The Pittsburgh Pirates have held their training camp in Bradenton, Fla., every year since 1969 and since then they've developed deep roots in the area that go far beyond Grapefruit League games. This spring, the team has continued its charitable efforts in Bradenton and Manatee County with events and initiatives such as the 6th Annual Pirates Charities Spring Training Golf Classic -- which took place at the Bradenton Country Club on February 21 -- and Pirates Charities in-park silent auctions at McKechnie Field.
One of the new efforts is assisting Manatee County and the city of Palmetto, Fla., with the construction of what will be known as the Blackstone Park Palmetto Little League Complex. The project, which is expected to be completed by August 2014, will include three lighted regulation Little League fields, a lighted and paved parking area, a concessions building with restrooms, plus press boxes, storage, dugouts and more.
Pirates Charities is contributing a total of $75,000 toward the project. Palmetto was in need of a new Little League facility because their former field became the construction site for a new elementary school, which was also badly needed.
Prior to the Pirates first home Grapefruit League game of the year -- against the Atlanta Braves on February 24 -- Pirates President Frank Coonelly and Pirates Senior Director of Florida Operations Trevor Gooby presented the check to Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle and Palmetto Little League President Derek Goforth.
"When our friends in Manatee County reached out to us for help with this project, it was something we never gave a second thought to," said Bob Nutting, the Chairman of the Pirates and Pirates Charities. "We knew we wanted to help.
"When complete, this complex will be a great place for the Palmetto youth to play baseball, but even more importantly, it will give these children and their families a safe place to develop relationships with their peers and other families."
Since 2006, Pirates Charities has distributed more than $3.1 million in the communities in which the team has a presence -- in Bradenton, Pittsburgh and the Dominican Republic. The Pirates' charitable arm places emphasis on supporting youth programs that focus on health, fitness and education by developing partnerships with those who share in that mission.
Many programs in and around Bradenton benefit from the funds raised via the team's spring training initiatives, including the Pirates Charities Fields for Kids matching grant program. Fields for Kids is one of the group's signature programs. It provides financial support to improve youth baseball, softball and recreational facilities through matching grants of $1,000 to $5,000. Last year, Pirates Charities distributed nearly $29,000 to seven different youth organizations in the Bradenton area.
Another great Pirates Charities program that benefits from spring training fundraisers is the Pirates Charities Miracle League Field program. Last year, the Pirates assisted in the grand opening of the Sarasota-Bradenton area's first Miracle League Field, which is known as the Miracle League Field of Manasota Presented by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. The field, which is located at Longwood Park off University Parkway in Sarasota, features a rubberized surface that provides a safe environment for children and young adults with special needs to play baseball and softball. The Manasota field is one of five Miracle League Fields that Pirates Charities has played a role in constructing -- three of which had their grand opening in 2012.
On Saturday, March 16 Pirates officials will take part in Opening Day ceremonies for the Manasota Miracle League at the Miracle League Field of Manasota Presented by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. Three games are scheduled for that day. The first game is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. and will feature the Manasota Miracle League Pirates versus the Manasota Miracle League Orioles.
To find out more about these and other Pirates Charities events and initiatives, as well as how you can contribute and help to make a difference, visit pirates.com/community.