PITTSBURGH -- PirateFest 2012 was a huge success, with a record 16,986 fans attending the three-day event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
That total represented an increase of more than 400 over last year's installment, the first held in December. Previously, PirateFest was held in late January, closer to the start of Spring Training. The attendance record since the event was moved to the downtown convention facility in 2003 had been 16,839 in 2010.
This year's installment was also a rousing hit in terms of interaction between Pirates players and fans. Several players deviated from their normal "schedule" to freely roam the vast exhibit hall, mingling with fans.
PirateFest had been immediately preceded by the team's annual caravan to local communities, both events commemorating an improved 2012 season and raising anticipation for 2013.
"Coming off a tremendously successful Pirates Winter Caravan, the strong show of support from our fans this weekend has been unbelievable," said club president Frank Coonelly, who had been as visible on the PirateFest floor as any of the team's players. "We cannot express enough the appreciation everyone within the organization has for our fans' enthusiastic and passionate support.
"Perhaps most exciting to see was the impact that the passion of our fans had on our players. Our players are encouraged and energized by the support and are determined to bring postseason baseball back to Pittsburgh in 2013."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.