With the dawn of a new season, the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates are the 52nd team in franchise history to call Bradenton, Florida their spring training home (since 1969). This is the longest current association between a major league club and their spring training home.
2021 Pittsburgh Pirates: A Long Term Marriage with Bradenton
This small city on the Florida Gulf Coast has been a spring training location since the 1920s, hosting numerous other teams before the Bucs.
Pirate City is located about a mile from LECOM Park and is the main hub of activity during the six weeks that comprise spring training. It consists of four full-sized fields, each named after a Pirate Hall of Famer – those being Roberto Clemente, Pie Traynor, Willie Stargell, and Honus Wagner. As well, there are numerous practice infields, pitchers mounds, and a full-sized dormitory where players stay during spring training and during the year as well. Originally not much fancier than a college or military dorm, it received major renovations in 2008. Current Pirates’ players will also rehab injuries at this facility.
From City Park to McKechnie to LECOM
Named City Park when it opened in 1923, it was later renamed after former Pirates manager and Bradenton resident Bill McKechnie, who guided the Bucs to the 1925 World Series victory over the Washington Senators. The Pirates arrived in Bradenton after spending 14 years in Fort Meyers. The stadium, one of the oldest in regular use by a major league team, is also a rarity in the Grapefruit League, as it located in the middle of town.
The park has undergone two major renovations since the Pirates began its association with the city. Lights were not installed at the park until 2008. The Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League began to play at the facility in 2010. LECOM, the Lake Erie College Of Osteopathic Medicine, purchased naming rights in 2017. Those rights expire in 2032, though the Pirates have their agreement to be in Bradenton through 2037.
It is a unique ballpark and many people enjoy the charm that the park still holds. Regardless of the quality of the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates, it is definitely worth seeing a game. You might find that you are brought back to a simpler time when the game was a bit different from now.
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