Pittsburgh Pirates pep rally gives fans a chance to get up close and personal with players in their Spring Training home away from home.
For one night every February, Old Main Street in Bradenton, Florida, looks more like Federal Street in Pittsburgh prior to a Pittsburgh Pirates home game at PNC Park. Except to the best of my knowledge Josh Bell, Steven Brault, Chad Kuhl, Gift Ngoepe and other players have never done the Electric Slide during pre-game festivities in the Burgh.
But that was exactly what was happening last night in the Pirates’ Spring Training home during the team’s annual Pep Rally. The event, sponsored by ABC 7 WWSB, and supported by several Bradenton organizations, featured games, a photo booth, live music provided by the band Yesterdayze and autograph sessions with Pirates players including Gerrit Cole, Jared Hughes, Josh Bell, Pat Light and Trevor Williams.
The event, in its eighth offing, kicked off at 5 p.m. on a three-block section of Main Street. Pirates on-field announcer Joe Klimchak was on hand to emcee a short program that included a few speeches from Pirates brass before they too took to the streets to shake hands and chat up event-goers.
Fans Come out to Celebrate the Season
“We see a lot of promise in the team now,” said Betsy Stewart. She and her husband, Gary, are Pittsburgh residents who are spending their first winter in Bradenton.
“We picked Bradenton because of our parents living here,” Gary said. “But the Pittsburgh Pirates have had a lot of influence on us coming here,” he added.
The Stewarts attended spring training games during past visits to Bradenton, but this was their first pep rally. They enjoyed the festive atmosphere and chance to mingle with players, who all spent a little time wandering through the crowd and talking with fans before and after their signing sessions.
Anthony DeFrancesco, and his son Tom are Yankees fans – but they hit the pep rally as part of a five-day spring training road trip. The New Jersey residents, along with Tom’s friend Ryan Polito (who was decked out in a Cutch t-shirt and Pirates cap), started with the Yankees camp in Tampa Friday, hit the Orioles camp in Sarasota earlier Saturday, and then swung by Bradenton to see the Pirates Saturday night. They plan to visit the Tigers camp in Lakeland today, pop through West Palm Beach to check out the Nationals and Astros camps on Monday and then finish up again with the Yankees in Tampa on Tuesday.
“This is a fantastic event,” Anthony said of the pep rally. “The Orioles had one that we went to too, but this one is better because there’s more player/fan interaction,” he said. He and the boys spent lots of time in the autograph line getting balls, photos and other paraphernalia signed by the players.
Check out more photos from the event: