Derek Dietrich had a big night at the plate Thursday with a little help from above.
After driving in three runs on three hits in the Marlins’ 7-1 victory over the Pirates, Dietrich said he couldn’t help but feel the presence of his late grandfather, Steve Demeter, who spent years coaching and scouting in the Pirates organization.
Demeter had cups of coffee in 1959 and ’60 with Cleveland and Detroit, totaling two hits in 23 at-bats. Like Dietrich, he played third base.
“I feel like I had a little strength from above this evening,” Dietrich said. “My grandfather taught me everything about the game of baseball.”
Dietrich grew up outside Cleveland but made occasional trips to Pittsburgh to watch the Pirates with his grandfather and other family members.
“It’s an organization I always remembered,” Dietrich said. “I came to Pittsburgh to watch games at old Three Rivers Stadium. I traveled with him when he scouted. When he was managing we’d get over to the baseball field.”
But Dietrich had been to PNC Park just once before to take part in a pre-draft tryout. When the Marlins played there last season, he was on the disabled list and missed the trip.
“My playing in Pittsburgh this time around is special,” Dietrich said.
Dietrich’s mother, grandmother, aunts and girlfriend were on hand to watch him Thursday, and he put on quite a show. Two of his three hits were doubles.
As a result, Dietrich said he was “a little more focused.”
“Honestly, it gave me a little extra because I wanted to play well for them,” he said.
Dietrich said baseball was always a “family effort” growing up.
“My grandfather would critique,” he said. “My dad would throw batting practice. My mom would be there shagging balls. So it was truly a family effort. For that, I’m forever grateful.”
Dietrich said his grandfather never saw him play in the majors. He died not long before he made his big-league debut with the Marlins.
“Unfortuantely, he didn’t see me play in the major leagues on this earth,” Dietrich said. “But I know he’s not missing a thing. I honor him every day.”