Major League Baseball players began their journey in Bradenton, while a Hollywood film depicting the first Indian-born baseball players getting professional contracts cut through the Friendly City.
These were just a couple stories Trevor Gooby, now in his 11th year with the Pittsburgh Pirates, shared as the featured speaker of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance’s luncheon Wednesday at the Lakewood Ranch Polo Grill.
Gooby, the Pirates’ senior director of Florida operations, discussed his time with the Pirates. Part of that meant seeing Rinku Singh, who is one of two main subjects for the movie, “Million Dollar Arm.”
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Gooby delivered stories about Singh that didn’t make the movie cut. One was when both Singh and Dinesh Patel — the latter is no longer in baseball — were shooting pool, but appeared to not understand the game. So Gooby said he would help them out, despite not being a fantastic pool player. Gooby then lined up the cue ball, broke the rack and missed his first shot. He said the two ran the table. Gooby asked if they hustled him, to which both shook their heads in disagreement.
“They had played pool before, but they didn’t know what the word hustle meant,” said Gooby, drawing laughter from the luncheon crowd.
Singh, who has battled injuries and remains a minor leaguer, is a major star in India.
“He’s opened up so many doors for Indian athletes,” Gooby said.
The stories about Singh resonated with LWRBA executive director Heather Kasten.
“Is that not incredible,” Kasten said. “Just talking about a great underdog story. And I think that ties in with talking about feeling encouraged.”
Gooby has seen 25 Major League Baseball players start their journey in Bradenton thanks to the Pirates being one of two MLB franchises that conduct a setup with complex baseball, which is where players are housed and fed at the same place. That includes the likes of Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole and Starling Marte to name a few.
The latest was catcher Jacob Stallings and pitcher Jameson Taillon, who each made their MLB debuts this month. Those two made their journeys to Pittsburgh through Bradenton’s Pirate City and the franchise’s high-Single A club, the Bradenton Marauders.
The M’s started seven years ago, and recently made the playoffs for the fourth time as a first-half division champion. When Gooby arrived in 2005, the plan was to upgrade Pirate City, which he said was falling apart at the time, get lights at McKechnie Field and upgrade both the existing clubhouse and install new amenities at the park.
Gooby said the goal is to help generate as much revenue as they can for the city and county, and they generated $60 million last year. Part of the help comes from surrounding businesses where McKechnie Field is located, such as Motorworks Brewery and Darwin’s Brewing Company.
“The city and the Pirates, we’ve done a really good job with making that a safe area,” Gooby said. “Added lights to the area, police/security and making sure that people don’t have a fear about coming to that area. Plus, the city’s done a really great job with really trying to establish some businesses in that area.”
Gooby wasn’t the only speaker on Wednesday. Steve Shenbaum, founder and president of game on Nation, conducted various “games” with the crowd to showcase game theory and how it relates to leadership skills. He also announced a new program, the Executive Academy, that will be offered as a first-of-its-kind Sept. 9. The program is every other Friday afternoon from 1:15-4:30 p.m. with tuition of $1,200 per participant. For more information, visit the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance's website.
The Players Theater in Sarasota also made an appearance. Michelle Bianchi-Pingel and Jeffrey Lin made a presentation, while luncheon guests were treated to an impromptu mini-flash mob with singing and dancing by three people that were dressed like the Polo Grill waiters and waitresses.
For the LWRBA, its involvement with the Pirates continues with the LWRBA Night at the Marauders on July 21. The Marauders host the Daytona Tortugas for a 6:30 p.m. Florida State League game July 21.