Blass entertains boosters

BRADENTON, Fla. — Spring training baseball is just around the corner.

Pitchers and catchers report to Pirate City on Feb. 12 and 13 and the full squad will be in camp Feb. 17 and 18 to begin workouts for the opening of Grapefruit League play Feb. 23.

The Bucs open Saturday, Feb. 23 against the Phillies and Andrew McCutchen in Clearwater. The former Pirate star spent some time with the Giants and Yankees before signing a three-year, $50 million deal with the Phils in the off-season.

The home opener at LECOM Park is Sunday, Feb. 24 with the Florida Marlins, a new team on the Pirate schedule. Ex-Pirates and former Curve stars Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker are trying to win jobs with the Marlins this spring.

The weather improved nicely our second week here with temperatures in the mid-to-high 70’s most of the time. It was warm enough to spend a couple of hours at the beautiful Anna Maria Island beach on Friday.

We attended a Super Bowl party last Sunday and among the attendees were Altoonans John and Terri Carnicella and Steve and Vicki Lang, who also live here at the Ironwood complex.

We took an hour drive to Tampa on Monday and purchased tickets for the Yankees-Cardinal game scheduled for March 6 at George Steinbrenner Field. Jack Camberg is a huge Cardinals fan, and I’ve always been interested in the Yankees so, thanks to our wives, we received early birthday presents.

The Bradenton Pirates Booster Club’s annual luncheon was held Tuesday at Pier 22 with Steve Blass entertaining a group of close to 100 boosters. Blass, who will retire as a Pirates broadcaster after the 2019 season, spoke about his many seasons with the Bucs that included a World Series championship in 1971 and relationships with the likes of Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski and Bob Friend.

Blass praised the boosters for their work and said volunteers, along with teachers and healers, are the three types of people he respects the most.

In talking about the 2019 Pirates, Blass said he feels the club’s starting pitching staff will be among the best in baseball but the team will need to improve its offensive punch to be a contender in the National League’s Central Division.

On Wednesday, we attended a luncheon at Laishley’s Crab House in Punta Gorda. The affair, which attracted about 20 Altoonans, was put together by Bill Kearney. It was an enjoyable day as we renewed acquaintances with the likes of Walt Beatty and his wife, as well as former high school friend Nancy (Unger) Resnick.

Among our restaurant stops were Steak ‘N Shake, Macaroni Grille, Popi’s Place and South Philly Cheesesteaks.

Until next week …

Lane, a retired Mirror sports editor, writes from Florida in February and March.