by Robert Brinkman (BoltonBob)
The Pirates have been training in Bradenton since 1969, and baseball has been played at McKechnie Field since 1923 (the minor-league Bradenton Growers occupied the ballpark in the 1920s). It's built in a Florida Spanish Mission style, with white stucco on the main grandstand. The design is like most spring-training facilities: There are box seats on the field side of a wide concourse and bleacher seats on the other side of the concourse.
Be warned the Pirates don't actually train in McKechnie Field, at least not at the beginning of spring training. When pitchers and catchers report, the Bucs train at Pirate City, located about five miles away from McKechnie Field at 1701 27th St. E. Morning practices shift to McKechnie Field when games start.
The aforementioned Beauregard sells beer and peanuts in the stands, but most fans will want to head to the back of the grandstand for a series food booths. When it comes to variety, some of the best dining in the Grapefruit League is at McKechnie. Highly recommended: the foot-long hot dog. Other foods on the menu include hamburgers, Demetrios pizza, Greek salads, fruit smoothies, and ice cream.
It is authentically old, without the faux sheen of retro features so prevalent in new spring-training complexes these days. Built in 1923 for the St. Louis Cardinals and still known by many oldtimers as the former spring home of the Milwaukee Braves and Atlanta Braves, McKechnie Field is basically the same ballpark where Roberto Clemente gracefully patrolled the outfield, where Willie Stargell engaged the fans, and where Henry Aaron awed onlookers with his sheer power and determination. It's not the gaudiest of ballparks and the Pittsburgh Pirates aren't exactly crammed with superstars these days, but spring-training aficionados know McKechnie Field is a throwback to how spring training used to be: an intimate affair played in a neighborhood ballpark.
Year Opened: 1923; last renovated in 1993 and 2007
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