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St. C native Mercurio working with the Phillies

August 27, 2011
By RICH GIBSON - Times Leader Sports Writer (rgibson@timesleaderonline.com) , Times Leader

In a perfect world, Jon Mercurio would still be bleeding Black & Gold in a high administrative position with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The St. Clairsville native grew up cheering on the Buccos and at some point, made it a priority to one day pursue employment with the major league franchise.

A successful starting pitcher for legendary St. C. High Coach Lefty Hall, Mercurio went on to pitch for Ohio Dominican College in a Columbus suburb.

Article Photos

JOHN MERCURIO

Life got even better in the late 80s when Mercurio earned a front office gig with the Pirates.

So impressed were the Bucs, they promoted him to director of broadcasting. Mercurio continued to work his way up the chain of command and eventually, was named the Bucs' Director of Operations, one of the franchise's most high profile positions.

During his long tenure with the Bucs, Mercurio signed a pair of future major leaguers in Joe Beimel and Neal Walker.

Like thousands of fans in the tri-state area, however, Mercurio endured one losing season after another in the Pirates' quest to return to prominence.

When an ongoing streak of losing seasons reached 15, management conducted an early October 2007 housecleaning and Mercurio was caught in the crossfire.

He was one of three top executives cut loose in addition to then-manager Jim Tracy.

"You understand, this is a business and the way professional sports operate," Mercurio said recently on a return to PNC Park.

Though obviously disappointed he was not able to play a significant role in the franchise's revival, Mercurio remained confident similar opportunities were out there.

A few months later, he interviewed with the Phillies and was hired shortly thereafter. Today, Mercurio serves as an advance scout with one of MLB's most respected franchises.

Mercurio still calls Pittsburgh 'home' and travels extensively within a reasonable radius of western, Pa.

"One series, I might be evaluating players at Columbus (home to the International League's Clippers) followed by a series at Toledo," Mercurio described.

"Actually, scouting (out of the Pittsburgh area) has many advantages. I'm certainly not complaining."

Mercurio also takes in a liberal amount of big league games and figures to observe potential postseason opponents for the Phillies next month when minor league play concludes.

A typical night's work has Mercurio locking in on a pitching or position prospect and later composing and transmitting reports to the Phils' home office.

"Everything starts in spring training and evolves from there," he indicated. "It's not unusual for me to be on the road five nights a week during the regular season."

Obviously, the extensive travel can wreak havoc on the homefront, though Mercurio and his wife of 19 years, the former Molly Costine of St. Clairsville, have worked out a successful game plan of their own.

John and Molly are raising three children; 15-year-old Joey, 13-year-old Reilly, and 10-year-old Claire. The family is still able to make periodic return trips to the hilltop community in Belmont County.

EXTRA BASES

MAJOR League Baseball - the Baltimore Orioles in particular - are mourning the loss of 59-year-old Mike Flanagan, ex-Cy Young Award winner who worked under then-O's pitching coach Ray Miller.

Miller called Flanagan, "the best lefty I ever coached," obviously high praise considering the talent the New Athens' resident was surrounded by.

"Mike had four great pitches, including an unbelievable curve ball," Miller related. "He threw his overhand curve ball in an unconventional way. I saw him do some pretty amazing things."

Miller especially recalls a heartfelt token on Flanagan's part after he earned the 1979 Cy Young. "Mike gave me a watch after the season with an inscription reading, "I couldn't have done it without you."

Flanagan's big league career spanned 18 seasons, including 14 with the O's. He recorded a 23-9 record with a 3.08 during his '79 Cy Young season.

In 1983, Flanagan was 12-4 as a major player in the Orioles' World Series winning championship season.

Defiantly bitter regarding the circumstances concerning Flanagan's death, Miller was adamant expressing his sentiments: "Mike Flanagan lived and died for the Orioles. Mike didn't die (of depression). He died of a broken heart."

Gibson may be reached at rgibson@timesleaderonine.com

 
 

 

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