bermo,” a spin on “The Price is Right’s” Plinko, played on the grass berm along the first base line. Selected fans will roll a bowling ball down the hill through wooden posts and whichever hole it lands in, the fan will win a prize from select sponsors.

New food items include chicken and waffles with syrup and gravy, Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, and funnel fries with either chocolate, caramel, strawberry, raspberry, mango, kiwi, white chocolate or lemon zest.

The Black Bears will also adopt a clear bag policy like WVU introduced this year. Fans are encouraged to bring only clear bags to the stadium. Non-clear bags larger than a clutch bag will not be permitted.

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