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One More Baseball Stadium Left to See

July 7, 2013
By JIM COCHRAN , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

One ball park remaining!

What began 11 years ago as a three-game baseball motorcoach trip to Baltimore, Boston and New York has resulted in 39 multi-game trips, a total of 109 games and seeing games in 29 Major League parks.

Seattle is the only Major League city we have yet to visit.

The number of parks has substantially been declining during the past three years, with flights to Texas and California twice.

Stadium No. 28 was visited on June 28, it being to Tropicana Field the home of the Tampa Bay Rays, the field actually being in St. Petersburg, while we ushered in July with a game in Miami, both indoors.

Tropicana Field Tampa Bay is a domed facility, while the Miami Marlins play in a facility which has a retractable roof.

When you go to Florida you think of the outdoors, and we did see one outdoor game, and a part of another. We took in a Bradenton Marauders game, the Marauders being a Class A Pittsburgh Pirate affiliate in the Florida State League. We also attended a Pirates Rookie League game, that team plays in the Gulf Coast League.

Getting back to seeing the 29 parks/stadiums, of course, it couldn't have taken place without Ohio Valley Uniglobe owner Bill Bryson who can't wait for the schedules to come out each year so he can plan the trips, along with side attractions.

Bryson, my wife Linda, and Warren Hood have been to all 29 facilities. Actually, we have been to 32 different baseball stadiums as during the 11-year period the Yankees, Mets and Nationals played in two different stadiums.

Getting back to this most recent trip, we had the opportunity to tour Pirate City.

As you might know, Pirate City is not only the Pirates Spring Training home, but also houses it's minor league complex.

Five years ago these facilities underwent a $20 million renovation as part of the team's new lease which is through 2033.

The upgrades included new lights, a new visitor's clubhouse and renovations to the home clubhouse at McKechnie Field which is up the road from the complex, and new offices, dormitories, a fifth practice field to the minor league complex.

Pirate City is a state-of-the-art training facility.

It might be ironic, but there is a World Series Conference Room on the third floor of the Pirate City building facility.

Stacey Morgan, the coordinator of sales and market for the Pirates' Bradenton complex, was our tour guide. We toured the three story facility and the adjacent dining facility.

By the way, the dormitory is available for rental to the public.

Those on the Florida trip were amazed with Pirate City, and the many things that go into the operations of a Major League team.

While several of the Marauders played in Charleston last year, there were not to many recognizable names. At Pirate City there were several recent draftees, none of which were on the Marauders roster.

If you didn't know differently, you would have believed you were in PNC Park and not McKechnie Field, as everything seem to have Pittsburgh Pirate logos, even the trash cans had the Pirate 'P.''

By the way, while we were in Florida we stayed in Hollywood Beach for two nights so our group did have some time off from baseball.

As the two Major League parks we visited, we learned that Tropicana Field is the only Major League park to feature an artificial surface and all-dirt paths. Astro Turf was installed prior to the 2011 season.

The Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall-of-Fame moved to Tropicana Field in 2206. Fans can view an array of different artifacts and pictures of the ''Greatest hitter that ever lived.''

Tropicana Field features the world's second largest cable supported domed roof, Georgia Dome being the largest.

Seats behind the back stop are some of the closet in the Major Leagues-only 50 feet from home plate.

Miami's park is located on the site of the former Orange Bowl.

One of the attraction's there is a display of some 600 Bobbleheads of former and current players, even team mascots are featured.

One unique think about the Marlins' park is that there is a row of some 20 seats behind the visitor's bullpen, and throughout the game the players and fans were noted conversing.

 
 

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