BRADENTON — It was 7:05 p.m. when Bryan Morris, standing toward the first-base side of the rubber, wound up and threw a fastball, which a batter by the name of Drew Thompson took for a ball.
And so it began. No more hype. No more hoopla.
After months of waiting and spreading the word, the Bradenton Marauders got to do what they have wanted to do all along.
The high Single-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates made its debut in front of 2,396 fans at McKechnie Field with a resounding 18-3 win over the Fort Myers Miracle.
The team’s first hit came courtesy of its first batter, Greg Picart, who legged out a chopper to short.
Their first run came courtesy of Quincy Latimore, who homered to left to lead off the bottom of the second.
“Eighteen runs? That’s a lot of fun,” said Latimore, who drove in three runs and scored three runs while has family watched from the stands.
Their first rally was a seven-run onslaught in the fourth capped by Jeremy Farrell’s towering grand slam to left.
Farrell added a three-run shot in the seventh, giving him seven RBIs, during another seven-run output in the seventh.
Not a bad opening night.
“That was awesome,” Farrell said.
Fans got to see a pair of 2009 first-round draft picks, Bradenton catcher Tony Sanchez and Fort Myers starting pitcher Kyle Gibson, and even a major leaguer — Pirates rehabbing reliever Joel Hanrahan, who struck out two during a perfect sixth inning.
It all occurred in front of crowd that stayed vocal from the first pitch to the postgame fireworks show.
“They’re happy to have us,” Latimore said, “and we’re happy to be here.”
Latimore made his pro debut three years ago at Pirate City, a sprawling minor-league complex located less than five miles from McKechnie Field.
There he was Thursday night, becoming the first Marauder to score a run.
“It was really fun,” he said. “My family was here, so it was real special.”
The same could be said for Farrell, who a fan referred to as Mr. Two Home Runs as Farrell made his way to the clubhouse.
“It was fantastic,” said Farrell, whose father, John, is the Boston Red Sox pitching coach. “The first game in Marauders history, and the way we came out and swung the bats, and the pitchers threw the ball very well. ... We got the W.”
Every Marauder starter got at least one hit, including Sanchez, who singled twice and drove in two runs. Robbie Grossman homered and scored three times, Starling Marte scored four runs and Brian Leach allowed one run in three innings of relief to earn the win.
As far as opening nights go, this was a good one.
“Absolutely,” Farrell said. “We’re excited, we feel like we got a really good team and we’re excited to get going.”
After what transpired Thursday night, nearly 2,400 fans most certainly agreed.