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Pirates Make Major Impact with Roberto Clemente Day of Giving

The Pirates and Pirates Charities honored the life and legacy of "The Great One" on September 6 this past season with the Roberto Clemente Day of Giving. The initiative -- conducted in conjunction with Major League Baseball's 16th annual Roberto Clemente Day -- included several service projects in the greater Pittsburgh area that involved Pirates players, coaches, alumni and front office executives as well as the Clemente family.   
As part of the overall MLB celebration, the Roberto Clemente Day logo appeared on bases, line-up cards and fields around both leagues in remembrance of the Hall of Famer who is known as much for his humanitarian endeavors as his on-field play. 

In 2017, the Pirates' salute to No. 21 took the form of the aforementioned Roberto Clemente Day of Giving, during which team representatives split into five groups in an effort to make a greater impact.

Here are the events the groups participated in: 

  • The Pirates visited the Allegheny Intermediate Unit Latino Family Center, where they conducted a youth baseball skills clinic. Kids rotated through four stations -- hitting, fielding, running and catching -- and received instruction in those fundamentals from former National League stolen base champion Omar Moreno and current Pirates such as Felipe Rivero, Starling Marte, Francisco Cervelli and Gregory Polanco. After the clinic, everyone got to enjoy authentic Spanish cuisine.

In addition, Pirates Charities donated much-needed supplies to assist the families involved. The AIU Latino Family Center supports families by providing tools and resources necessary to strengthen the family unit and raise healthy and happy children. Its FATHERHOOD initiative cultivates safe spaces for Latino fathers to discuss their struggles, dreams, culture and journeys.

  • Manager Clint Hurdle and President Frank Coonelly were joined by outfielder John Jaso, and coaches Ray Searage and Dave Jauss at the Light of Life Rescue Mission on the North Side, where they assisted with an outdoor barbeque lunch for more than 200 patrons and neighbors. Levy Restaurants provided the food and beverages through their Levy Cares program, and Pirates Charities donated items such as socks, undergarments and hygiene kits. 

Light of Life Rescue Mission provides a home for the homeless and food for the hungry, and works to build disciples among the poor, addicted, abused and needy.

  • Former Pirates pitching greats Steve Blass, Kent Tekulve and Grant Jackson joined General Manager Neal Huntington, Bench Coach Tom Prince and current players such as David Freese and Adam Frazier to serve as bingo callers at the Veterans Affairs Hospital. 

The group also had dessert and coffee with the patients.

Pirates-related prizes were provided throughout the event at the H.J. Heinz VA Campus in Aspinwall, which serves as an adult health care center and provides a safe and active environment. It's designed to get veterans out of their homes to participate in activities.

  • The Pirates partnered with the Harrisons for Hope Foundation to support 20 local children in need with a shopping event at DICK's Sporting Goods in Cranberry. During the outing, Josh Harrison and his wife Brittney helped kids recommended by the Salvation Army shop for warm winter clothes such as boots, coats, gloves and hats alongside teammates such as Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole, Jordy Mercer and Jameson Taillon.  

"Anytime you can put a smile on kids' faces, that's what we do it for," Josh said. "We're blessed (as players), and anytime we can be a blessing to others is always good."

The mission of the Harrisons for Hope Foundation is to provide children from low-income families with clothing from the cradle to college.

  • Youngsters at Westinghouse Academy got a big surprise when a group of Pirates players that included Josh Bell, Chad Kuhl, George Kontos and others visited and took part in an assembly for middle school students at this Pittsburgh Public School. Roberto's son, Luis Clemente, was also a special guest. The Pirates partnered with Pittsburgh Promise on the event, and donated backpacks and school supplies for the high school students. In addition, lunch was provided to the students, faculty and staff, in partnership with Chick-fil-A.
  • Also on September 6, Harrison was named the Pirates' 2017 nominee for Major League Baseball's prestigious Roberto Clemente Award. The honor recognizes the player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy, and positive contributions on and off the field. Each team nominates one current player to be considered for the Clemente Award.

Since JHay became part of the Pirates' major-league team in 2011, he has always been active in the community. During his 2014 All-Star season, he hosted his first All-Star Dinner to raise money for a national program called Blessings in a Backpack. That program mobilizes communities and individuals to provide food on weekends for elementary school children who might otherwise go hungry. Harrison has supported Blessing in a Backpack since its inception and donates time and money each year to assist the program through the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Pirates Charities.

In 2015, Josh and Brittney founded the Harrisons for Hope Foundation, which raises money to help provide children from low-income families with clothing from cradle to college. A Martin Luther King Jr. Day baseball camp in Ohio hosted by Josh and his older brother Vince, a fundraising gala called the BaseBall, and a baby shower that assisted 50 low-income expectant and new mothers are among the events the foundation has hosted.

During the AT&T SportsNet telecast of the Pirates-Cubs game on September 6, JHay had this to say about being nominated for the Clemente Award (which was presented to Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs during the World Series):

"I'm very excited and very humbled too, considering what Roberto Clemente stood for and the legacy he left. It's something that I don't take lightly. It's always pretty cool when you can be recognized for something like that, especially being a Pittsburgh Pirate.

"What he stood for is something far greater than what we could ever imagine. I don't do what I do for any recognition. I realize there's a greater purpose for my life than just baseball. I can use this platform to help others that are in need."