Results tagged ‘ Bradenton Marauders 2015 ’

Return to the Road: Driving in Sunshine

Regular readers of this blog might recall that, in years past, I supplemented  my “On the Road” ballpark material with “Return to the Road” posts detailing that which I was able to experience outside of the ballpark. I always enjoyed doing this, but as my operation has expanded (in scope, if not in scale) I have found it increasingly difficult to incorporate “non-ballpark” activity into my schedule.

That said, I do my best, and figured that these early months of 2016 represented a good opportunity to go back and revisit my 2015 trips. Yes, let’s Return to the Road! This post will focus on my trip to Florida, which took place from April 11 to the 19th.

Ben_Map_April_2015_Florida_7hzbjnkzDespite the relatively short drives from ballpark to ballpark on this trip, I didn’t have the time to explore many of the towns themselves. I didn’t even set foot on a beach, outside of the night I sleepwalked onto one while wearing an ankle-length gown and nightcap. But what I’ve got is something, and something is always better than nothing.

April 11

It all started in the town of Pinellas Park, Florida, where I set up shop prior to visiting the nearby Bradenton Marauders. As you can see, this is an American town like no other, one in which Mr. Pool uses supplementary signage to clarify that he does, indeed, sell pools.

IMG_0845Being gluten-free on the road is tough. Since my celiac disease diagnosis, I always pack an extra bag of road snacks to insure that I’ll have an option. But best of all is finding something that meets my needs and tastes great. Often, that something is Vietnamese. When I saw this sign, I was like “Pho Quyen, awesome!”

IMG_0843 Lunch of champions.

IMG_0842Pho Quyen is located within a shopping center with a line-up of stores quite unlike any shopping center I had been in. (Purple Ringer is, perhaps inevitably, a smoke shop.)

IMG_0844Later in the day, on the way to Bradenton, I drove over a bridge.

IMG_0846April 12

The objective on this day was to get to Steinbrenner Field, home of the Tampa Yankees, in time for a pregame local food fest on the concourse. Time was of the essence, but nonetheless I was able to make a pit stop at a record store.

IMG_0877This is Mojo Books and Records in Tampa. It opened in 2007, during a period when most stores of this nature were shutting down or in their death throes. Mojo is packed to the gills with new and used books, LPs and CDs, and a coffee shop is located on the premises as well. My lone photo does not do it justice.

IMG_0876Unfortunately I cannot locate the pocket notebook in which I wrote down what I purchased, but I know it included the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Freedom Tower — No Wave Dance Party” as well as a day-by-day diary “written” by Pete Rose as he chronicled his record-breaking 1985 season.

That evening, as I was driving from somewhere to somewhere, I discovered that Wawa (cultishly beloved in eastern Pennsylvania) exists in Florida as well. They even stocked Herr’s and Tastykake.

IMG_0894April 13

I spent the evening with the Dunedin Blue Jays, but prior to that I spent a nice chunk of the afternoon in St. Petersburg. I was impressed with the downtown area, Central Avenue, to be specific, which was vibrant and tree-lined. The State Theatre is located on the left hand side of the below photo, a venue that hosts a diverse array of concerts (although, looking at the current listings, none that I would pay to go see. Except maybe Bubba Sparxxx).

IMG_0896The Local 299, at the time (and maybe still) surrounded by scaffolding, also has live music.

IMG_0898Daddy Kool Records is located next door to Local 299. I went inside, and took my standard issue poor-quality photo.

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I enjoyed wandering through Daddy Kool’s but nothing was really jumping out of the stacks at me. I debated buying a record by Midnight, a Cleveland metal band, but it was, like, $30 bucks. I have a hard time understanding why records are that expensive. In lieu of that, I picked up Mudhoney’s “Live at Third Man Records” LP (marking the second day in a row I bought a new record by a band I’ve been a fan of for two decades. Old habits die hard).

I did not visit the Stoner Organization, as I am in no need of a health benefits specialist.

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My main objective in St. Petersburg, however, was to visit Minor League Baseball headquarters. I’ll write about that in the next post.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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On the Road: Setting the Scene 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 Bradenton Marauders posts, 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.

You may recall that, in 2012, Pirates senior director of Florida operations Trevor Gooby helped deliver a baby at the Bradenton Marauders’ home of McKechnie Ballpark. This memorable moment even inspired a Marauders bobblehead giveaway:

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I bring this up for a reason, which is pretty much the only reason I ever bring anything up: to make a belabored, needlessly convoluted point. As I was walking around McKechnie Field prior to April 11’s ballgame — the Marauders’ home opener — broadcaster Nate March said the following.

“That baby is older than all of these seats.”

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The larger point that March was making was that, despite being a very old ballpark, McKechnie Field — pronounced Mc-Keck-Nee — is also a very new one.  The ballpark was built in 1923, but has undergone many renovations through the years. The most recent, in 2013, included the installation of 2000 new seats as well as the addition of a outfield boardwalk which includes a tiki bar (de rigueur in the Florida State League) and party deck. Then, prior to this season, an expansive new 22,500 square foot clubhouse and a two-story “performance center” was built just beyond right field.

McKechnie Field, then, is in a good place. It’s served as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Spring Training home since 1969, and the Marauders, the Pirates Class A Advanced affiliate, began play in 2011 (a development made possible thanks to the 2008 addition of field lights, which McKechnie Field had never before had). The Pirates, who own the Marauders outright, signed a 30-year lease extension prior to the 2008 season, so the current arrangement is poised to continue into McKechnie’s second century of existence.

I failed to get any exterior shots of McKechnie prior to entering the stadium. This was my first ballpark stop of 2015, and I was clearly not yet in midseason form. I did, however, get this picture of the area directly beyond the outfield. It at least gives some idea of what the surrounding area is like.

It is surrounded by automobiles:

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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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Designated Eater: Joe Mynaugh 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.

As many of you know, in 2012 I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Therefore, I recruit a designated eater at each ballpark I visit, and this individual is tasked with eating the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. At the Bradenton Marauders’ home of McKechnie Field, this individual was a man by the name of Joe Mynaugh.

Hey, Joe. Where ya going with that bun in your hand?

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Joe is no stranger to the world of Minor League Baseball. He grew up in Aberdeen, home of the New York-Penn League IronBirds, and served as the team’s bat boy during the 2008-09 seasons. (I forgot to ask him what it was like to witness Tim Spooneybarger’s comeback attempt.) He moved to Florida last year so that he could work as a groundskeeper at Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium (Spring Training home of the Orioles). Currently, he is employed by Sarasota County. He is a Bradenton Marauders season ticket holder — $300 covers the cost of all 70 home games, and he is also able to attend the team’s road games for free.

“I work on a field during the day, and in the evening I just sit back and watch,” said Joe.

But this evening, Joe wouldn’t be sitting back and watching. No, he’d be wandering around with me and eating. The Marauders — and this is common throughout the FSL — generally stick to the basics when it comes to ballpark cuisine. Nonetheless, we carefully considered our options at the Pirates Cove Grill and The Pitt Stop.

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In the end, Joe opted for the most unique — and, at $10 — most expensive item on the menu: a pulled pork sandwich with mac and cheese provided by regional chain Sonny’s BBQ.

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About Last Night: Bradenton Marauders, April 11, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark I visit. Then, upon my triumphant return home, I will provide the full, multifaceted, pun-soaked blog coverage you have have come to expect. So let’s get to it!  

April 11, 2015: McKechnie Field, home of the Bradenton Marauders

McKechnie Field, from the Outside (I took this upon the conclusion of the ballgame, after failing to get a decent shot upon my arrival):

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McKechnie Field, from within: Opening Night starting lineups:

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Culinary Delight: Pulled Pork and Mac and Cheese Sandwich, courtesy of local vendor Sonny’s BBQ ($10, the most expensive item on the menu).

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Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):

At Random: Robertoad Clemente:

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Last Song Played Over the PA: Semisonic, “Closing Time.”

Next Up: Tampa Yankees, April 12

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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