PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates dominated local headlines for a few weeks this summer when their surprising climb to the top of the National League Central division rejuvenated the city's fan base.
With much less fanfare, the 2011 Pirates left their handprint all over the Pittsburgh area in ways that had nothing to do with on-field victories. Now, with Thanksgiving celebrations taking place this week, it seems as appropriate a time as any to recognize the organization's impact in the community this year.
Once again, the Pirates engaged in several fundraising initiatives, many of which raised money for the organization's philanthropic arm, Pirates Charities.
The largest fundraiser was the sixth annual Pirates Charities Golf Classic, which helped to collect $161,450. The August event paired Pirates players, coaches, broadcasters, alumni and front office executives with fans for a round of golf.
The ROOT Sports TV Auction raised over $115,000 for Pirates Charities, while the Sporting Clays Invitational and 5K Home Run race combined to collect another $132,000.
"The Pirates' commitment to the community is one we take very seriously throughout the year," owner Bob Nutting said. "I am extremely proud of the positive impact we have made, whether it be in the form of providing funding for the construction of Miracle League Fields, helping youth baseball and softball organizations to keep their playing fields in good condition or supporting the efforts of local service organizations who provide after-school opportunities for our children."
As noted by Nutting, the monies raised through various events were used to provide a number of different services. There was assistance given to the construction of Miracle League Fields in Bradenton, Fla., South Hills, Pa., and Wheeling, W.Va. These Miracle League Fields are designed specifically for use by children with special needs.
Pirates Charities has also pledged its support for Miracle League fields in Murrysville, Pa., and Cranberry Township, Pa.
The organization also provided money to help renovate Pittsburgh's Sanguigni Field, which is used by youth baseball and softball players, and gave matched grants for other area fields that needed updating.
Another $22,000 was donated in the form of supplies to Pittsburgh's Faison PreK-5 in Homewood, Pa., in September. The entire Bucs team and coaching staff, along with members of Pirates legend Roberto Clemente's family, distributed those supplies and spoke at an assembly.
In addition to organization-driven initiatives, manager Clint Hurdle, as well as pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Karstens, started their own charity efforts during the season.
Hurdle's "Wins for Kids" programs encouraged donors to pledge dollars per Pirates wins in 2011. Over $52,000 was raised to benefit the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh's Prader-Willi Syndrome Program and Pirates Charities. Hurdle's daughter, Maddie, was born with the rare genetic disorder.
Morton spent the year working specifically with military members and their families. In addition to making a monetary contribution to "adopt a unit" through Operation Troop Appreciation, Morton invited 35 active military personnel and their families to enjoy a July 4 celebration at PNC Park.
In an event he titled Karstens Kares, Karstens hosted a celebrity chef night at a local restaurant to benefit Pirates Charities and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Karstens, who also made regular in-season visits to the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, was named the Pirates' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award this season.
The Clemente Award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team.
"Every person at the Pirates -- from myself to our manager, coaches and players to our front-office staff, to all of our employees throughout our system -- understand that giving back is a significant part of each of our responsibilities as an employee of the Pittsburgh Pirates," Nutting said. "We embrace that role and look forward to how we can continue to make a positive difference for many years to come."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.