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March 4, 2014

What Happens During Minor League Practice at Pirate City?

Posted By Jim Falbo

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Tags: @BuccoSharkTank Pirate City Pirates Pirates Baseball Pittsburgh Pittsburgh PA

What Happens During Minor League Practice at Pirate City?

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Located in Bradenton, Florida, Pirate City is the training complex for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s here where the Pirates prepare for their Grapefruit League season. Once the big club is done training, the Pirates minor league teams use the facilities to get ready for their own season. They practice, and play their own spring training games. Once the season begins, the facility is used for rehabbing players and those who are behind schedule to get game ready during extended spring training.

What happens at a minor league practice?

Although many players reported earlier, Tuesday marked the first official day of the 2014 minor league camp.

Practices run from 9am to around 1pm, and are packed with drills, drills, and more drills. Typically a minor league practice begins on Field #3 with a thorough group stretch and calisthenics. The players run light sprints, hard sprints, backward sprints, lateral knee high sprints, and shuttle runs. During all this, onlooking strength and conditioning coaches emphatically demand that players maintain proper form throughout the drills.

After a very brief water break the camp breaks down into stations, where any number of drills can be going on at once. The catchers of all levels will usually stay together, and from there players will stay together with others from their experience level (rookie lg, A, AA etc.). The position players will break up into base running groups and the pitchers will warm up their throwing arms. I thought that it’ was worthy mentioning that during Tuesday’s base running drills on field 4, new Jamestown Jammers manager Brian Esposito was lecturing the players on how imperative it is to hustle out of the batting box. He stressed that that was the “Pittsburgh Pirates” way. It was a refreshing message to hear preached to young and hungry ball players.

After the base running drills the players will break up into fielding drills including the pitchers. On some fields they work on fielding bunts and other numerous situational defenses. On others the pitchers simply work on covering first base on ground balls to the first baseman. During all this the outfielder may work on fly ball routes, or hitting the cutoff man. After a while all the players will rotate stations, and work on another skill.

After defensive drills, the position players will rotate batting drills. There are four stations for bunting, batting cages, and pitching machines set up on fields 1-4 where players take their hacks. As with other the drills, they rotate stations to work at different hitting stations. Throughout the practice pitchers will throw side sessions in the bullpens and some players will receive individual instruction and drilling.

During the 4 hour practices, the players get a great workout and plenty of opportunities to improve their skills. The minor leaguers are constantly running from station to station, leaving no wasted time. Between drills the coaching staff always emphasizes hydration in the hot Florida sun. With nearly 100 players you’d think it would be chaotic, but the drills are well regimented, precise, and the players always seem to know where they need to be next. Whatever the Pirates are doing seems to be working.

Here are photos of players participating in camp drills.

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Here’s 2012 2nd Round Pick C Wyatt Mathisen working on his bunting.

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This is 3B Eric Wood in an individual drill taking ground balls from his knees. The drill forces the fielder to make the plays using only his hands.

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Hydration time!

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2013 1st Round Pick Reese McGuire takes BP.

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Here is BP drill where a right-handed batter and left-handed batter alternate taking pitches from separate pitching machines. It’s an efficient way to get more swings for more hitters.

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Mathisen in a post practice interview.

Jim Falbo
About Jim Falbo

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