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It's spring training time at Pirate City

BRADENTON — Pat Hagerty reached into the locker and pulled out a shiny new black batting helmet.

The front was blank.

“Hey, it needs a ‘P’,” said the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league equipment manager, giving the helmet to Evan Herkert, a part-time assistant.

It was late Tuesday morning at Pirate City and Hagerty, 49, was going about his duties, ones he’s had for the last 16 years.

Spring training starts Thursday, though several players arrived early to work out, and his staff was busy.

Laundry to sort.

Lunch spreads to put out for players and coaches.

Lockers to check for socks, jocks, cups, belts, batting practice hats, batting gloves, shower shoes, sliding shorts, long sleeve T-shirts, short sleeve T-shirts, and two sets of spring training uniforms.

“A lot goes on that people have no idea,” Hagerty said. “Like cleaning shoes.”

Nearby, Kiere Bulls was scraping dirt from a player’s spikes.

“Yeah, this is what we’ll do — and he’ll stand there and watch,” kidded the Pirates’ major league assistant equipment manager.

“See? There’s love here, too,” Hagerty joked.

A sure sign of spring at Pirate City.

So are 1,500-dozen balls ready to be unpacked.

Sixty-dozen bats, too.

Just for spring training.

“We’re still getting stuff we ordered last October,” said Scott Bonnett, Hagerty’s major league counterpart. “Dealers have 30 other teams to take care of, so it takes time.”

Hagerty and Bonnett get to Pirate City at 5 a.m. and don’t leave until late. The staff stays later, too.

Josh Hamp, Hagerty’s son, has been helping out at Pirate City since he was 13.

“Everything he’s done I’ve had a chance to do,” said the 22-year-old Bayshore High School alum.

Even having uniform pants hemmed.

His dad took care of that for one player Tuesday.

“At their level, they can wear them any way they want,” Hagerty said. “My level here, they have to wear them up, show some sock right below the knee.

“Makes my job easier.”

Especially when you’ve got more than 200 ballplayers in camp.

Pedro Alvarez appreciates seeing the equipment manager’s staff first thing in the morning and all they do.

“They’re always in a good mood and it rubs off,” said the third-base prospect. “It’s like home, a good place.”

Hagerty wouldn’t want it any other way.

“We’re all on the same team,” he said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fl. 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification

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