The Pirates and the Greater Baldwin-Whitehall Athletic Association (GBWAA) held a ribbon-cutting event at Leland Field on June 17. Pirates President Frank Coonelly and pitcher Chad Kuhl were in attendance that day along with key members of the Baldwin and Whitehall communities.
When Pirates Charities announced its first round of Fields for Kids grants this year, the GBWAA was one of 20 area non-profit organizations selected. A $10,000 matching grant helped the renovation of Leland Field become a reality. Altogether the funding assisted with the reconditioning of two of Baldwin's primary baseball fields and the league's primary softball field in Whitehall. Those fields serve more than 750 youngsters.
The morning festivities at Leland Field began with the ribbon-cutting ceremony and included a youth skills competition. More than 100 kids attended, and when they lined up for the ceremony, a strong visual of those impacted by the grant and the work put in by the GBWAA was presented. The skills competition was a fun way for the kids to break in the newly renovated field and showcase their talents by running the bases, pitching for accuracy, and participating in throwing drills.
"The fields here are beautiful and it's so great to see the many boys and girls who love the game of baseball come out to be with their friends and have fun at this event," Coonelly said back on June 17. "This is why Pirates Charities is so thrilled to be able to give back to the community and help ensure that all kids in the greater Pittsburgh area are able to play baseball and softball."
More recently, Jesse Siefert of the GBWAA offered these comments:
"Historically, whenever we would get a lot of rain, it would take us a good day to day and a half to get the fields back where they needed to be and have a game. But we worked with the Pirates and found this material called Mar-Co Clay that dramatically increased the playability of the fields and the safety of our players.
"With the number of players that we serve and the number of games we have, it makes a huge difference to be able to get games in. There have been times this season when we had tremendous rain fall, and within an hour of the rain stopping we were able to play a game. It used to take way longer for things to dry out and for us to be able to play again."
Siefert also pointed out that the grant from Pirates Charities helped create awareness about the work the GBWAA facilities needed, which led to support from other sources.
"One of the things I shared with Frank Coonelly was that the grant from the Pirates jump-started support within the community," Siefert said. "All of a sudden there were a lot more folks interested in getting involved because the Pirates took the first step in supporting us. That caught the attention of a lot of people."
Fields for Kids, which was established in 2009, is one of Pirates Charities' signature programs. It provides financial support to improve youth baseball and softball facilities through matching grants. Funds may be used for the upgrading of essential field components such as sod, infield playing surfaces, fencing, dugouts and irrigation systems.