PITTSBURGH -- Pirates closer Keone Kela remembers the first time he saw himself on a baseball card, the visual representation of his Major League dream coming true. The Pirates, Pirates Charities and the Topps Company unveiled a unique set of cards recognizing local police officers during a Zoom videoconference call on Tuesday afternoon.
Pirates Charities, Topps and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Officers launched the 2020 Pirates Charities Pittsburgh Police Baseball Card Program, with cards that have Pirates players on one side and Pittsburgh police officers on the other.
“I think the Pittsburgh Police Department is one of the best in the country, and certainly serves our community well during normal times and has done an outstanding job of serving our communities, keeping us safe and healthy, particularly throughout these very trying times that we’re going through right now,” Pirates president Travis Williams said during the call. “I think this is a fitting tribute for everything you do on a regular basis. I’m glad that we’re able to honor you.”
Topps specially creates the cards, and Pirates Charities provides the funding to print them as part of this program, which dates back to 2012. This year, the Pirates got involved by working with Topps on the design of each card.
Williams, Kela, broadcaster Joe Block, Pirates Charities executives and representatives from Topps took part in the unveiling with several members of local law enforcement on Tuesday. Block explained the details of the six cards, Kela thanked police officers for their “vital work in the community” and Williams -- admittedly more adept with video conferencing technology after the last two months -- helped share photos of each card. Kela and Williams also answered questions from police officers, ranging from their favorite players growing up to their favorite ballparks -- other than PNC Park, of course.
The set includes six cards. On the front of each is a different Pirates player: Chris Archer, Josh Bell, Adam Frazier, Trevor Williams, Bryan Reynolds and Kela. On the back is a photo of one City of Pittsburgh police officer: Michael Bailey, Bobbie Herndon, Alphonso Sloan, Neyib Velazquez, Celena Celender and Steven Hoffman, most of whom took part in Tuesday’s call to see their cards for the first time. The back of each card also features a quote from Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Officers typically distribute the cards to children as a goodwill gesture rewarding good behavior and positive attitudes, and they’ll also hand out their cards as the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police launches its “Need a Mask, Take a Mask” initiative. That program will help Pittsburgh residents obtain free protective face coverings if they don’t already have one; boxes of cloth masks are out in front of all six Pittsburgh Police Department Zone stations and two substations.
“It really is a wonderful partnership we have, and we deeply appreciate it,” said Pittsburgh police chief Scott Schubert.