BRADENTON - McKechnie Field underwent a major renovation prior to spring training 2013, making one of the most scenic spring venues even better. We told you what fans think of the changes, now ABC 7's Don Brennan finds out what the guys who have been through all of the changes have to say.
The grand dame of spring is in its 45th spring hosting the Pirates. After boardwalks, a boardwalk tiki bar, and restaurant were added this last off-season, McKechnie has cemented itself as one of the premier spring stadiums.
"What they have done now is absolutely spectacular. It’s always been a fan-friendly place, but the seats are more comfortable, they've added all the attraction in the outfield…it’s fun to see all the people gathering out there getting a different view of the game," says Mike Lavalliere, former Pirates catcher.
But McKechnie Field was not always the best place to play. Relief pitcher Kent Tekulve has been around for most of the 45 years and at times it was ugly. "McKechnie Field was not always the most desirable field to play on when we first came here. In fact, Mike Schmidt has never played an inning on this infield because the Phillies would not bring him down to play on it."
Now, along with the boardwalk, there is more seating beyond the left field wall.
Jeff Banister, now a Pirates coach, played there as well and he likes the different feel of the place. "I got chills. It was exciting to see, emotional to see. Just walking out to see this old ballpark, you know the history of it, and see all the changes and see all the changes and how dressed up she is. It really gave me chills. It's a ballpark now."
Actually, the stadium now looks so good with all of the new bells and whistles, Tekulve sometimes wishes he could join the fans during a game. "I have been offering to go up during the game and do some PR work for ‘em, but so far I have not been able to get them to cross that line."