Until the end of March, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in town for spring training baseball.
Monday was the Pirates’ second home game of the Grapefruit League season and the first of two trips the Boston Red Sox will make to LECOM Park this spring.
Boston took Monday’s meeting 13-2, and the Red Sox will return to Bradenton on March 18.
While they’re here, where do Pirates players like to go for entertainment and what do they like to do in their down time?
Well, golf is always a favorite pastime for major leaguers. Fishing, too.
But what else? And what about their favorite restaurants?
“I like going downtown. I like O’Bricks,” left-handed pitcher Steven Brault said. “I just like that area. Pier 22 is good. Walking around the pier and stuff.”
Brault, who said he tends to stay at home more during the spring and enjoys playing video games, isn’t alone in gravitating toward Bradenton’s Pier 22.
That restaurant and nearby Riverwalk area are also enjoyable among other Pittsburgh players, including prospect Cole Tucker.
Tucker’s favorite restaurant, though, is Carmen’s Italian Cafe off 27th Street East. It’s also prospect Erich Weiss’ favorite place to dine in Bradenton.
“I crush Carmen’s,” Tucker said. “... It’s the best. Chicken Marsala is really good. The bread and oil is really good. The calamari is really good. Get it fried, not sautéed.”
Tucker played his rookie ball for the Pirates in the Gulf Coast League and later was a member of the club’s high-Single A affiliate, the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League.
So he’s had more time than most in the Friendly City.
“I go to Anna Maria (Island) all the time,” Tucker said.
Tucker, who is from Phoenix, said his family comes to visit each spring training and they tend to walk along the Riverwalk and the downtown Bradenton area.
“You have your little main streets and your little mom-and-pop shops and restaurants,” Tucker said.
Nick Kingham, who started Pittsburgh’s spring home opener Saturday against the New York Yankees, likes it a little further south.
Kingham said he enjoys St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota. He can walk the Ringling Bridge or visit a slew of shops and restaurants on the circle, though the location is also a key factor for why Kingham likes that area.
“It’s in the middle of both (Bradenton and Sarasota),” Kingham said.
When Kingham needed Tommy John surgery in 2016, he rehabbed in Bradenton and lived near O’Bricks in downtown Bradenton.
Kingham spent lots of time on his bike, cruising around Manatee Avenue before cutting north to get to Robinson Preserve.
“I just explored finding things,” Kingham said. “The houses and scenery was just cool.”
Sean Rodriguez, who used to play for the Tampa Bay Rays, falls into the family man category. He spends his downtime with his kids and often gets involved in activities with them outside their home.
When he does get a chance to eat out, Rodriguez, who is staying in the Tampa area, said his go-to is Red Mesa Cantina.
But for the players staying in the Bradenton area, heading to the local beaches are always part of the spring agenda, regardless of where they’re from.
Brault, for example, is from San Diego and has the Pacific Ocean with big waves at his disposal back home. But Bradenton Beach or Sarasota’s Siesta Key offer something different.
“The water is really, really cold over where we are (from),” Brault said. “Here, it’s a lot better. So even when the water is ‘cold’ here, it’s still warmer than where we’re from.”
So, from the golf courses to the beaches and some can’t-miss restaurants, there’s plenty of things Pirates players enjoy away from the baseball field during their spring stay in Bradenton.