Pirates welcomed back to Bradenton with pep rally

Pirates welcomed back to Bradenton with pep rally

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The city of Bradenton rolled out the black and gold carpet for the Bucs on Saturday night, formally welcoming them to their 46th Spring Training here with the sixth annual Pirates Pep Rally.

A three-block strip of Old Downtown was blocked off from traffic and turned over to various attractions celebrating the dawn of another baseball season, which locally begins next Wednesday with the Pirates' first Grapefruit League home game in McKechnie Field.

Club president Frank Coonelly, bracketed by general manager Neal Huntington and skipper Clint Hurdle, thanked Bradenton mayor Wayne Poston and the throngs of local fans for their continued hospitality toward and support of the Bucs.

Former Pirates greats Steve Blass and Mike LaValliere led off at the autograph table, and were followed by numerous latest-generation Bucs, including Jordy Mercer, John Holdzkom, Andrew Lambo, Tony Sanchez and Tyler Glasnow.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.