Rainout washes away first ESPN live broadcast from McKechnie in 7 years

jlemb@bradenton.comMarch 25, 2014 

Tarp was out at McKechnie Field, but the game is still canceled.

JOHN LEMBO — jlembo@bradenton.com

BRADENTON -- It had been seven years since ESPN broadcast a baseball game live from McKechnie Field.

Thanks to a steady deluge from Mother Nature, the venerable ballpark will have to wait at least one more year to be shown off in front of a national audience.

Monday's game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers was rained out, the third cancellation at McKechnie Field this spring.

This one stung a bit more than the rest: ESPN was set to broadcast the game live.

The network was ready to go Monday, filling a booth in McKechnie Field's press box with lights, wires and monitors. Commentators Adnan Virk and Doug Glanville even recorded an open.

But the game was officially called off just after 1 p.m. as rain steadily pelted the tarp covering the infield. It would have been ESPN's first broadcast at McKechnie Field since 2007 -- long before the stadium underwent a $10 million renovation project that included an outfield boardwalk and roughly 2,000 additional seats.

"It's always nice to show McKechnie Field and Bradenton, Florida, to a national audience. And it's disappointing that we couldn't get the game in," said Trevor Gooby, Pirates senior director of Florida operations. "But sometimes you can't do it. And it's been raining pretty steady all day and we anticipated rain much later, so it made more sense to get our fans out of here without waiting around, and to get our players out of here and the Tigers out of here at an earlier time.

"Tough decision, but probably the smartest decision we could make."

Three spring rainouts are the most Gooby has counted since he was hired by the Pirates in 2005. Monday's cancellation could put a dent in the Pirates' chances of setting a new McKechnie Field attendance record -- they were at 75,952 heading into the day. The record of 93,433 was established last season.

That gives the Pirates two more home games -- Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays and Thursday against the New York Yankees --- to draw 17,482 fans to McKechnie to set a new record.

Tickets for Monday's game can be exchanged for the final two home games, refunded or used for a Bradenton Marauders game.

The Marauders, high Single-A affiliate of the Pirates, play their home opener Saturday, April 5.

"The next two games are doing very well with attendance," Gooby said. "And a lot of these people that were here (Monday) are exchanging their tickets for what we have left. So there's a chance.

"We've had a great year, regardless of the weather. People love the ballpark. We'll have ESPN back again. I know they were really happy with everything, with the setup here, with the new look of the stadium. They were really complimentary about what we were doing. I would assume they'll be back here."

PIRATES TO HONOR SEMINOLES: Southeast's girls basketball team, which won the Class 5A state title last month, will be honored at McKechnie Field prior to Thursday's game against the Yankees.

Coach John Harder, now a three-time state champion at Southeast, will throw out the first pitch. Harder will also be honored for taking third in USA Today's balloting for the best girls basketball coach in America.

Stacy Morgan, Pirates coordinator of sales and marketing for Florida operations, said 49 people affiliated with the Seminoles will attend Thursday and watch the game from the grandstand.

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