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PirateFest schedule announced, will be free this year

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates have announced that PirateFest will be free this year. It will be held December 13 (12pm-7pm) and 14 (10am-5pm) at the convention center.

Autograph sessions will cost $20 for each session of three current and/or former players. You can buy those here. Proceeds will go to Pirates Charities. Those sessions will be limited to 200 fans each, which should cut down on lines. There will also be free autograph sessions for kids ages 14 and younger.

Since the rest of PirateFest is free, you'll be able to attend the Q+A sessions and mill about the convention floor at no charge. That's great for the fans, and my guess is that it will be great for the Pirates -- it practically guarantees that PirateFest will be packed. Last year, I remember doing some back-of-the-envelope math and wondering why they bothered charging admission. PirateFest plainly wasn't a big money-maker for them, and as fun as the event was, it was mostly just an advertisement for their core product anyway.

You can check out the autograph schedule here. A ton of former players will be signing, including relatively recent players like Jack Wilson, Mike LaValliere and John Smiley. Perhaps that's a sign that many of the links to the Pirates World Championship seasons in the 1960s and 1970s are getting older. But as someone pointed out to me a few months ago, it's interesting to see someone like Wilson suddenly becoming an accepted part of Pirates history, despite all the wretched teams he played on. Current Pirates scheduled to sign include Starling Marte, A.J. Burnett, Mark Melancon, Gregory Polanco, Jeff Locke, Francisco Cervelli, John Holdzkom and Andrew Lambo.