Bucs lend helping hand in equipment drive

January 9th, 2022

It’s always rewarding when a major project comes to fruition. On Friday, the Pirates will collect gently used gear at PNC Park as one of the final touches to a larger effort that took place last year: A baseball and softball equipment drive to benefit young athletes in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Early in 2021, the ballclub was contacted by Clark Ehman, a North Side resident and a Pirates RBI baseball player who is currently a ninth grader at the Barack Obama Academy of International Studies in Pittsburgh. As part of a service project for school, Ehman decided to collect baseball and softball equipment to send to Latin America, and the Pirates came aboard to help ensure that the donations get to those in need.

Ehman sought assistance from the Pirates when the response to his call for donations far exceeded his expectations. In fact, it wasn’t long before his family’s garage was jam-packed with equipment.

“I was aiming for it to be a big drive, but I didn’t think it was going to be this big,” Ehman said. “We got a lot of equipment from a lot of different places. That was my goal the whole time, and it feels good when you actually accomplish it. Everyone was very generous, and the Pirates were really helpful in keeping the project going.”

According to Joel Gray, Pirates manager of community relations, there are now 20 large shipping crates (each approximately 89,100 cubic feet in size) that are loaded with equipment waiting to be shipped. That includes what Ehman and his family collected, plus items that were donated by the Boys & Girls Club of Shadyside and Roberto’s Kids.

On Friday, containers will be placed in the loading dock area at PNC Park on Mazeroski Way. Members of the community are encouraged to stop by between noon and 6 p.m. ET to donate additional equipment. Helmets, bats, baseballs and softballs, gloves, cleats and catching gear are the among the items being sought. Those who make donations during Friday’s event will receive a voucher for two free tickets to a 2022 Pirates game.

At the conclusion of the drive, the Pirates will ship the equipment to their Pirate City training complex in Bradenton, Fla., and from there it will be shipped to the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Juan Carlos, the director of the Pirates’ academy in the Dominican Republic, and Mayu Fielding, the team’s education coordinator for Latin American players, have worked to identify groups who will put the equipment to good use.

“Equipment drives are nice, but unless there are communities that want it and can use it, they’re not meaningful,” Gray said. “Juan and Mayu are our liaisons for getting the equipment to the right places. They reached out to their partners in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela so that we can distribute everything properly. As soon as we got their blessing, I was like, ‘OK, this is becoming real.’ We’ve been working on logistics ever since then.”

Last year, Ehman played center field and pitched some for his North Side RBI team, Obama Academy and his travel ball team (the Bianco Angels). His efforts with the equipment drive will help others play the game that so many love.

“To see a member of our Pirates RBI family become such as positive influence in the community is a very rewarding feeling for all of us in the organization,” said Jacque Skowvron, executive director of Pirates Charities & community outreach. “When we heard of Clark’s efforts, as well as the efforts of the Boys & Girls Club and Roberto’s Kids, we knew we wanted to give others in the community an opportunity to join this effort to give back and donate their previously used equipment to players in need.”

“Clark did a great job. He put a lot of passion behind this project,” Gray added. “His plan was thoroughly thought out. He was basically saying, ‘I’ll do the promotion and I’ll do the collecting, if you can just help me get the equipment to the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.’ We were able to use our contacts and expertise to get that done.”