It is spring training time for pro baseball, and Bradenton, FL just happens to be the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The team headquarters in Bradenton is known as “Pirate City,” where the public can watch the Pirates during practice sessions free of charge during February and March. It’s a place where you can feel baseball history while you watch the beginnings of another exciting season of baseball.

While “Pirate City” is where the team lives and practices, McKechnie Field, in downtown Bradenton, is where the games with other professional teams are held. The original stadium was built in 1923 and holds more than 6,500 fans; the grandstand of today was built as part of a renovation in 1993. The Pirates signed a new lease in 2008 which should keep Bradenton and McKechnie Field the Pittsburgh Pirates spring training home through 2037.

Monday the 21st of March and I might add, the first day of spring along with my grandson, Dillon’s birthday, my husband Bill and I were invited to McKechnie Field to see the Pirates play the Twins. What a way to spend a Monday afternoon, the first day of spring was made to order with a temperature at a warm breezy 85 degrees.

The piece de resistance, we were invited by friends of Wayne Poston, mayor of Bradenton to sit in the Mayor’s Box; A once in a lifetime treat, and what a way to watch a ballgame. This box sits practically over home plate with an unrestricted view of the entire field.  McKechnie field is beautifully maintained and a friendly place in which to enjoy baseball. How excited the residents of Bradenton should be to have the opportunity to watch baseball’s greats practice, play and get ready for the big games.

There was a buffet style area with all kinds of drinks, hamburgers, hotdogs, baked beans, and of course peanuts and popcorn. Suffice to say, we did not go hungry during the game. Talk about the royal Pirate treatment, everyone present in the box to view the game, was treated royally. Pittsburgh lost the game to the Twins 3 to1, but even so it was such a thrill to watch these two teams play in a pre-season game. The whole spectacular experience was enjoyed by all.  Thank you Mayor Poston.

In closing, I’d like to give you a little history about some of the Great Pirates of the past who have played at McKechnie Field and practiced at “Pirate City. They” include “Hall O’ Famers:” Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Bill Mazeroski.  Home run king Barry Bonds, also trained at Pirate City and prior to Barry, the great Hank Aaron, who arrived in Bradenton for spring training with the Milwaukee Braves in 1956.

If sunshine and beautiful white sand beaches aren’t enough to bring you to the wonderful west coast of Florida, how about a little baseball?