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Hughes, Holt talk records and homers at Fan Cave
NEW YORK -- There were screaming high school girls all around them inside and outside the MLB Fan Cave on Wednesday morning, and it just so happened that the excitable fans were there waiting patiently for a concert hours later by the pop punk band All Time Low.

"I'm pretty sure not a single one of them knows that a couple of players from the Pittsburgh Pirates are in here," Jared Hughes said with a big grin.

The Pirates reliever had been wanting to come to the Fan Cave for a while, and he brought along rookie second baseman Brock Holt to hang out for an hour or two before duty would take them back over to Citi Field for the next game in their series against the Mets.

It should not be surprising that in their charity game of video home run derby upstairs, Hughes went with his teammate Andrew McCutchen, and Holt opted for the favorite team of his youth and batted as Josh Hamilton. The pair have distinctly different backgrounds.

One is a 6-foot-7 power pitcher from Southern California who was born on the Fourth of July and played college ball at Long Beach State -- the kind of guy who gets stuck in the middle of the giant orange tube slide inside the Fan Cave.

"Me, I love the beach," Hughes said. "I go body boarding all the time in the offseason, I can't get enough of it."

The other is a 5-foot-10 Texan with a compact swing who looks like a cross between Matt Damon and David Eckstein. Holt played for two years at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, and then one more at Rice; he flies down a tube slide.

"I'm a pretty boring guy," Holt said. "In the off-days and stuff, I just kind of like to lounge around and watch TV with friends and family, be around people that I'm close to. That's one of my favorite things to do."

There are things you might not know about two Pirates who are asked to help bring at least the first .500 season to Pittsburgh since 1992. The club took a 76-78 record into Wednesday's third game of the four-game series in New York, and it will close out the regular season with a six-game homestand against Cincinnati and Atlanta, two clubs that already clinched an appearance in the postseason.

What would a .500 record mean?

"It would mean a lot. It would mean we finished strong at this point," Hughes said. "That's been our goal all year, to finish strong. There are still eight games left, so that's our plan: Go out there, play hard, have fun and finish strong."

"I know for the city of Pittsburgh, everybody, all the Pirates fans, it's something they want and something we want," Holt added. "So to finish these last eight games on a winning note and carry some momentum into Spring Training next year would be huge."

Hughes has made 64 appearances out of the Pirates' bullpen this year, compiling a 2.93 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, with a 48/22 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In his last outing, he gave up the single to David Wright that marked Wright's 1,418th of his career, tying the Mets' franchise record.

"I learned a lot of lessons just through the experience of pitching a lot," Hughes said of his first full season in the Majors. "I've learned how to pitch certain guys in certain situations, what to do, what not to do. I've also learned how to take care of my body the right way to be able to last a whole season. The experience of this year has been phenomenal."

Holt batted .432 in his only month in Triple-A this season, and then went up to the parent club when rosters expanded. In his second game, Holt had two hits. Holt had four hits batting leadoff in his fourth game, and McCutchen called him "a scrappy little player."

"It's great to have this opportunity and be able to play at this level," Holt said. "It's something every kid dreams about. To get the call Sept. 1 and be able to come up and be able to help this team, when [Neil] Walker was out a little bit, was a huge honor.

"It's been a great month. We haven't been playing like we should or like we want to, but it's been a good experience for me and [for] a lot of the new guys who came up. I'm looking forward to the rest of the year and hopefully next year."

After shooting pool, the pair walked over by a chalkboard wall that had a scratch mark for every home run hit this regular season.

"This is our home run tally," Cave Dweller Ricardo Marquez said.

"There's been 4,300; that's a lot," Cave Dweller "Smashley" Chavez added.

"That's this year? I wish that was about seven less," Hughes said.

Hughes would especially like No. 7 back -- Anthony Rizzo's three-run bomb that tied the game on Sept. 16 at Wrigley Field, where Hughes came in with a 9-5 lead and left with a blown save on the way to a stinging 13-9 Pirates loss. But Hughes had a hold in Tuesday's victory over the Mets, so it was easier to look at that chalk wall on this day.

"Hey Brock, you're still waiting for yours, right?" Hughes said.

"Yeah, I haven't got one up there yet," Holt answered.

The pair savored the time in Greenwich Village before heading over to the ballpark, even if the sound of girls screaming was for someone else.

"Maybe my love for baseball and coming to see a place that pretty much is devoted to the game I love to play, that was the reason I wanted to come," Hughes said. "I knew Brock has a passion, too, and I knew he probably had a little free time before the game today, so I asked him if he wanted to come. He said, 'Absolutely,' and I think we're happy we came."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of Read and join other baseball fans on his community blog.

Brock Holt, Jared Hughes