PITTSBURGH -- A group of 150 local kids between ages 5-14 were able to run across the PNC Park outfield while participating in drills and games on Sunday morning as the Pirates hosted their yearly Play Ball event."This is the fourth year the Pirates are doing the Play Ball initiative,"
PITTSBURGH -- A group of 150 local kids between ages 5-14 were able to run across the PNC Park outfield while participating in drills and games on Sunday morning as the Pirates hosted their yearly Play Ball event.
"This is the fourth year the Pirates are doing the Play Ball initiative," said Chris Ganter, manager of youth baseball initiatives for the Pirates organization. "It's a relatively new program that Major League Baseball started in an effort to raise awareness for the sport and also teach kids about the fun ways to enjoy the sport of baseball and softball without necessarily needing 18 players out on a formal field."
The day began at 8 a.m. ET, as the boys and girls in attendance -- wearing black "Pirates Play Ball 2018" T-shirts -- participated in running, hitting, fielding and pitching drills on the field, with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and other coaches looking on and helping out. The kids were divided into groups and rotated through five stations set up throughout the field, each housing a different drill.
The free event was part of the Play Ball program that Major League Baseball and USA Baseball collaboratively launched in 2015. In an effort to inspire active participation in baseball and softball throughout America's youth, Play Ball puts an emphasis on teaching kids how to play the game even when not participating in organized baseball leagues.
"It's critical to the Pirates organization that our kids have the opportunity to play baseball and softball," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said. "There's so much that comes from that great sport. This is America's game. We have to make sure that in our community, at the very least, where we can have an impact, that the kids know that the great game of baseball is something that they should treasure."
The program concluded at 11:30 a.m., after a 30-minute Q&A session with Pirates outfielder Jose Osuna, infielder Adam Frazier, hitting coaches Jeff Branson and Jeff Livesey, and broadcaster John Werner. The group fielded questions on a wide range of topics -- from baseball to dancing to video games -- and provided advice to the youth about the types of drills they can do at home to improve their hitting skills.
"It means a lot because it's about giving back and trying to get the kids to understand we're a person just like they are," Branson said. "It's about giving the information that we've learned back to them."
Mason Wittner is a reporter for MLB.com.