Renovation sheds light on Bucs' home
McKechnie Field hosts first night game after 85 spring seasons
BRADENTON, Fla. -- With a 7:04 p.m. ET pitch from Matt Morris to Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner under the lights at McKechnie Field on Wednesday, a little bit of Pirates history was made.
With 5,836 fans in the stands, the Pirates played the first night game in the history of McKechnie Field, falling, 12-9, to the Yankees in Pittsburgh's 21st game of the spring.
"It was kind of like a season atmosphere," said second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who made his return to the field on Wednesday as well. "It was good to get out there [at night]. There were a lot of fans out there. It was energized."
The novelty of a night game in Bradenton, combined with the fact that it was the Yankees coming to town, made for that kind of atmosphere.
Up until Wednesday, baseball in Bradenton -- which the Pirates have called their home for the past 40 years -- was played exclusively during the day. However, lights were put in around the 85-year-old ballpark this past offseason as part of a $30 million renovation project to the team's facilities in the Florida city.
With the addition of the eight light towers at McKechnie Field, now every Spring Training ballpark is equipped to host night games.
Wednesday's contest against the Yankees was initially scheduled to be the second of two home night games this spring. However, Mother Nature didn't exactly cooperate the first time.
The team's March 7 night game against the Reds had to be cancelled because of persistent thunderstorms in the city.
And while Wednesday's contest was the first official night game, it wasn't technically the first at McKechnie Field to be played under lights. The lights actually had to be turned on last Friday, when the Pirates faced the Reds under overcast skies.
Regardless, Wednesday's three-hour game against the Yankees gave the feeling that the regular season -- when, of course, most games are played under the lights -- isn't too far away.
"It was actually nice, getting under the lights, [getting] a little bit of energy," Pirates manager John Russell said. "It was a fun crowd out there."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.