The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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July 4, 2012

Dude, what's with the Pirates Z?

PITTSBURGH — There are plenty of new names connected with the Pirates' resurgence this season. Burnett, Barajas, Barmes, Bedard, McGehee, Sutton. And Zoltan.

Amid all the excitement of having a competitive baseball team -- and perhaps ending a record-setting string of 19 losing seasons -- the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates have embraced a wacky bit from a goofy movie to celebrate their success. Whenever a player slaps an extra-base hit, his teammates put their hands together -- the left one on top of the right one with the thumbs extended and touching -- to form a sort of "Z."

For Zoltan.

"It all started in Atlanta when we were watching [television] in the clubhouse, and there was nothing we wanted to watch," said second baseman Neil Walker, recalling the last weekend in April. "We saw 'Dude, Where's My Car?' And guys were like 'Oh, we haven't seen this in a while.' So we watched it. "It was just so terrible and stupid. We just pulled that from it. It's just kind of our team way of bonding, I guess."

The 2000 comedy features a scene in which the stars, Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott, join a group of losers who are wearing Bubble Wrap and celebrating the pending arrival of the cult leader Zoltan.

"I think you've got to just find ways to lighten the mood at times," Walker said. "This game is so difficult that when times are going good, you have to celebrate. When times are going bad, you have to forget about it and move on. It's a way for all of us to come together a little bit more and have fun with it."

Carole Kunkle-Miller was in the stands at PNC Park recently when she noticed the players and fans making the strange hand gestures.

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