The newest Florida State League affiliate comes to Bradenton hoping to follow in the footsteps of the Charlotte Stone Crabs successful 2009 debut.
The Bradenton Marauders will begin play in 2010 as the Pirates’ high Class A affiliate after Pittsburgh purchased the Reds’ Sarasota affiliate at the start of the offseason and relocated it to their complex in Bradenton. (The Reds will move their high A affiliate next season to the Pirates former Lynchburg home in the Carolina League.)
Optimism appears to be high in Bradenton, where the Pirates have made their spring training home for 38 years and have become a staple of the community. The Pirates unveiled their in the week following the Winter Meetings, hoping to play up their relationship with Pittsburgh in a town that has embraced being the spring home of the Pirates.
The new logo was first shown off at a local Kiwanis Club before a few hundred people earlier this week, then made the tour around town over the next several days accompanied by several Pirates players in Bradenton for an instructional camp.
"There is a lot of excitement locally," said Bradenton general manager Dan Wolfert, who spent the past five seasons running the team in Sarasota. "The Pirates have been here a lot longer than the Reds were in Sarasota. They are excited about having a team of their own, a team they can cheer for . . .
"We wanted (our identity) to be similar to the Pirates and have it affiliated with the Pirates so people would know that, but we also wanted to have our own brand. We can use the Pirates to piggy-back off because they are so well liked and ingrained in the community."
The logo is just another step in getting ready for the 2010 launch of the team. Season-ticket sales are already underway and have been brisk. "We’re hoping that the (logo and name) announcement and everything going on will drive interest," Wolfert said. "It’s been busy. Everything is starting from scratch. There’s a lot of work to do."
One area not in need of much work is the facility, McKechnie Field, where the Marauders will play. The Pirates’ spring home recently underwent renovations that included lights being added in 2008. It included a big league-quality playing surface, clubhouses and weight rooms. Wolfert said an MILB official recently checked out the ballpark to make sure it was up to code and simply laughed during his tour.
"When you compare it to other high A places, it’s going to be better than all of those I would imagine because certain standards have to be kept up that you might not find in a middle-of-nowhere minor league facility," Wolfert said.
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