01/31/10 9:45 PM EST
Excitement for Bucs shows at PirateFest
Record crowds filled with believers team is on right track
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
A total of 15,398 fans attended the three-day baseball carnival, representing an increase of 271 fans from last year's event. That total was raised largely because Sunday's session drew 1,200 more fans than the final day did a year ago.
"It was a great weekend at PirateFest as the excitement for the 2010 season that we saw during the Caravan filled the convention center all weekend," Pirates president Frank Coonelly told MLB.com on Sunday. "Today's crowd was especially impressive. Pirate fans once again showed why we are an extremely fortunate organization."
The event was highlighted by three question-and-answer sessions, the announcement of a statue to be built in honor of Bill Mazeroski, autograph sessions and a concert by pitcher Charlie Morton on Saturday evening. A total of 14 current Pirates players and seven former Bucs came to Pittsburgh to participate. Owner Bob Nutting, Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington also spent much of the weekend mingling with fans.
"The Caravan and PirateFest are critical components of our outreach to the fans who have supported us so well," Coonelly said. "Loyal Pirate fans have endured far too much heartache but now see that we are moving in the right direction. We heard from our fans all week during the Caravan and all weekend at PirateFest that they believe in these players and believe that they will be the group that returns the Pirates to winning baseball. Likewise, our fans got the opportunity to get to know our young players and to see their enthusiasm for the upcoming season."
The end of PirateFest ushers in the final days before the team migrates south for the start of Spring Training in Bradenton, Fla. Pitchers and catchers are required to report by Feb. 17, with their first workout scheduled for the following day. Manager John Russell will then run the club's first full-squad workout on Feb. 23.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.