Celebrating 100 years of baseball in Bradenton

Tracing its history from 1923 to 2023

LECOM Park has been home to baseball in Bradenton for the last 100 years. (Photo by Ryan Galati) 

BRADENTON, Fla. – The City of Bradenton is celebrating 100 years of baseball this season at LECOM Park.

The unique stadium has hosted many Major League teams since its inception in 1923. The Pittsburgh Pirates have called it home for the past 54 years.

The hometown faithful aren’t the only ones occupying LECOM Park. Fans of all teams visit the iconic stadium. Regardless of where they come from, their takeaway remains the same. Whether they know about the rich history or not, they all recognize the novelty of the experience. 

Emily Sims playing catch with Pirate Parrot as her mother Kayla watches the fun. (Photo by: Zulfiqar Sheikh)

“It’s unique,” Gary Smith of Summerville, Pa., said. “Sometimes you can even see the owner come along and you can boo him.” 

Pirates Director of player relations Jim Trdinich explained that the feeling of the small park, for better and for worse, is a reason some people have continued to come for so long. 

“(For) 100 years this ballpark has been in the same location,” said Trdinich. “To have the intimacy has been fascinating. (It) hasn’t changed.”

Trdinich described the transformation that the ballpark went through after a multitude of renovations. 

“Nobody liked it here… It was a crappy, dumpy little ballpark,” he said, “Through the years we demolished it….

Mustard makes an appearance

The food at the ballpark has been an important aspect of the fan experience for even longer than baseball has been in Bradenton.  

Mark Sexton of New York City was ecstatic to come into his 12th year of Spring Training to find that LECOM Park finally had his favourite delicacy… brown mustard to put on his hot dogs. 

“It’s a big victory this year because (they) finally have brown mustard,” said Sexton. He says that “yellow mustard is for children.”  

Sexton did not have to always suck it up and put yellow mustard on his hot dogs, though. He and his friend Chuck brought their own brown mustard to the park until this year. 

The fan experience keeps improving for people like Sexton, even 100 years into baseball being in Bradenton.

Brown mustard is finally at LECOM park. (Photo by: Carter Smith)

“The press box came down in ‘92, we rebuilt the whole grandstand (in 1992), (and) we got lights in ‘08.” 

As part of the ballpark’s alterations, Trdinich said they rebuilt the batting cages, the clubhouse, and the continuous walkway beyond the outfield.  

These renovations would not have been possible without the contributions of the Bradenton Boosters, volunteers who not only donated to make those changes to the ballpark, but also help out on gameday around the field. 

“They’ve been instrumental to us,” the director said. “They serve as ushers, they sell the programs, they’re big Pirates fans and they’re helpful to us every day.” 

Video Report featuring Field-Reporters Damien Lisi and Ryleigh Mulvihill talking to fans in the concourse

The city has hosted a long list of teams in its historic park, including the St. Louis Cardinals (1923-1924,1930-1936), Philadelphia Phillies (1925-1927), Boston Red Sox (1928-1929) Boston/Milwaukee Braves (1948-1962), and Kansas City/Oakland Athletics (1963-1968). 

The Negro League Bradenton 9 Devils also called LECOM Park home from 1937-56. The Florida State League’s Bradenton Marauders have played there since 2010. The Pirates lease in Bradenton runs through 2037. 

To finish the special report podcast, Zulfi, Mon, and Ryan recapped their exciting experience in Bradenton for the Pirates-Phillies Spring Training game. From the atmosphere at LECOM Park to the interactions in the concourse, they discuss all the highlights and memorable moments from the day.

PODCAST: 100 Years of Fan Experience

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Posted: Mar 21 2023 9:57 pm
Edition: Toronto
Filed under: Special Reports Baseball Sports