BRADENTON — “This will be a big day for our club, Pirates baseball and Manatee County.”
That was the promising lure to the luncheon at the Bradenton Kiwanis Club on Dec. 15. And it proved to be a home run.
Pirates President Frank Coonelly came to town and unveiled Bradenton’s own minor league team name: the Bradenton Marauders.
The standing-room-only crowd of fans included politicians, city leaders, business owners, media and — most importantly — players. First baseman Calvin Anderson and pitchers Hunter Strickland and Quinton Miller were the first official Marauders to be introduced to Bradenton.
“This is cementing Bradenton as the southern home of the Pirates, and it’s cementing Bradenton as a destination,” Coonelly said to much applause.
How excited was Mayor Wayne Poston? So much so that he almost spilled the beans.
Coonelly was still building on the suspense when the mayor whipped on his baseball cap — adorned with the still-secret team logo. Oops!
Coonelly lauded the work of Senior Director of Florida Operations Trevor Gooby in helping cement the deal to capture the former Sarasota Reds and their general manager, Dan Wolfert, for Bradenton.
The Marauders also have their first official season ticket-holder: diehard fan Mel Klein. “I was born and raised in Pittsburgh,” he said. “Many a night I’d cry because the Pirates were cellar dwellers.”
Then he boasted: “I was there in ’60 when they beat the Yankees!”
Coonelly assured Klein with a smile, “There have been some nights in the past two years that I’ve cried!” But he vowed “no more tears,” with an eye on opening night April 8 against the Fort Myers Miracle, complete with fireworks after the game.
Kiwanis President Steve Tinsworth also had some important club news: Kiwanian of the Year is Valerie Nelson.
Sporting glittery team colors of black and gold, Nelson accepted her “cool plaque” with a whirl of thanks.