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Pirates ‘very close’ to new Class A team deal

This afternoon, the Pirates confirmed my report in today’s Pittsburgh Trib that they are in the process of moving their high Class A team from Lynchburg, Va., to Bradenton, Fla. Here is the complete e-mail statement from team president Frank Coonelly:

“We are very close to finalizing the purchase of the Florida State League team located in Sarasota and moving the team to Bradenton where the club would play its home games at McKechnie Field.   We will not be able to make a formal announcement of the purchase and move to Bradenton until the Florida State League votes on the proposed transaction at its meetings in two weeks.

“We are extremely excited about the prospect of bringing a High-A Club to Bradenton.  Neal Huntington, our General Manager, and Kyle Stark, our Director of Player Development, requested that we consider the purchase in order to further enhance our development of minor league players by having our High-A team work in Bradenton where members of our development staff spend much of their time and where, thanks to our great partnership with the city of Bradenton, we have such outstanding facilities.  Our Chairman, Bob Nutting, immediately embraced the project and approved this latest investment in our core baseball operations structure.

“If completed, the move will allow us to take even greater advantage of McKechnie Field and our new Pirate City facilities.  In addition to the benefits to our minor league players and our development staff, the move of our High-A team to Bradenton would allow us to have rehabbing Major League players begin their return to work in Bradenton where we have our rehab coordinator and rehab facilities.

“By bringing 70 games to McKechnie in the summer, we will also deepen the Pirates commitment to the City of Bradenton by having a year-round baseball and community presence.   Mayor Wayne Poston and the City of Bradenton have been incredibly supportive and are excited about the prospects of adding a full-season Florida State League club to the many entertainment options available in the city.

“While the benefits to the Pirates and our partner, the City of Bradenton, were compelling, we will be sad to leave the Lynchburg Hillcats with whom we have had a tremendously productive relationship for the last 15 years.  President Calvin Falwell, General Manager Paul Sunwall and Assistant General Manager Ronnie Roberts are dedicated baseball men and the Lynchburg community is a great baseball town that has welcomed our players, coaches and staff into its community with open arms.”

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