ST. PETERSBURG -- Joe Maddon's voice conveyed his excitement about Friday's announcement that the Hazleton Integration Project -- the two-time American League Manager of the Year's pet project -- had reached a goal by purchasing a building that will serve as The Hazleton One Community Center in Hazleton, Pa.
"Purchasing the building was the first goal, and [the building] exceeds expectations -- it feels great," Maddon said on a conference call.
The project's mission is to provide a suitable location within Maddon's hometown conducive to creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged children to participate in a variety of cost-free or low-cost educational, cultural and athletic activities. The partners in the project include Tampa Bay Rays Baseball, the Ripken Baseball Foundation and the Board of Directors for the Hazleton Integration Project.
The project also includes the second annual three-day series of awareness and fund-raising programs that include the following:
Friday, Dec. 14: Fund-raising dinner of Italian, Polish and Hispanic food to be held at Genetti's Best Western located at 1341 North Church St, Hazleton, Pa. This event will feature former Yankees star Tino Martinez, along with Rays standouts Carlos Pena, Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta and Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons. There will also be an auction of rare and priceless memorabilia from the world of sports. Doors open at 6 p.m. ET, with the formal program beginning thereafter.
Saturday, Dec. 15: Join Maddon and his family at the Christmas Celebration at The Alice C. Wiltsie Performing Arts Center, featuring a variety show with exceptionally talented young people from around the Hazleton area. Admission is free to the public, and the show will begin at 7 p.m. at the Wiltsie Center at the Historic Castle.
Sunday, Dec. 16: Maddon and volunteers will serve the manager's traditional Thanksmas meal at the Hazleton Catholic Social Services Family Center located on South Church Street in Hazleton. Pre-registration is required for this second annual Thanksmas event.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.