Bradenton welcome destination for upstate New York baseball fans

vmannix@bradenton.comFebruary 19, 2013 

George Grbic knew how good he had it Monday morning.

So did Chris Williams.

Bill Brady, too.

The Victor, N.Y., dads and their entourage of sons and sons’ friends were at Pirate City, situated in a crowd behind home plate on one diamond watching the Pittsburgh Pirates hustle through base running drills beneath a sunny blue sky.

The crack of bat on ball and chatter of coaches and players were a spring training symphony.

So what if it was chilly.

These guys know real cold.

“It was 12 degrees with a negative 4 windchill when we left home Saturday,” said Grbic, 42.

“Who cares if it’s only 50 degrees here,” Williams, 40, chimed in. “This is our May.”

“It’s great,” said Brady, 39. “Like being kids again.”

With the exception of Williams, who made the spring training odyssey as a bachelor, Monday’s visit was a first for the upstate New Yorkers. That some were Yankee fans didn’t matter.

“When I found out we were coming here I went, ‘Yeaaay!’ because I like some of the players on the team Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, A.J. Burnett,” said Billy Brady, 10.

“The Pirates have (catcher) Russell Martin and he used to be on the Yankees, so it’s exciting,” said Jonah Grbic, 10.

“It’s baseball, better than Disney World,” said Connor Williams, 9.

Four families came in a caravan from New York to Anna Maria Island where they’re renting a place for the week.

Being cooped up in a van during 24 hours of driving was worth it.

“If I wasn’t here, I’d be shoveling snow,” said Matthew Brady, 9. “I’ve had to do it more than usual this winter, so I couldn’t wait to get down here.”

Ditto for their dads.

“Back home you go to a game you’re upper deck,” Chris Williams said. “Here you’re 3 feet away from the players. It’s pretty cool. Gets the juices going.”

Apparently not everyone in their traveling party was so taken by the sights and sounds of spring training at Pirate City.

Absent were the moms and their daughters.

“They didn’t want to come,” George Grbic said.

“They went shopping,” Bill Brady said.

“Their loss,” Chris Williams said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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