Football season is over and that is the time I begin to get fired up for baseball. It is going to be an exciting time to get ready for the regular season opener on March 30 as the Pittsburgh Pirates open against the division rival Chicago Cubs. Starting with pitchers and catchers reporting on February 12, the Pirates will have two weeks to get ready for their Spring Training opener against the New York Yankees in Bradenton. Here are a few more reasons for excitement or concern over the next few weeks.
AL East fans will love the Pirates’ schedule
Of the 31 Spring Training games in 2014, 20 of them will be against teams from the American League East division. The Pirates will play the Yankees five times, while playing the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays four times each. The World Champion Boston Red Sox get the least amount of games for the AL East with only three games, with only one at the new confines of Fenway South.
The Battle of Pennsylvania versus the Phillies
The Pirates will close out the Spring Training schedule in Philadelphia with the final two games being at Citizens Bank Park. They will have two games each in Bradenton and Clearwater against each other while in Florida. The six games are more than against any other opponent.
The Pirates will be seen on ESPN
The only national audience game of Spring Training, as of January 20, is a 1:05 EST matchup with Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, FL. The Pirates usually air a pair of games on ROOT Sports Pittsburgh, but those dates have not been released yet. The last two years have been against the Baltimore Orioles, with a lot of the discussion in the announcer booth being about the World Series between the two teams in 1979. Personally, I hope it is that way again so that we can hear about the 35th anniversary of the event.
Attendance should be up in Bradenton
According to the Pirates’ website, the capacity at McKechnie Field is 8,500. With 16 home dates, if you count the team’s Black and Gold game for charity on February 25, the Pirates could set an attendance record for the second consecutive year. Floridagrapefruitleague.com listed the attendance as 93,433, meaning the team averaged 6,229 a game in 2013. With the team having its first winning season since 1992 last year, I believe the attendance will be a lot more in 2014.
No games against 6 Grapefruit League teams
The one sad note this Spring Training is that the Pirates will have no games against the six northernmost teams in Florida in 2014. That means no divisional games against the St. Louis Cardinals or against four other National League teams (Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, New York Mets and Miami Marlins). It also means no games against former division rival, the Houston Astros.