Pirates open doors to community

Commentary

Some observations while wondering why the April showers are still coming in the form of snowflakes …

n The Pittsburgh Pirates have put together some unique experiences giving young players the chance to play ball at PNC Park. Youth teams and high school squads sell tickets to Pirate games for the opportunity to take the field; the high school games happen while the Bucs are out of town; youth games follow a Pirate home game.

This kind of community outreach is a win-win for the big league club and small communities like Everett, whose Warriors, their parents and fans recently enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity under the lights. The program helps with ticket sales, but also creates lasting good will while fulfilling young players’ dreams of feeling like major leaguers, even if only for a few innings.

The community programs also remind us that while the PNC Park outfield might be bigger, seats more plentiful and the baseballs a little cleaner than the typical scholastic outing, the game itself is pretty much the same from Little League to the majors.

PNC Park also opens its doors to college programs. Penn State and West Virginia did battle there earlier this month.

n It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since the movie “The Sand Lot” was first released. The cast recently reunited to celebrate the milestone, and an anniversary video is now available.

The movie takes us back to a simpler time when kids spent more time playing outside and less time in front of video screens and cell phones. It reminds us that as far as sports have come in terms of competitive leagues, training practices and equipment, there was something pure and pretty wonderful about grabbing some friends and playing ball in the back yard, or a nearby field.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get some of that special kind of fun back for kids today to enjoy, like the never-ending game and the forever friendships depicted so charmingly in the film.

n The weather may be chilly, but the Saint Francis softball bats have been red-hot. The Red Flash, building on their historic 2017 season, are still unbeaten in 2018 Northeast Conference play, and over the weekend set a program offensive record, scoring 22 runs in the second game of a doubleheader sweep against LIU Brooklyn.

Saint Francis owns the nation’s longest Division I conference win streak at 25 games with the defense proving that the Flash program is truly the whole package. The team’s fielding percentage is better than 96 percent; their pitchers’ combined ERA is .273.

So if you want to see some good softball, make some time to follow the Flash. They travel to Penn State for a 5 p.m. doubleheader this Wednesday.

n Looking forward to enjoying some springtime sports without the winter jacket!

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.

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