PITTSBURGH -- Players and coaches have hit the road this week for the annual Pirates CARE-a-van, taking part in dozens of events in 11 cities. But their three-day trek around the greater Pittsburgh area began at home, in the heart of a community that was shaken by loss only months
PITTSBURGH -- Players and coaches have hit the road this week for the annual Pirates CARE-a-van, taking part in dozens of events in 11 cities. But their three-day trek around the greater Pittsburgh area began at home, in the heart of a community that was shaken by loss only months ago.
The Pirates' CARE-a-van started Wednesday with a trip to Tree of Life, the Squirrel Hill synagogue at which 11 people were killed and seven were injured in a mass shooting on Oct. 27. The Pirates are continuing to offer support. Pirates Charities previously donated $50,000 to three local organizations, and the CARE-a-van has given the Bucs a chance to visit Squirrel Hill and spend time with local police; all proceeds from the PiratesFest autograph sessions on Saturday will benefit local first responders.
"All these tragedies happen in the world, and it's always at a distance from you. Then something happens in the community -- even though I wasn't here, it still feels like my community -- and you talk to people who are affected directly, who lost loved ones, who lost people that they were close to, and it puts it in a different light," said Pirates left-hander Steven Brault, one of 10 players taking part in the CARE-a-van. "It's not just something you hear about on the news. It's something happening to real people. And it's so sad. But the way they've celebrated these people and the community has come together so well, it's very inspiring."
On Wednesday, Brault's CARE-a-van group, which also includes Jungho Kang, Jason Martin, Jesus Liranzo, Euclides Rojas and Heberto Andrade, hosted an assembly and served lunch to students at the Community Day School in Squirrel Hill. Meanwhile, another group of Pirates, including Nick Kingham, Kevin Kramer, Kevin Newman, Tom Prince and Kimera Bartee, spent time at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh.
A third CARE-a-van group consisting of Josh Bell, Cole Tucker. J.T. Brubaker, Joey Cora, Justin Meccage and Jacob Cruz began Wednesday's slate of activities by helping students learn baseball fundamentals at the DePaul School for Hearing and Speech. That group then helped pack food at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and later instructed an RBI youth group at the Pirates Community Baseball Center in Shadyside.
Meanwhile, Pirates broadcaster Joe Block joined the second group in Erie for a question-and-answer session and games at the Barber National Institute, followed by a collection drive at the LECOM Medical Fitness and Wellness Center.
Manager Clint Hurdle kicked off the CARE-a-van activities on Thursday with a visit to the Children's Institute Day School. Everyone else got on the road to take part in events around Pennsylvania (Altoona, Indiana, Washington, Uniontown, Butler and Greensburg) and Morgantown, W. Va.
The Pirates will be back in Pittsburgh on Friday. Team president Frank Coonelly, general manager Neal Huntington and Hurdle will deliver lunch and visit with staff at the Pittsburgh police headquarters, and all three CARE-a-van groups will deliver meals to six Pittsburgh police stations. The Bucs will also help out with service projects with the Light of Life Rescue Mission Donation Center and Operation Troop Appreciation, pass out Chick-fil-A sandwiches at the University of Pittsburgh, take part in a youth baseball event and host members of the Sarah Heinz House at the Children's Museum.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and read his blog.