The Pittsburgh Pirates have called Bradenton their second southern home every spring for the last 50 years.
To celebrate, the team is kicking off this year’s spring training season in Bradenton with 50 events around the city throughout the exhibition season.
The “50 Community Celebrations and Acts of Kindness” campaign includes Pirates players, coaches and staff taking part in 50 community-driven events during their time in Bradenton throughout the spring.
During one of the first celebratory events, Manatee County’s downtown library put together a rotating exhibit of Pirates memorabilia donated by fans of the team across Manatee County.
“Fifty years? How quick did that go?” former pitcher and current Pirates broadcaster Steve Blass said at the event. “It has been a wonderful ride, and we are delighted to be here. It’s always good to come back and see the people who have cared about the Pittsburgh Pirates ... Bradenton is our second home.”
Donations of old baseballs and bats, training schedules, jerseys, baseball cards and newspaper clippings flooded the glass displays of the exhibit.
A lot of that memorabilia came from Marian Anderson.
Anderson is 86 and a fourth-generation Bradenton native. She was the first secretary to work for the Pirates in the city for their debut spring training season in 1969.
At the event, she flipped through old pictures as she laughed with everyone who walked by and exchanged stories about the team she knew many years ago.
“I didn’t know anything about baseball,” Anderson said. “But I loved it. You just made so many friends and everyone was just so nice.”
Anderson said she still talks to a few ex-players from time to time, but they’re all “granddaddys now.”
Anderson said she was excited to share her Pirates memorabilia for the exhibit, noting how much the team has helped her hometown.
“A lot of the men have stayed here and made this their home, and their children have stayed and gone into business, ” she said, “and people are drawn here from around the country to see the games.”
Blass agreed, and talked about how Bradenton has been a “home away from home” for the entire Pirates organization.
“We have the best, prettiest and nicest spring training here than anywhere in the country. Pirate City is world class,” Blass said.
“I would match this baseball operation in Bradenton against anybody.”
The traveling display of memorabilia will be at the Downtown Central Library in February, followed by Braden River Library (March), Island Library (May), South Manatee Library (June), Rocky Bluff Library (July) and Palmetto Library (August).
Upcoming Pittsburgh Pirates Anniversary Events
Wednesday, Feb. 14 from 10 a.m. to noon: Meal Service to the Hungry at Our Daily Bread of Bradenton at 701 18th Ave W. Pirates representatives will help serve meals and hand out travel-sized toiletry kits.
Thursday, Feb. 15 from 11:30 a.m. to noon: Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee County Daybreak Adult Day Center at 10920 State Road 70 E. Pirates Charities will provide a complimentary lunch.
Friday, Feb. 16, 8:30 a.m.: National Caregivers Day. The Pirates and Pirates Charities will deliver complimentary coffee and donuts to the Braden River Care Center, at 2010 Manatee Ave. E., as part of the Pirates Senior and Caregivers Expo.
Saturday, Feb. 17, 8:30 a.m.: Manatee Cal Ripken Baseball Opening Day Festivities. The Pirates and Pirates Charities will participate in the Manatee Cal Ripken Baseball Association Opening Day celebration and will make a donation to assist with complimentary concessions. The Pirates will also be handing out Pirates “Play Ball” whiffle bats to the nearly 300 kids in attendance.
Saturday, Feb. 17 from 5 to 9 p.m.: Pirates Pep Rally. The annual street festival on Old Main Street is the “official” start to spring training. Activities will feature a photo booth, player appearances and autographs, games, live music, face painting, various vendors and more.
Sunday, Feb. 18, time TBD: Palmetto High School Students BP Participation. The Palmetto High School Baseball Team will be guests of the Pirates at Pirate City. The students will have the opportunity to take part in Pirates workouts in the outfield, receive a tour of the facilities and be treated to lunch in the Pirates Sports Nutrition Center.