BRADENTON, Fla. -- With Spring Training in full swing, Frank Coonelly stepped outside the Pirate City clubhouse on Sunday and delivered a "State of the Pirates" address in time for Presidents Day.Since taking over as club president in September 2007, Coonelly has worked to make the Pirates competitive on the
BRADENTON, Fla. -- With Spring Training in full swing, Frank Coonelly stepped outside the Pirate City clubhouse on Sunday and delivered a "State of the Pirates" address in time for Presidents Day.
Since taking over as club president in September 2007, Coonelly has worked to make the Pirates competitive on the field -- in the present and future -- while increasing their efforts to make a difference off the field. After three straight winning seasons and trips to the postseason, Coonelly shared in fans' disappointment about the step backward in an 83-loss 2016 campaign.
• Spring Training:Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear
MLB.com asked Coonelly to deliver three main messages to Pirates fans about the state of the 2017 team, the club's long-term future and their work in the community.
On the 2017 Pirates ...
"The message is bounce back, come back. You can't have a comeback until you've had a setback, and we had our setback in 2016. We didn't play to the expectations of this organization, the expectations we've set for ourselves as men and leaders of the organization. We're looking for the bounceback in 2017. We have a strong core of players who are coming back to this team. In my view, it's a little bit rearranged now, but we still have the best outfield in all of Major League Baseball. We've got a solid infield coming back, experienced men who have been there and done some things in this league. Adding Josh Bell at first base, some new energy and a young Buc coming up through the system, [it's] fun to see.
"We need to stay healthy. We had some issues with health last year -- [that's] not an excuse, everybody deals with it, and we didn't overcome the injuries that we faced -- particularly at the end of the year. We're looking to stay healthy this year."
On the future of the organization ...
"[It's] critical to us that we continue to develop these young Bucs as they come through our system. I know that there's sometimes frustration that we're seemingly not willing to trade away the future of the organization. But had we traded away the future of the organization four or five years ago, we wouldn't be enjoying Tyler Glasnow here today -- ready to make a real impact in Pittsburgh -- Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Jameson Taillon. Those are the types of names that were asked for three and four years ago. The future of the Buccos in '18, '19 and '20 are the names that are being asked for in some of the bigger trades that are out there.
"Our plan is to grow up together and win championships together -- and it's critical for us to maintain as many of the elite prospects [as possible]. Now, we'll trade prospects -- we've done it in the past, and we'll continue to do that for the right Major League player to make an impact on the Major League team, now and in the future. But the future of the Bucs is very strong. We won a championship here in Bradenton last year in the Florida State League, and that was fun. We've got a lot of young players coming up through the system. We saw many starting pitchers -- we had five starting pitchers last year make their Major League debut, most of them came up through the Pirates' system and some we received in trades. The future of the organization must be our focus, always. Eye on today, eye on the future, as well. We can never take an eye off either one of those avenues."
On the club's charitable efforts ...
"Pirates Charities, our work in the community, is very important to us. I'm addressing the guys [on Presidents Day] about the importance of Pirates Charities -- what our 'why' is. Why do we do it? Why do we ask them to do the things in the community that we ask them to do? It's really simple. We feel good when we're doing good for others. We're going to send that message to the players. We're going to do a lot of good for a lot of others in our communities. It's really important that we help the communities that help us and bless us so much in western Pennsylvania, here in Bradenton and in our great community in the Dominican Republic.
"We're building fields for kids. We're building fields for special-needs kids. We're building a playground for special-needs kids so that they can feel as [included] as every other kid. The great thing about these Miracle League fields, and now playgrounds added to the fields, is that they're in community parks with a baseball field, a soccer field and a Miracle League field and playground. We're going to continue to do those things. Our mission is to improve the lives of others, particularly our kids, through health, fitness and education. We've got a strong 'why' and we've got a strong execution plan. It's going to be a great year for Pirates Charities in 2017."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.