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Summertime baseball belongs at McKechnie

BRADENTON

There was a baseball game Thursday evening at Mc- Kechnie Field.

Bradenton Christian defeated Saint Stephen’s in a well-played affair that featured everything from balks to bunts to a walk-off double.

There will be a baseball game at McKechnie Field tonight, too, when the high Single-A Bradenton Marauders host the St. Lucie Mets.

There will be a lot of baseball at McKechnie Field this summer. And that’s the best thing about minor league baseball being in Bradenton.

From the cheap tickets to the inexpensive concessions to the chance to see future superstars just before they blossom, minor league baseball has its perks.

The biggest perk about it being here, however, is that McKechnie Field will be in use through August and longer if the Marauders make their way into the FSL playoffs.

McKechnie is a jewel. And whenever the Pittsburgh Pirates played their final home game of spring training, it stung a bit knowing the venerable ballpark’s gates would stay locked until the following February.

Oh, McKechnie played host to a few non-Pirates events, such as high school baseball tournaments, an Easter service and some men’s league games.

Those are community outings, and McKechnie Field is a community asset. They all belonged there.

But for the most part, the stadium stayed empty. That’s like a classic Cadillac sitting in a garage with its gas gauge stuck on E.

So tonight is the third of a scheduled 70 Marauders game to play out under the lights at McKechnie Field, and that’s 70 reasons why FSL baseball belongs in Bradenton.

The days of driving down 9th Street and peering into an empty McKechnie Field are gone. For the next four months, they will fire up the lights and the scoreboard, rev up the sound system and tear tickets at the gate.

There will be activity in front of the ticket windows and shoppers in the team store. There will be full-bellied fans enjoying every Thirsty Thursday and there will be people lunging for free stuff during the t-shirt toss.

How many people will show? Time will tell. There have been two games and two crowds of varying size, and tonight’s game against St. Lucie should be a good gauge, especially since it marks the first time the Marauders play a full three-game series at home.

But there will be baseball at McKechnie Field all weekend. There will be baseball at McKechnie Field all summer.

And there is nothing minor about that. -

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