BRADENTON — Ever since the Pittsburgh Pirates announced the Major League Baseball organization was bringing a high Single A ballclub to Bradenton folks have been trying to find an appropriate name for the squad.
Bradenton Breeze? Nope
Bradenton Juice? Huh? A team now defunct once used that moniker.
Bradenton Explorers? No. Too cheesy.
Well, how about the Marauders?
The Pirates unveiled the team’s mascot and logo at a ceremony Tuesday at the Bradenton Kiwanis Club.
“This means the extension of truly a terrific partnership that we have with the city of Bradenton,” Pirates president Frank Coonelly said. “It give us an opportunity to bring baseball here to our southern home year round.”
McKechnie Field and Pirate City are the spring training home of the Pirates and a Gulf Coast League team, but last month, the organization announced it had purchased the high-A Florida State League affiliate from the Cincinnati Reds, and was going to make McKechnie Field its permanent home.
Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston, who attended the ceremony, is thrilled with the idea.
“McKechnie Field sits there hollow except for those 16 ball games (during spring training),” Poston said. “We felt this could work for us. This could be a year round training facility, and when there are injuries they could send those players down here (from the Major Leagues). It’s a full-time venue for Bradenton now. Minor league ball is terrific all over the country, not so much in Florida, but we have it now. We think it’s going to be a family atmosphere, and it’s creating jobs.”
The Marauders will play 70 games starting with opening night April 8 against the Fort Myers Miracle, complete with fireworks show after the game.
Coonelly said the Pirates are bringing future stars to this county. As evidence, the organization is moving its high-A affiliate in Lynchburg, Va., a squad that won the 2009 Carolina League Championship, to Bradenton.
“This team has a championship to defend this year,” Coonelly said.
First baseman Calvin Anderson and pitchers Hunter Strickland and Quinton Miller, all members of the Pirates minor league organization, were among the 100 people in attendance.
“I think it’s going to be great, because our spring training facility is here,” Anderson said, a first baseman in the Pirates’ minor league system. “We already have fans that come out to the games in Bradenton, so for us to be here, it’s like a homecoming. It’s what the city wanted, for us to be here and play for a whole season.”
As for the nickname “Marauders,” Coonelly said the Pirates’ brass wanted to choose a name that represented Manatee County.
“We wanted the name and logo to closely associate with the Pirates, but yet Bradenton’s own, unique brand,” Connelly said. “We considered and some recommended that we name them the Bradenton Pirates. We decided while we wanted a close relationship with the Pirate brand, it was important for this community to have its own brand.”
Later in the evening, several Pirates players, including Lakewood Ranch High alum Lastings Milledge, signed autographs during a street party on Lakewood Ranch Main Street to welcome the new team.
“It’s exciting for Manatee County,” said Ellie Ohlman, Miss Lakewood Ranch High School, who attended the ceremony with most of the high school baseball team. “I hope it will help bring Manatee County togther.”
— James A. Jones, East Manatee Editor, contributed to this report.