Things couldn’t have worked out much better on Wednesday for a frustrated 18-year-old Pirates fan named Colin Witte who happened to wear his “Sell the Team” shirt under a Barry Bonds Pirates jersey when he and his brother went to PNC Park.
It helped Witte make his point when he had a chance encounter with Pirates owner Bob Nutting at the Pirates’ Home Plate Club. Witte’s dad has season tickets, and they occasionally venture into the club. Witte said he was in line at the club’s all-you-can-eat-buffet when his brother pointed Nutting out.
“I had never met Bob Nutting before,” said Witte, a recent Mt. Lebanon High School graduate. “I waited for him to finish his meal. I was polite and I went up to him and I asked for a picture and he said ‘yeah.’ I pulled my jersey back so you could see that the shirt (underneath) said ‘Sell the Team.’ ”
FOR THE YINZERS!!!! pic.twitter.com/u1lZ1qmJ7G
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As Witte’s brother, Will, shot video with his phone, Nutting can be seen doing a double take when he saw the shirt and then smiling and blurting out “Hey, there we go, all right,” before posing with Witte. When his brother was finished, Witte said he thanked Nutting and went back to his seat.
Nothing more was said, even though Witte is strongly critical of Nutting.
As of Friday afternoon, the video had gotten 1.8 million views on Twitter. There have been articles on news sites across the country. He also earned a shoutout from Pat McAfee, the former West Virginia and NFL kicker and punter from Plum. McAfee hosts a successful talk show and sells the “Sell the Team” shirt Witte was wearing on his website.
“When I posted the (video), I didn’t think it would blow up,” said Witte. “I thought it would get a couple of chuckles from Yinzers on Twitter, but I didn’t think it would get to the likes of Pat McAfee.”
Witte said there were reactions from people on the internet who wanted to see him engage in more of a confrontation with the Pirates owner.
— Randy Baumann (@DVERandy) August 4, 2022
“I let the shirt speak for itself,” said Witte, who blames Nutting for the team’s failures. Nutting, who has owned the Pirates since 2007, has presided over 11 losing seasons, four winning seasons and just three playoff appearances. The team hasn’t won a postseason series during Nutting’s tenure.
“I’ve been on this earth for 18 years and the lone (good) memory I have is a wild card victory,” Witte said. “When you go around the MLB, you see a team like the Yankees who have such a great history. A wild card for them is a bad year. For the Pirates, it’s the best year they’ve had in 20 years. Nutting is to blame for that.”
Witte is especially critical of Nutting for not spending enough money to bring in better players. And the numbers back Witte’s assertion. According to Spotrac.com, the Pirates have the third-lowest total payroll in Major League Baseball.
“I know it’s hard to be an owner of a small-market team,” Witte said. “I think if Nutting cared he would be passionate to try and get a salary cap for baseball. It seems like every good player who comes to this town, like (Gerrit) Cole and (Andrew) McCutchen, is shipped off because the owner refuses to pay them.
“Until (Nutting) spends money and signs some key free agents, which hasn’t happened in Pittsburgh for years and years, he’ll be nothing short of the worst owner in sports.”
Witte said he’d love to have the opportunity to sit down and talk with Nutting face to face.
In the meantime, Witte will head off to college this fall at Indiana University in Bloomington. He plans to study sports journalism. He said he plans to return in the summer to watch his favorite team play at PNC Park.
The Pirates did not respond to a Tribune-Review request for comment from Nutting for this story.