On the Road: Game Time in Bradenton

This season, my “On the Road” blog posts from each ballpark I visit will be split up into several installments. To see all of my posts from this visit to the Bradenton Marauders, click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

Part one in this ongoing Bradenton Marauders saga covered that which occurred before the ballgame. In this, the second installment, we pick up with the start of that evening’s Florida State League contest between the Marauders and St. Lucie Mets (marking the first of three times on this trip in which I would see the St. Lucie Mets).

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Play Ball!

Of course, I rarely if ever watch the games that I attend on these trips. I just wander around and watch other people watch the game. Over in the visitor’s bullpen, the St. Lucie relievers kicked up their feet and relaxed.

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My view at this moment in time was similar, if slightly elevated. One of my goals this season is to be able to make more refined architectural distinctions, as all I can think to say in this moment is that McKechnie Field is a “classic” ballpark. Help me, Wikipedia!

[McKechnie Field was] built in a Florida Spanish Mission style, with white stucco on the main grandstand and cover bleachers over the reserved seating section.

Okay, cool, thanks:

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There are also palm trees all over the place, the sort of thing that, if you’re not from Florida, immediately reminds you that “you’re in Florida.”

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There are palm trees along the outfield boardwalk as well.

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Beyond the outfield palm trees, one can snag a view of the full-size practice field that lies beyond. Note, however, that McKechnie Field is not part of a larger complex. While it is ample enough to accommodate the Spring Training needs of the Pittsburgh Pirates, that organization also maintains the nearby “Pirate City” complex.

Pirate City, which hosts extended Spring Training as well the Pirates’ rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate, includes a dining hall, dormitories, activity rooms and even a “Clubhouse Classroom.”

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rendering: planetminecraft.com

Actually, no. Sorry. This is Bradenton’s Pirate City.

Anyhow, a closer look at the full-size practice field located behind McKechnie reveals that this is where the Opening Night fireworks would be shot off. These pyrotechnic experts are employed by Pittsburgh-based Zambelli Fireworks.

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At this juncture in the evening I met with Pirates senior director of Florida operations Trevor Gooby, who was at least momentarily free of the task of delivering a baby at the ballpark. Our mission, such as it was, was to take a brief walk through the new 22,500 square foot clubhouse that made its debut this past February.

Well, halo there!

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Those softly glowing evanescent circles were not the crainial adornments of eternal winged beings, however. It turned out that the Pirates’ just installed some really cool lights in the clubhouse lobby (“Clubhouse lobby” — now there’s a term you don’t hear every day).

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The hallway leading to the clubhouse is adorned with a comprehensive, graphic-heavy overview of Pirates history.

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Or, if you prefer, you can absorb this history in Vine form.

Despite what the picture on the wall may lead you to believe, dumping Gatorade on the heads of teammates in the dining hall is not encouraged.

045Gooby told me that “The challenge with this clubhouse is making it big enough [to accommodate] Major League Baseball, but usable for the Minor Leagues.”

The Marauders’ dress in this clean, well-lit and comparatively spacious room:

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But, still, it’s got to be frustrating to the Marauders that they are not allowed to use this far superior option. This is the locker room used by the Major Leaguers during Spring Training, which apparently transitions to a chair storage area once those guys head north to Pittsburgh.

“It’s an incentive for the Minor League guys to get to the Majors,” said Gooby.

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Nonetheless, this place boasts far more amenities than what the typical Minor Leaguer is used to. The trainer’s area is a veritable CVS (or, if you live in New York, a veritable Duane Reade).

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In here, the “P” stands for “Pumping Iron.”

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En route from the clubhouse to the field, the players pass this collage of Pirate MVPs.

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And with that, we have emerged from the clubhouse. Thanks for the tour, Trevor.

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The next element of the evening’s agenda was to meet my designated eater but we’ll save that for the next (and last) post in this series. By the time that was complete, day had transitioned into night and a a beautiful ballpark environment had gotten beautiful-er.

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The St. Lucie bullpen, so laid back and relaxed when the game began, now had an unsettled and agitated appearance. It was a close ballgame throughout, with Michael Conforto’s two-run homer in the eighth inning leading to a 3-2 St. Lucie win.

All that was left for me to do was tell a joke.

As the ballgame came to a close, I interviewed Gooby about, yes, that time he delivered a baby at the ballpark.

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That interview aired on the third episode of MiLB.com’s “Show Before the Show” podcast, which you can listen to HERE (my segment begins at the 41:52 mark).

After the ballgame came launch-a-ball, toward the end of which the PA announcer said “Last chance to get those balls out.” Fireworks followed the launch-a-ball, and the distribution of coupons good for a free Frosty followed the fireworks.

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And that, my friends and enemies, concludes part two of this Bradenton blogging saga. Coming soon: PART THREE: Designated Eating with Joe Mynaugh. 

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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