For the next six weeks, the Pittsburgh Pirates will occupy Bradenton’s Pirate City and LECOM Park during spring training as they prepare for the 2018 season.
And like everyone else in Manatee County, the players have to deal with the same major headache on a day-to-day basis – traffic.
Among the players the Bradenton Herald spoke to Monday, which marked Pittsburgh’s first full-squad workout of the spring at Pirate City, the view on local traffic wasn’t positive.
“It’s terrible,” pitcher Steven Brault said. “I don’t know why the roads can’t be a lane wider or something. Everything is too small.”
Brault’s commute takes him north to Palmetto every day after a Pirates workout.
“Crossing the bridge, it’s never good,” Brault said. “Even (Sunday) afternoon. You think, ‘It’s Sunday. There’s nobody on the road.’ No, still both lanes full all over the bridge.”
Prior to joining the Pirates, Brault played for the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota. He said the traffic situation there is similar to Bradenton, because there are a lot of people and not a lot of ways to get places.
“If you’re trying to get anywhere on this side, closer to the beach, you don’t have many choices as a main road to take where you need to go. ... It just kills traffic,” Brault said.
However, Brault said traffic in Bradenton is not as bad when compared to what he’s experienced with freeway congestion in Los Angeles and his native San Diego.
Pitcher Nick Kingham and second baseman Erich Weiss agreed with Brault on commuting through the downtown Bradenton area.
Kingham, like Brault, is staying in Palmetto.
“We’re close enough to the bridge, but it’s bad,” Kingham said. “It’s bumper to bumper the whole way. It’s like 12 light cycles to get through. It’s getting pretty tough.”
Kingham, who is a Las Vegas native, said Sin City doesn’t have much traffic outside of the usual 5 p.m. rush hour that is typical of any big city. But in Bradenton and Sarasota, it seems heavy traffic is a constant regardless of the hour.
“We live 5 miles ... it takes 25 minutes, which is not terrible, but it shouldn’t take that long,” Kingham said. “I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining, but it is what it is. ... I don’t see them being able to do anything. You can’t widen the streets or add more lanes. It’s so narrow as it is. You could make more bridges to get over the river.”
Building a new bridge is something the Florida Department of Transportation proposed in January to alleviate traffic congestion connecting Palmetto to Bradenton via the Green and DeSoto bridges.
Cole Tucker, a Pirates prospect, and Sean Rodriguez, a 10-year major-league veteran, said they’re used to the traffic Bradenton presents coming from bigger cities with more congestion.
Tucker, who Pittsburgh selected in the first round of the 2014 draft and previously played for the Bradenton Marauders, hails from Phoenix, while Rodriguez is from Miami.
“You’re kind of unfazed by it just because you grow up in it,” Tucker said. “... It’s relative to what you compare it to.”
Added Rodriguez: “It can be (busy), but I grew up in Miami, so traffic down there is pretty intense.”