Always fun bumping into folks from home

BRADENTON, Fla. A trip to The Villages, the arrival of the Pirates, and some much-needed rain for area residents were among this week’s highlights.

Jean and I and the Cambergs, Jack and Joan, spent a couple of days visiting Hollidaysburg friends Dave and Marcia Dravis, who have a home in The Villages, about two hours north of here. Several Altoona area folks have migrated to The Villages over the years – it even has an Altoona Club – and we received the grand tour of the area.

The Dravises hosted a get-together attended by Tom and Rita Brouse, Herb and Doe Bolger, Dick and Mary Lee Applas, Rick and M.J. Terza, Joe and Dee Burns and Trav and Carol Young. We also had dinner and a show at Katie Belle’s, a private club for residents of The Villages.

Baseball took the spotlight with the arrival of pitchers and catchers on Tuesday, the Bradenton Boosters’ luncheon on Wednesday and the Pirates’ first full-squad workout Friday.

Club president Frank Coonelly and manager Clint Hurdle were speakers at the luncheon which attracted 141 boosters and fans at the River Wilderness Country Club in Parrish. Coonelly talked about the $10 million renovation project at McKechnie Field, which is expected to be completed in time for the club’s Black and Gold scrimmage next Friday. The renovations include a boardwalk area, a tiki bar, expanded concession areas and the addition of 2,000 seats.

Hurdle said the Bucs’ expectation level is much greater than when he became manager three years ago. He did not shy away from questions about the team’s late-season collapses the past two years, noting they must get better every day and finish stronger.

“We want more, and need to do more,” Hurdle told the group.

With all of the players now in camp, Jean and Joan are quickly adding to their collection of Pirate autographs. Among this week’s additions were Travis Snider, Michael McKenry, Russell Martin, Jerry Sands, Jay Bell, Jameson Taillon, Ivan DeJesus Jr., Jarret Hughes, Brad Hawpe, Clint Barmes, Neil Walker and Manny Sanguillen.

Apparently, it’s been an unusually dry winter and a heavy rain shower on Thursday was a welcome sight for area residents. Temperatures have been in the 70s – it hit 80 a couple times – since we arrived, although a cold spell is predicted for the weekend.

On Thursday, a group that included Altoonans Lee and Nee Nee Fagley, as well as Ken and Betty Wilkinson, celebrated Valentine’s Day at the Outback Steak House. Other stops this week were made at the Cracker Barrel and Popi’s Place, a local favorite.

Modern technology continues to amaze an old guy like me. Jean and I were able to see the Altoona Lady Lions’ win over Bishop Guilfoyle on our computer early in the week, thanks to Cal Bragonier and BG’s website.

Until next week

Jim Lane is a retired sports editor of the Mirror. He writes from Florida in February and March