MLS players show Bradenton area some love on social media

February 9, 2014 

Pinellas Park resident Adam Martin, standing, wears his Chicago Fire colors during Saturday's preseason game between the Fire and D.C. United at IMG Academy. TIMOTHY R. WOLFRUM/Bradenton Herald

MANATEE

Major League Soccer players and staff gave a glimpse into how they're spending their time in Bradenton and Sarasota thanks to Twitter and Instagram.

Probably the most active team showing off the area is the Columbus Crew and its players. There are photos of the guys going for a beach run in team uniform, others hanging out poolside and visiting youth academy players.

Retired Columbus Crew player Frankie Hejduk is hanging out with his team as a brand ambassador (a front-office fan position), and the team's official website post

ed that the avid skateboarder took some off time and visited a pawn shop to buy a skateboard before heading to the Riverwalk skate park in Bradenton, posting a short video on the Crew's Instagram account.

Think about what happened. Hejduk won the MLS Cup in 2008 with the Crew and another one in 2011 with Los Angeles Galaxy, is a two-time Olympian and represented the United States at two World Cups.

This champion decided, like a regular skateboarding Joe, to plop down some cash for a board and take a spin in a public park overlooking the Manatee River with teens nearby. They perhaps did not know who was skating with them at first.

The team then puts out a video to expose folks to Bradenton and hey, not only is there MLS soccer here, but a skatepark worthy enough for a pro.

Beyond that, other players and staff on the Crew and other teams are being great ambassadors for the Bradenton-Sarasota area with their tweets and pics.

Crew players Tony Chani and Kevan George were at Pier 22 on Instagram with fans giving the players some local dining tips, suggesting they go to Anna Maria Island Oyster Bar, Woody's River Roo, BeachHouse Restaurant, Pacific Rim Sushi and Mixon Fruit Farms. A few other players spent one of their first nights in town grabbing dinner at Fav's Italian Cucina on Old Main Street.

D.C. United athletic trainer Brian Gerlach posted some interesting photos of how a soccer team takes over a waterfront hotel. The United are staying at the Hyatt Regency, and one of the conference rooms overlooking the boat docks is now a training room where players get massages and treatment for their bumps and bruises. I'm sure the players don't mind the tropical view while on the mend.

Gerlach also gave United fans a tease, wowing them with Sarasota sunsets, time at the pool and kayaking on Sarasota Bay. Not a bad way to spend some down time between soccer matches.

It's great to see this type of free exposure for our area from so many athletes and teams at one time -- perhaps more than what Pittsburgh Pirates players produce for their on-the-town tweets. Sean Walter, director of the Bradenton Area Sports Commission, told me before training camp began he hoped to help teams plan excursions events to get players on the beach or out in the water. Ideally, Walter would love to organize a fishing charter next year.

It shouldn't be a hard sell after seeing all the smiling faces from the players' pics.

To see how Major League Soccer players spent their time here, read more at http://bradenton-herald-business.blogspot.com.

Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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