BRADENTON - The Pittsburgh Pirates' best season in 20 years has made many fans happy, not only in western Pennsylvania, but here in southwestern Florida.
The team's turnaround means that Bradenton gets more bang from the Bucs. Mayor Wayne Poston confessed that he donned his Pirates t-shirt for the sake of an interview with ABC7, but added, “but we wear them now. Right now everybody's excited.”
Usually people say that in February when the Pirates arrive in Bradenton. “This time, hope springs eternal with the Pirates,” Bob Levine, a Pirates fan from Pittsburgh told ABC7 back in spring training. “Once the season starts...” His voice trails off because the rest did not need saying. It usually goes downhill from there. More than three decades had passed since Willie Stargell led the Bucos to their last world series in 1979. And a skinny Barry Bonds played on their last winning team in 1992.
Until this year.
“After 20 some years to have a winning product on the field is awfully special,” says Elliott Falcione, speaking as fan who grew up in Pittsburgh, and as the head of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. As part of the city's deal with the Pirates, ads for the Bradenton area show at the stadium and air during game broadcasts. The team's better fortunes have improved its attendance – in person and over the air.
“So we're going to get more impressions of the Bradenton area in that tri-state area,” of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, Falcione says.
And while spring games at McKechnie Field sell well anyway, having a winner in town means more than bragging rights for Bradenton. “Oh, there's no question about that,” Poston says. “It is a financial thing. It brings lots of people here.”
That could be why when ABC7 called him Friday morning, he knew that the Pirates lead their division over the St. Louis Cardinals, and that the Pirates began a series with the Cardinals that night.