A look into Pirates Spring Training

Written By Anthony Cugini, Sports Columnist

The Pirates have played Spring Training baseball in Bradenton, FL since 1969. This year, I was lucky enough to witness the Bucs down south in person.

After a lengthy flight, my adventure began with a trip to Clearwater to see the Pirates play the Philadelphia Phillies at their preseason home, Baycare Ballpark.

The game itself was quite demoralizing. Sure, Oneil Cruz hit a homerun on the first pitch, but after the small moment of excitement, there wasn’t much more to cheer for from a Pirates’ perspective. The final score ended 10-4 in favor of the Phillies.

Despite the abysmal display by the Bucs, the environment of Baycare Ballpark made for a lively experience. In the Florida heat, I was able to enjoy authentic lemonade under a real palm tree. This may not sound all that exciting but to my knowledge, palm trees are quite the rarity in Pittsburgh.   

After their successful season last year, the Phillies displayed the National League Championship trophy at their Spring Training site. I only caught a glimpse of it in passing but I figured I might as well wait until it’s in the Pirates’ possession to see it up close. It won’t be long until that’s a reality, right?

The second day of my trip hosted my first visit to the always beautiful LECOM Park. Now this was it. Instead of being surrounded by obnoxious Phillies fans I was ready to be surrounded by other Yinzers. Except I wasn’t.

Unfortunately for me, the Pirates were playing the Yankees — you know what that means. When I showed up I was met with hoards of New York fans. Most were elderly and less emphatic but some were the insufferable Yankee fans the rest of baseball knows and loves. There were so many Aaron Judge jerseys I lost count.

The baseball game itself was better than their first game, as the Bucs cruised to a 3-0 victory thanks to homers from Bryan Reynolds and Ke’Bryan Hayes. 

The ballpark was an absolute treat; lines of palm trees surrounded the stands while my seats sat perfectly in the shade. The weather was beautiful as the sun touched my skin — I couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend a day watching baseball.

The final day was yet another trip to LECOM. Once again the Bucs supporters were outnumbered, this time by Braves fans. They weren’t quite as annoying as Yankee fans, but it was still difficult hearing the chants and cheers after Braves outfielder Michael Harris II hit a lead off homer. It was even tougher sitting through the rest of the Bucs’ 11-3 loss.

On the bright side, the weather was once again perfect for me. No clouds shaded the sky and a slight breeze constantly waved my shirt like a flag. The only downside was that I spent the first few innings in the sun. Being the pale person I am, I quickly turned into a tomato under the Florida rays.

After yet another disappointing performance on the field, I took a trip down to the beach to wash away the pain of another Pirates loss.

Just to make it clear, I’m not just going to recommend you to go to Bradenton. I’m telling you that you have to go to Bradenton. It’s a beautiful town with plenty to see and experience. Now go make your travel plans for next year.