Bradenton selected to host 2014 Florida State League All-Star Game at McKechnie Field

rdymond@bradenton.comJune 18, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Now the baseball is in the city of Bradenton's court. No, make that "field."

The Bradenton Marauders announced Monday that they have been chosen to host the 2014 Florida State League All-Star Game at Bradenton's McKechnie Field next June.

It will be the local minor-league baseball team's first All-Star game and comes in the team's fourth season in the FSL.

Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston learned about the honor Monday and said he fired off an email to Pittsburgh Pirates senior director of Florida operations Trevor Gooby promising a big response from the city.

"We are really excited about this," Poston said Monday. "This is a wonderful thing for us. We've won all the awards for the changes to McKechnie Field, and now Major League Baseball has recognized us.

"We will do something big," Poston added. "I told Trevor congratulations and that we would work with him to make this event huge."

Poston is not ready to say what "huge" means yet, but he says he is open to ideas.

Will the city present a collectible bobble head, massive fireworks or perhaps stage a Beach Boy concert after the game?

"All I know is that we will make this a special event," Poston said.

As for the Marauders and Gooby, they agree with the mayor that this is a landmark moment for the Pirates, Marauders and Bradenton.

"The Marauders are thrilled to host the FSL All-Star Game in Bradenton," Gooby said Monday. "Hosting this signature event will provide us with the opportunity to showcase the new look of historic McKechnie Field and to show the League and all of its teams' fans that Bradenton is a great baseball town and a wonderful community."

The Manatee Chamber of Commerce also feels the FSL All-Star Game is a big deal for Bradenton.

"This is another feather in our cap," Neil Spiritas of the chamber said Monday. "This gives us some state prominence. It's another part of our sport focus that we have been geared into."

Spiritas thinks a local bobble head, perhaps even chamber President Bob Bartz, would be terrific, but music can't be beat in a baseball setting.

"There's a lot of baseball music," Spiritas said. "Excuse the pun, but we will work in concert with the city and the Marauders to do something.

"Some of these All-Star games are televised," Spiritas added. "If that is the case, it would lead to even more local events."

Since the game is a year away, there is no word on TV yet.

The 53rd annual game will pit the top players in the FSL South against the best of the FSL North.

"We also are excited to give our great fans the opportunity to watch the League's best players square off against one another," Gooby said.

McKechnie Field has been hosting baseball in Bradenton for 90 seasons. It is the oldest spring training ballpark in Major League Baseball. During the past offseason, the ballpark received a $10.5 million renovation to add new and upgraded fan amenities.

Highlights of the project included the addition of an outfield boardwalk with new bleacher seats, a full-service bar and group spaces, expanded concessions facilities, additional restrooms and a large fan plaza inside the main gates.

The Florida State League was formed in 1919. It presently includes 12 teams split into two six team divisions. The regular season is 140 games split into two 70 game halves. The champion at the end of each half qualifies for the playoffs. The All-Star Game is played at the end of the first half.

The 2013 All-Star Game was played Saturday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin. Marauders shortstop Alen Hanson was named MVP of the FSL South's 8-1 win. A Marauder has taken MVP honors in two of the last three seasons, with former Marauder Aaron Baker winning the award in 2011.

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