Bradenton, Fla. is the place. Pittsburgh Pirates is the team. Baseball is the game. Need it be any more complicated than that?
McKechnie Field, named after Pittsburgh native and former Bradenton resident and Hall of Fame manager Bill McKechnie, will host the Bucs in their second spring training since its significant renovation last year. Fans and visitors can look forward to a 19,000 square foot boardwalk that offers both an incredible walk around the outfield and an all-you-can-eat picnic at the Boardwalk Barbecue Area. Additional dining can be found across the ballpark at the Left Field Party Deck, and it’s top-notch menu is certainly no downgrade.
Pittsburgh has held its spring training in 16 different sites since 1900, but the 2013 upgrades that followed those made in 2006 and the early 1990s suggest that McKechnie Field will house the Pirates for years to come. After all, it attracted an attendance in its final game last spring that shattered the records of any before it. The one flaw in the facility is the lack of an official parking lot, making it the only field in the Grapefruit League with this issue. Still, enough friendly business and homeowners– and an advantageous grassy field just outside the centerfield fence– have prevented the absent lot from causing any chaos.
The stadium’s upgrades also provide fans with improvements in field visibility, expanded restroom facilities, new concession locations and an enlarged Fan Plaza. The enormous palm trees that now surround the stadium perfect the tropical look that makes spring training so magical. Since the Pirate ship landed in Bradenton in 1969, McKechnie Field has built itself up to be one of the finest facilities in all of baseball.
Beyond the walls of the stadium, Bradenton is an industrial town that makes its age very obvious to the naked eye. Only some of the buildings have been modernized, with the others maintaining the early 1900s look that’s especially concentrated in the Manatee Village Historical Park just a few miles from McKechnie Field. There are several hotels and even more restaurants for residents and Pittsburgh roadies to choose from. A few museums and state parks provide additional potential for something to do. However, as springtrainingconnection.com puts it, “the only reason to be in this part of town is the ballgame.”
As for the players, the convenient location on the coast of a peninsula puts them right on the beach. South Florida is an ideal place to relax and soak up some sun. When they’re not on the field, the players can plant their butts in a chair next to the ocean and breathe the non-Pittsburghian (clean) air. I’m sure they do it a bit more luxurious, though. Yachts, beach house parties, expensive meals– am I rambling?
Regardless of what they do in their leisure, there’s no doubt the Pirates will be ready for baseball come February 26. Aye-aye Bucs!