Ronnie and Cameron Lott were in baseball heaven.
Or as close to it as one can be at Pirate City.
It was the first spring training for the brothers on winter break from Portville, N.Y., and they were beaming through their sunburns, gathered behind the practice field backstops with other Pirate faithful watching Tuesday’s morning workouts.
“I love it,” said Ronnie, 13. “We’ve gotten plenty of autographs so far.”
They had, indeed.
Cameron, 10, proudly showed off some of the autographs Pedro Alvarez, Neal Walker, Manny Sanguillen, etc. on baseball cards.
They weren’t done, either.
The boys had a courteous, old-school approach that got results.
“You call them ‘Mr. Walker,’ or ‘Mr. McCutcheon,’ say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and they’ll sign,” Ronnie said.
The parents raised them right, but were amused and impressed by the ease at which the boys got Pirates to sign.
It was their first spring training, too.
“You can’t get real close at a ball game, so it’s neat to see the players like this,” said Ronna Lott, the mother. “You feel like a part of it.”
They also planned on attending the third annual Pirates Pep Rally 5 p.m. Saturday night on Old Main Street. “It’s a new season and going to be a good year,” Lott said.
Her words resonated with the Lynd family of four from Cranberry, Pa.
All wore Pirates gear, including
Kate, 3, and Luke, 1.
It was their first trip to Pirate City, too.
“This is cool,” said dad P.J. Lynd. “We’re just happy to stand here to watch. I didn’t want to pack a whole bunch of baseballs for vacation for them to sign. It’s good enough to be here.”
Such was the sentiment Tuesday, regardless of whether one was after autographs.
This was truly a rite of spring.
Take it from Dave Horsfall, a lifelong Pirates fan from that distant Pittsburgh suburb: Toronto.
What about the Blue Jays?
“I never liked the American League,” said the 68-year-old. “Being here is the best feeling in the world.”
Even if Pirate City was more crowded than usual. Horsfall remembers when fans were few and far between.
“At one time it was Florida’s best-kept secret,” he said. “But after last year put a spark in the team, so many people are out here now.”
Jeff Goss was another longtime Pirates fan and Pirate City regular on hand Tuesday.
“It’s always nice every year,” the 49-year-old Pittsburgh native said. “It gives you a chance to develop acquaintances with the ballplayers.”
He had a handful of glossy rosters for coaches and players to autograph. Manager Clint Hurdle, outfielder Nate McLouth and new catcher Rod Barajas had already obliged him.
“They were in first place for a while last year, so hopefully they’ll be better,” Goss said.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055.