Spring's in the air as Truck Day arrives in Pittsburgh

Spring's in the air as Truck Day arrives in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH -- Snow covered the field at PNC Park early Wednesday morning as winter weather finally settled in along the Allegheny River. But down the dugout stairs, in the tunnel underneath the stands, was one of the first signs of spring.

Wednesday was "Truck Day" for the Pirates. Clubhouse manager Scott Bonnett and his staff packed up a moving truck and sent it on its way to Bradenton, Fla., where the Pirates will begin Spring Training next week. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to work out on Feb. 19, and the first full-squad workout is set for Feb. 23.

"Today is the start of a fresh, new year," Bonnett said. "We've been packing up all winter to get to this point."

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Bonnett said his work began shortly after the season ended. In November, he started making orders for gear and equipment. Most of it arrived in December, at which point it must be put into inventory and packed. After that, Bonnett and assistants Kevin Conrad and Kiere Bulls started piling up bins, boxes and bags throughout the unoccupied Pirates clubhouse.

"It's a lot of work," Bonnett said. "You're getting it all situated, getting ready for jerseys, new players. You have to be prepared for that. We have all that ready."

Finally, a little before 7 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Bonnett moved the first box into the moving truck.

This is Bonnett's 15th year with the Pirates and his 27th in baseball, so he has learned a few tips along the way. Rather than shipping bats to Pittsburgh, for instance, most of them are sent directly to Bradenton.

But there are still a number of necessities that travel each year to Florida. They packed boxes of chewing gum and sunflower seeds and more than 6,500 baseballs. The truck is full of players' suitcases and personal items. Golf clubs are a popular choice, for obvious reasons. Players also load up strollers, playpens and toys for their children.

The most unique luggage in the Pirates' truck is a pair of 11-foot paddleboards and a couple oars, the property of Chris Johnson, the Bucs' director of performance.

Packing the truck typically takes three or four hours, Bonnett said, but they knocked it out in two hours on Wednesday morning. Then the truck rumbled along the North Shore's snowy streets, headed for Florida.

"It does get a little bit easier," Bonnett said. "You plan ahead and you get more companies sending stuff down instead of bringing it here and double-loading it. But the number of people going down usually increases."

The Pirates' unloading process includes an increasingly rare wrinkle, too. The truck will make two stops. The first is Pirate City, their Minor League complex where the big league club works out this month. Then it's on to McKechnie Field, where they host Grapefruit League games.

When they start unloading the truck on Saturday morning, they won't have to worry about snow on the field.

"Hopefully the weather's a little bit better -- even though this winter hasn't been that bad this year," Bonnett said. "I'm kind of liking the snow coming down before we leave."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.