The Pirates will be heading back to Bradenton, Fla. -- their winter home since 1969 -- filled with the usual optimism surrounding a club about to begin a new campaign.As Bucs fans prepare for their journey to the Gulf Coast to catch their club in person, here are some questions and answers that should help make it a fun trip: When do the Pirates arrive at camp?
Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 15, with the position players following on Feb. 20. The first full-squad workout is Feb. 21. When do games start?
After an annual charity game against Manatee Community College on Feb. 28, the Bucs' Grapefruit League schedule opens the next day at McKechnie Field, where the Pirates host the division-rival Reds. How do I get tickets?
Tickets for all Pirates Spring Training games at McKechnie Field went on sale Jan. 21, and can be purchased online, at the McKechnie Field box office or by calling the Pirates at 877-893-2827. McKechnie Field holds 6,562 fans, and the stadium concourse includes a variety of concession stands. There is also an onsite Pirates Clubhouse store just outside the main entrance. Ticket prices for games at McKechnie Field range from $8 to $16. Where is Bradenton and how do I get there?
Bradenton is located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, approximately 35 miles south of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. Although there are no non-stop flights available from Pittsburgh to the Bradenton area, fans flying in from the Steel City have a couple of airport options. The Bradenton-Sarasota airport is a 10-15 minute drive from McKechnie Field. The larger airport in Tampa is about an hour drive from Bradenton. Both facilities have several rental car companies onsite. To get to the McKechnie Field from the Bradenton-Sarasota airport, take route US 41 north for seven miles, bear right on 29th Ave. West, take the ramp towards Ninth Street West, and turn left on Ninth Street West. McKechnie Field will be on your right. To get to the McKechnie Field from the Tampa airport, follow I-275 south for 35 miles and take exit #5 to Bradenton/Palmetto. Continue south on US 41 for five miles. McKechnie Field will be on your left.
There is no admission to see the Pirates work out on their fields at Pirates City. The Major League team uses the four full fields for their morning workouts prior to the start of the exhibition schedule. The Pirates and visiting teams will take batting and infield practice at McKechnie Field prior to exhibition games. Pirates players can also sometimes be seen taking batting practice in the indoor batting cages behind the concourse on the first-base side. Minor Leaguers will use the Pirates City fields for their camps beginning in early March. Where can I get some autographs?
The best place for Pirates fans to get autographs before the exhibition schedule is in the area behind the four batting cages at Pirates City. Once games begin, the seats along the first-base line and near the bullpen in right field are prime spots for autograph seekers. Players will often stop to sign autographs after batting practice, following games and occasionally after they are removed early from games. What else is there to do in Bradenton?
To many, Bradenton is a shopper's paradise. Strip malls line many of the main streets in town, and there is no shortage of restaurants available to choose from regardless of your culinary tastes. Downtown Bradenton is also just a short 10 minute drive from Bradenton Beach, where there are several public beaches available and a plethora of seafood restaurants offering their latest catches. For more information on Bradenton, visit the city's Web site at www.cityofbradenton.com. When do the Pirates open the regular season?
The Pirates will kick off their 121st season in the National League on April 2 against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. The Bucs will return to PNC Park on April 9 for their 1:35 p.m. home opener against the World Series champion Cardinals.
Ed Eagle is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.