BRADENTON -- Tickets for Pittsburgh Pirates spring training games are in greater demand now than they were at this time last year.
Trevor Gooby, the Pirates' senior director of Florida operations, said it boils down to hot and cold.
Hot, as in the Pirates themselves, who made the playoffs -- and recorded a winning season -- last year for the first time since 1992 and will head south with the National League's most valuable player (Andrew McCutchen) and manager of the year (Clint Hurdle) in tow.
Then there's the stubborn cold snap that has crippled much of the Northeast, making Pittsburghers anxious to bask in the Florida sun.
"It was minus-6 degrees this morning in Pittsburgh," Gooby said Wednesday afternoon. "A lot of people from that area are ready for Pirates baseball to start and get into the warmer weather as well."
Single-game ticket sales are up 22 percent and season-ticket sales are up 23 percent, Gooby said. But the biggest spike has come courtesy of groups of 10 or more: Sales of those tickets are up 156 percent.
"A lot of people who are coming from outside the area want to see Pirates baseball," Gooby said, "and they're coming as groups."
The Pirates are scheduled to play 16 games at McKechnie Field this spring, including the intrasquad Black & Gold Game on Feb. 25. That's two fewer dates than last year, though the increased ticket sales may help eclipse last year's attendance record of 93,433.
Aside from the Pirates playing winning baseball again, venerable McKechnie Field also is a big draw, especially after undergoing a $10 million renovation prior to last spring. And the slate of spring opponents won't hurt, either: Gooby said the March 9 game against the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox and the St. Patrick's Day game March 17 against the New York Yankees are nearly sold out.
Other games against the Yankees and Red Sox, as well as the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies, are selling fast too, he said.
"My advice to people is if they want to see their Pirates play, they better get their tickets early," Gooby said.
Fans can purchase $10 standing-room-only tickets once all the fixed tickets are sold.
"With the standing-rooms, you can be on the boardwalk, you can get around," Gooby said. "It's not a bad ticket; you just don't have a fixed seat. There is seating at the bar and along the boardwalk, but those are first come, first serve."
The Pirates' first scheduled workout for pitchers and catchers is Feb. 13 at Pirate City, with the first full-squad workout slated for Feb. 17. The workouts are free to the public and run through Feb. 24.
The Pirates open the Grapefruit League season at home at 1:05 p.m. Feb. 26 against the Yankees.