“Did you know that baseball’s the only sport that’s mentioned in the Bible?” Pirates Bradenton Booster Club president Mike Roteman asks us with a twinkle in his voice. After all, he explains, “The first four words are ‘In the Big Inning.’”
Roteman, a Pittsburgh native who’s loved baseball “from my first game at the age of 7 at old Forbes Field,” moved to Lakewood Ranch 10 years ago when he retired from Pennsylvania state government in part because of the Pirates spring training presence here. (He and his wife also have friends and relatives here.)
The Pirates Bradenton Booster Club is the only one in Major League Baseball that uses an all-volunteer group to serve as ushers, greeters and program hawkers. They coordinate the speed-pitch promotion, hand out the giveaway items and serve as low-level security at Pirate City. About 65 percent of its 180 members are from up North, but not just Pittsburgh; there’s even a Canadian. “Some volunteer at spring training because they love baseball. Some don’t like baseball, but they love people,” Roteman likes to say.
Taking part in spring training gives Roteman a chance to share the love of the game with the fans. “People come because they want to have a nice day at the park,” he says. “Some kid may be coming to his very first baseball game ever. If we can make that game special for him and make him a baseball fan for life, then we’ve done something neat and we can go home with a smile on our faces.” After all, he reminds us, “God went for six innings and then he went for the seventh inning stretch.”