PITTSBURGH -- When Trevor Williams and Cory Hahn were planning the inaugural fundraiser for their Project 34 foundation, they kicked around a few different ideas. A golf tournament would be great, sure. A dinner might be nice, too. But what about something different, something unique to their experience?That was the
PITTSBURGH -- When Trevor Williams and Cory Hahn were planning the inaugural fundraiser for their Project 34 foundation, they kicked around a few different ideas. A golf tournament would be great, sure. A dinner might be nice, too. But what about something different, something unique to their experience?
That was the thought process behind "Dingers in the Desert," the charitable home run derby set for Saturday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Williams, Hahn and their Project 34 team will host the event and put all the proceeds toward helping people with spinal cord injuries.
Williams, the Pirates starter, and Hahn, the D-backs' coordinator of professional scouting, officially founded the charitable non-profit Project 34 last March. They are hoping Saturday's event will become an annual tradition and a key part of their grant process.
"It should be a really fun day of baseball," Williams said. "It should be a fun day and cool for the kids to interact with the players, just enjoying a day of dingers."
There will be two tournaments during Saturday's event, one for young players and another for the professionals. Williams said the youth division will be made up of 10- to 12-year-olds from travel ball teams in the Phoenix area, and they have a handful of Major and Minor Leaguers ready to swing for the fences in the "main event." They will even have TrackMan data on the scoreboard, so the hitters know exactly how far and hard they're launching the ball.
The event will also feature question-and-answer sessions with players, autographs, food, drinks and Project 34 T-shirts in the color scheme of Williams and Hahn's alma mater, Arizona State University. By the end of Spring Training, Williams said, they hope to have a Project 34 player representative on all 30 big league teams.
Williams has done his part to promote the foundation. He changed his uniform number to 34 last offseason to honor Hahn, who suffered a career-ending spinal cord injury after a headfirst slide into second base while playing at Arizona State in 2011. Through the foundation, they hope to offer financial support for physical therapy, medical equipment and other assistance for those living with similar injuries.
"We're still in our infancy stage. It hasn't even been a year yet," Williams said. "But from what we've seen, we've seen a lot of support from players, from people that want to support and reached out."
The only thing working against the organizers on Saturday is timing. A number of teams, including the Pirates, are holding their annual fan festivals this weekend, so many players who were interested in the event won't be able to be there. Among the professional players expected to attend are Matt Davidson, Scott Kingery, D.J. Peterson, Dustin Peterson, Jacob Nottingham, Bobby Dalbec, Drew Stankiewicz and Andrew Aplin.
ESPN's Pedro Gomez is set to handle the on-field announcing for the home run derby, while Williams will serve as master of ceremonies. Unless someone wants him to launch a few dingers, that is.
"If the fans want to see that, I'll take some swings," Williams said, laughing. "But I think I'm going to stick to emceeing."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and read his blog.