Bradenton's McKechnie Field has served as the Pittsburgh Pirates' Spring Training home for over four decades. In 2010, it will add the Marauders to the mix.
The Bradenton Marauders, whose name and identity were announced at a Tuesday afternoon civic luncheon, will play in the Florida State League as Pittsburgh's Class A Advanced affiliate. This situation came to be after the Pirates and Cincinnati Reds essentially swapped affiliates.
Pittsburgh bought the FSL's Sarasota Reds franchise and relocated it to Bradenton to play as the Marauders, a move that became possible after Cincinnati announced that it would be moving its Spring Training home from Sarasota to Arizona. The Reds' Class A Advanced affiliate will now be the Carolina League's Lynchburg Hillcats, who had hosted the Pirates for the past 15 seasons.
But regardless of the specific machinations that led to the current situation, it is now time for the Pirates organization to spread the word about the Marauders. Tuesday's logo-unveiling luncheon marked a significant step in this process. The team's primary mark is a bushy-bearded buccaneer, who in addition to the requisite earring and eye patch also sports a hat featuring a pair of crossed bats.
"We wanted to show that we're Pirates-related, and have a close association with the big-league team," explained Bradenton GM Dan Wolfert, a Florida State League veteran who most recently served as Sarasota's GM. "But at the same time we wanted to maintain our own brand and convey that we are something unique."
Tuesday's unveiling is the centerpiece of what the Pittsburgh organization has dubbed "Pirates Community Commitment Week." Players from throughout the farm system and big-league club (including outfielder Lastings Milledge, who grew up in the area), who are in town for a conditioning camp, have been scheduled to make a wide range of appearances throughout the community.
"We're in the education process now, but there's a great buzz in the community already," said Wolfert. "The Pirates have been ingrained here for the past 42 years, so there's already a lot of pride associated with this team."
Nonetheless, there's a big difference between MLB Spring Training and Minor League Baseball when it comes to ballpark atmosphere.
"[The fans] know Spring Training, but the Marauders are going have that affordable, fan-friendly Minor League feel," said Wolfert. "We have a small staff, but we're going to work hard and be as creative as we can when it comes to putting together a great product. ... This isn't something that Bradenton has experienced before, and I think they're really going to embrace it."