Bradenton or bust for Cheuvront

Look out your window and all the baseball fan sees is green grass.

Nevermind the snow because this week marks the date on the calendar major league pitchers and catchers report to spring training. And it won’t be long that teams will have full squads in camp.

Crossed paths with former Fort Frye High School athletic director Dennis Bahen the other day and he asked me if I’m ready for the start of baseball. After all, it’s only 37 days until the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers open the 2014 season in Australia.

Before Opening Day arrives, there’s plenty to be settled in terms of pitching rotations and starting positions. Someone who will have a front row seat as decisions are made in spring training for the Pittsburgh Pirates is Barry Cheuvront of Belpre.

Members of his family spend the month of March watching the Pirates’ exhibition games in Bradenton, Fla., as well as their minor league cohorts. They’ve been making the trip by car for 17 straight years.

“Back when my dad (James) was alive, we had thrown the idea about heading south to Florida,” Cheuvront said. “Usually it’s baseball everyday.”

At the age of 53, Cheuvront has beaten the odds with his health and is living life to its fullest. When he was diagnosed with Cystic fibrosis in 1976, the life expectancy of someone with that disease was 18 years old. Now the median age is approximately 36 and 37 years of age.

The past four years, Cheuvront has volunteered his time keeping the scorebook for the Belpre High School girls basketball team for both home and away games. The bus rides for road games can become quite noisy with girls singing the latest tunes.

“I don’t think many are in choir because most of them can’t sing,” Cheuvront laughed.

Belpre girls basketball coach Scott Miller relayed a story that showed the goodness in Cheuvront’s heart. A girl who Miller knew was trying different avenues in an attempt for an Andrew McCutcheon autograph.

With the baseball season over and still no autograph to be found, Cheuvront gave one of his McCutcheon autographs to Miller so that the girl would not be disappointed.

Cheuvront’s most treasured Pirate autograph is courtesy of Willie Stargell. Also among his favorites, he has signed memorabilia from Bill Mazeroski.

Last year was special for Pirate fans, Cheuvront included. Making its first postseason appearance in 21 years, Pittsburgh pushed the St. Louis Cardinals to the limit in the National League Division Series before bowing out in five games. Cheuvront attended Game 3 at PNC Park, which the Pirates won 5-3.

“That was one of the loudest sporting events I’ve been to,” Cheuvront said. “I’ve been to Ohio State and NFL games, but the Pirate game was one of the loudest.”

As to what Cheuvront expects when his family arrives in Brandenton next month: “there will be bigger crowds.”