BRADENTON — They were there for the Bradenton Marauders’ last regular season home game of 2010, a 3-2 victory over the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
Most of wacky and enthusiastic fans who cheered the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Florida State League baseball team throughout its inaugural Class A summer in Bradenton came to McKechnie Field Monday.
In his usual seat right behind home plate was Craig Faanes, known to Marauder fans as “The Designated Heckler.”
Faanes, who is seeking a publisher for his book, “Minor League Heckler,” comes to every home game with a data sheet he carefully prepares the night before on the opposing team.
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“Beckham, you received a $6.5 million signing bonus and are the team leader in strikeouts,” Faanes read from his data sheet about shortstop Tim Beckham as Beckham was trying to concentrate in the batter’s box. “You’re earning $56,500 per strikeout.”
Faanes believes he has helped the Marauders by rattling the opposition. He has had bats thrown at him and some vulgarities as well.
“It was a great summer,” Faanes said. “The only thing that makes me sad is that we averaged about 800 fans a game. I just don’t understand that. This is the greatest show on dirt.”
Monday night’s game drew 982 fans.
Along the first base line was super Marauder fan Mike Sullivan, of Siesta Key, who has attended more than 50 of the Marauder games this summer and will excitedly tell anyone who asks that Marauder outfielder Starling Marte, catcher Tony Sanchez, outfielder Quincy Latimore, infielder Brock Holt and maybe a few others will be in the Pittsburgh Pirate lineup in a few years.
A few rows back from Faanes, making plenty of noise themselves, were Deb Mortonson of the 59th Street Manatee County YMCA and Marauder season ticket holder Harry Kinnan.
“We need some runs,” Kinnan yelled and, within minutes, the Marauders tied the score, 2-2, perhaps not wanting detention from Kinnan, a school board member.
What the fans all seem to have in common is the hope and dream that the ballplayers can one day help the parent Pittsburgh Pirates snap their streak of losing seasons, which is approaching two decades. “These guys should be the real Pirates,” said Marauder fan Mike Boesen, whose daughter, Rebecca, 12, is Marauder outfield Robbie Grossman’s biggest fan.
“The Pirates need all the help they can get,” said Pittsburgh native Tom Pellegrino, who drove down from Zephryhills with his wife, Carrie, to see “future” Pirates.
“The Marauders are better than my Pirates,” said Bradenton’s Joe Manna, of Altoona, Pa. who attended the game with Ellie Dorgan.
While most of the fans were inside the park, Gus Johnson, the Marauders’ official parking attendant, was outside parking cars.
“I would have wished for a few more fans,” Johnson said. “The games were entertaining. The level of play was excellent. The players were friendly. I know the people who came had a good time all summer.”
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.