Whether you’re looking for a pleasant pastime for an afternoon, or something to keep you busy all season long, following local sports teams is a great way to spend your free time in Bradenton and Sarasota. Here are several must-follow teams in the area:
1. Tampa Bay Rays
Part of the American League East Division, the Tampa Bay Rays are a popular team in western Florida. Though the team had a rocky start after their 1998 inception, the Rays had their first winning season in 2008, which culminated in a trip to the World Series. The Rays play their home games at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and are currently led by star pitcher Chris Archer and veteran third baseman Evan Longoria.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are an NFL team in the NFC South division. After losing for most of their first 20 seasons following their 1976 NFL inception, the Bucs saw some success from 1997 to 2002 (when they won their first and only Super Bowl title). Though they’ve had a playoff drought in recent years, there’s plenty of reason for local fans to have hope, as they’re led by some of the best young talents in the game.
The Bucs play their home games at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay. Bus ticket packages are available for those in the Sarasota and Bradenton area with luxury coach fares as low as $60 for a round trip.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
A member of the NHL’s Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning play in Tampa’s Amalie Arena. In the 2013-14, 2014-15, and 2015-16 seasons, the Lightning finished second in the Atlantic Division and advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup final in 2015. Whether you’re looking to catch a great game on the ice, or you want to spot the ThunderBug and dancing Lightning Girls, there’s plenty to enjoy at a Lightning Game.
4. Bradenton Marauders
While most professional teams are based out of Tampa, you don’t have to leave Bradenton to witness incredible athletes. The Bradenton Marauders are in the South division of the Florida State League and play their home games at McKechnie Field, which also serves as the spring training home for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Marauders won the division and league championships in 2016, which only adds to the success of professional teams in the area.
What are your favorite sports teams in the Bradenton and Sarasota area? Share your team pride with us in the comments section below!