The Pittsburgh Pirates are the hottest team in baseball right now, leading the Majors with a 65-42 overall record. More impressively, the Buccos have entered the month of August with a record above .500 and in first place of the National League Central Division for the first time since 1992. Among those leading the charge are 3B Pedro Alvarez, CF Andrew McCutchen and 2B Neil Walker, who trained together earlier this year at IMG Academy as part of the Pre-Spring Training Program.
The results have been undeniable. Alvarez has set the pace with an NL-leading 27 homeruns on the year, and 70 RBI, tying him for sixth in the league. McCutchen, meanwhile, leads the team in hits (120), second on the team in runs (68) and is getting is done defensively, maintaining a strong .983 fielding percentage. All the while, Walker has quietly contributed 69 hits and 37 runs, good for sixth and fifth on the team, respectively, while keeping up a .985 fielding percentage, ranking him fourth on the team.
Led by Ken Bolek, Director of Baseball at IMG Academy, the MLB Pre-Spring Training program has been held each year since IMG Academy launched its baseball program more than a decade ago. Bolek has coached at every level of the game, and has created an atmosphere that provides professional training to youth athletes, while providing professional athletes with a place to call their off-season training home. Alumni of the MLB Pre-Spring Training Program have included the likes of 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton; 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto; 2009 All-Star and Gold Glove recipient Ryan Zimmerman; 2x All-Star pitcher Chris Perez; 9x All-Star Gary Sheffield; and many others.