PALMETTO — Ahoy, mateys!
The Bradenton Marauders’ new mascot hit Manatee County’s shores during its unveiling at Friday morning’s DeSoto Heritage Festival’s Children’s Parade.
And guess what?
It’s a marauder.
Standing more than 7 feet tall and donning a thick black beard, eye patch and gold hoop earring, the marauder served as the parade’s Grand Marshal, wielding a plastic sword and tossing T-shirts and beads while riding atop a red convertible.
His face is similar to the logo seen on the high Single-A baseball team’s caps and jerseys, complete with the interlocking bats on the pirate hat and a smile as wide as the strike zone.
Despite Friday’s high temperatures, the marauder wore a black jacket with gold trim on the shoulders, a white ruffled shirt and a pair of black boots as he posed for pictures while strolling around Sutton Park, which served as the parade’s final destination.
He had at least one fan in the crowd — 4-year-old Logan Claybrooke, of Palmetto, who said the marauder was his favorite part of the parade.
“He was riding on top of a car,” he said.
Stacy Morgan, the Marauders’ coordinator of sales and marketing, said coming up with the mascot’s look was a joint effort between the staffs in Florida and Pittsburgh — the Marauders are a minor-league affiliate of the Pirates, who have played their spring training games at McKechnie Field for 42 years.
“We did definitely stay with the Pirates theme throughout,” Morgan said Friday morning. “When we bought the new club and relocated it, we knew we wanted it to fit the Pirates, and in some form or shape, fit the whole theme from the top of the organization down.”
The next part? Naming the mascot, which the Marauders have left up to the public beginning Friday, when they were soliciting entries for a name-the-mascot contest.
“It’s actually going to run through the first home games,” Morgan said of the contest, “to give people an excellent opportunity to participate and be involved, because we really want the community to feel like the mascot is their own mascot.”
Morgan expects the mascot to have a name some time after April 23.
The mascot’s unveiling Friday kicked off a week of Marauders-themed activities leading up to Thursday’s season-opener at McKechnie Field against the Fort Myers Miracle. There are plans to have the mascot possibly show up at this morning’s Easter egg hunt at G.T. Bray park, and the team roster will be revealed during Monday’s invitation-only civic luncheon at Pirate City.
Players will be on hand to sign autographs from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at the DeSoto Junction Goodwill, 3611 First St., and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Lakewood Ranch YMCA. An intrasquad game for season-ticket holders will be played later that night at McKechnie Field.
The Meet the Marauders event has been scheduled for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at The BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, where the public can meet the entire team and coaching staff.
“The mascot will be pretty much appearing at all of those events,” Morgan said.