Every so often I’ll get an e-mail from someone who is planning on going to Spring Training. The person usually asks for tips on what to do in Bradenton, mostly specific to Pirates-related activities. Pitchers and catchers have reported, and the first workouts start today. So now is as good of a time as any to give some tips on Bradenton for those of you who plan on making your way down to Spring Training this year.
My favorite place in Bradenton is Pirate City. That’s pretty obvious, since that’s where minor league camp is held. However, there’s always something going on, as there are four fields to watch, and a bullpen between two of the fields that can warm up four pitchers at a time. This is where I will be most of the time I’m down there this year.
Admission to Pirate City is free, and so is the parking. The parking lot is around back, shared with a golf course parking lot. I recommend parking as far away from the fields as possible, to avoid any shattered windshields.
Practices usually start around 8-9 in the morning and last until everyone breaks for lunch around 11-12. The players come back out after lunch and usually play a game against another team at 1:00. Again, these games are free to watch. There are usually two to three games taking place at the same time. The first game usually consists of players at the AA/AAA level, and sometimes guys from major league camp. The second game consists of guys who are candidates for full-season A-ball. The third game is usually an inter-squad game between guys who will be in the short season leagues. If you’re standing in the right spot you can watch Kyle McPherson pitch in one game, Jameson Taillon pitching off to your left, and guys like Clay Holmes pitching off to your right.
Some days are marked as “camp days”, which means the team won’t be playing a game. However, on camp days the teams usually play inter-squad games, which provides a lot of opportunities to see Pirates prospects in action.
The players in minor league camp don’t have names on the back of their jerseys. Unless you know their faces, the only way to know who they are is to grab a roster sheet. The sheets can either be picked up from the security guard at the entrance, or in one of the envelope containers on the side of the building in the middle of the concourse. The roster sheets have two sides. One side lists the players in numerical order, which is best for finding out which players you are watching. The other side has players listed in alphabetical order, which is good if you’re looking for the number of a specific player.
Down the road from Pirate City is Mixon’s Fruit Farm. I go here six days a week for lunch when I’m down in Bradenton, and it’s only six because they’re closed on Sunday’s. They’ve got a cafe in the front of the store where you can grab a quick lunch. I recommend the Cuban or the BBQ sliders.
In the back of the store they have an ice cream stand with some incredible orange ice cream. That’s always nice after a day filled with running around from field to field, hauling camera equipment and radar guns, all in the 90+ degree heat. Or if you just like ice cream.
They also have orange juice, lemonade, and grapefruit juice. You can sample each one by the candy stand in the middle of the store. In the back of the store they sell fruit, and have a cart where you can sample the different types of oranges. In the middle of the store is a candy stand, and a place for wine sampling. They make their own wine, and sell the bottles for around $15 each. I recommend the Raspberry White Zinfandel.
Places to Eat
My routine is pretty set when I’m down there. I usually get to Pirate City around 8-9 AM and stay through 4 PM, with a lunch break at Mixon’s around 11. On camp days I head over to Mixon’s after the games are over, then head over to McKechnie Field until 4. After that I’m usually writing until I realize I need to eat to survive. So I haven’t really been to a lot of places, usually just going to whatever is closest to the place where I’m staying.
One place where I always try to go is Gecko’s Grill and Pub. It’s a good sports bar that has great burgers, and best of all, home made chips. There’s several locations in the Bradenton and Sarasota area. Another place I recommend is Bangkok Tokyo. They’ve got Thai, Chinese, and Japanese food, so there’s a good combination if you want Asian food.
I usually try to make it to the beach at least once while I’m down there, which usually results in me making it to the beach only one time. My favorite is Holmes Beach. I’ve never tried it, but for about $5 they’ve got an all-you-can-eat pancake stand right on the beach.
I’m no expert on Bradenton. Usually when I’m down there I’m trying to get as much content as possible for the site. I’m expecting this year that Kristy and I will have 7-10 articles/blog posts per day at the least. The above are my tips, based on what I’ve done in my free time while I’ve been down there. If you’re down there this year, you’ll probably be able to find me at Pirate City. Or Mixon’s.
Links and Notes
**Speaking of Spring Training, Kristy Robinson will be flying down tomorrow, just in time for the first workouts.
**Keep track of all of the players in major league camp using the Spring Training tracker.
**I uploaded some new draft prospect trackers today. You can find links to all of the trackers on this page.
**A few hitters played today. Victor Roache had a big game, going 1-for-3 with a homer and two walks. Roache homered once every 7.67 at-bats last year, and has one homer in seven at-bats so far this year. Mike Zunino went 2-for-4 with a walk and a stolen base.
**Just received the proof copy of the 2012 Annual in the mail today. A.J. Burnett will be in the book, and once the corresponding 40-man roster move is made for the Burnett trade, the book will be sent for publishing. I expect to start shipping the pre-sales by the end of next week. You can order your copy here.