Pirates closer David Bednar grew up admiring those in the black and gold. Now, the Pittsburgh native is the role model in black and gold whom kids are looking up to today.
“I just want to give back any chance I get,” Bednar said. “I’m so proud to be from Pittsburgh. I was those little kids once and I know how much it would mean to me if somebody from the Pirates, Steelers or Penguins would show up, so just trying to pay it forward and pay it back.”
That giving-back mentality and love for Pittsburgh earned Bednar his second Roberto Clemente Award nomination in as many years. This prestigious honor recognizes those who best represent the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions on and off the field. For the Pirates, that is “The Renegade.”
“Growing up here, walking across the Clemente Bridge for a game and seeing the statue, I think you have a greater appreciation for who he is and what he did not only for this city but for everywhere. Just to be nominated for that is incredibly humbling,” Bednar said.
The Mars Area High School graduate’s passion for giving back is a year-round initiative. When the baseball season comes to an end, the impact Bednar has on his hometown does not. It doesn’t matter the day of the week, time of day or whether it’s in-season or in the offseason, Pirates Charities and the Pittsburgh community can always count on Bednar. In total, the two-time Major League All-Star committed more than 50 hours of his time across over 70 initiatives in the community in the past year.
“The course of a Major League season is a grind,” Derek Shelton told MLB.com’s Justice delos Santos. “There's time where he's pitched the night before, or maybe it's two nights ago, where maybe he pitches and has to grind through it and he's still doing things. … When we talked about the nomination with our group, they told me that he hadn’t said no to [anything] that he had been asked to do. That's extremely special, because there's times when you don't feel good, you got stuff going on, he makes the time regardless of what he's doing.”
Since joining the Pirates organization in 2021, Bednar has been a staple on the mound at PNC Park, a contagious personality in the clubhouse, and an influential figure in the Pittsburgh community.
Bednar’s willingness to lend a hand continues to make a lasting impact on key areas of focus for Pirates Charities -- mental health, youth baseball and softball, cancer support and military appreciation. So, here’s a glimpse into his love for his hometown community.
Last season, Bednar visited nine schools and touched the lives of more than 6,000 students as part of the Chill Mobile program. This mental health initiative offers students across the Pittsburgh region a calming space while striving toward improving individual mental health, extending the conversation into the larger community, and reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and wellness.
With the new school year freshly underway, Bednar has locked in his attendance for more kickoff assemblies, speaking to students about how he copes in the stressful situations he faces as a closer in the MLB and reinforcing the important message that it’s OK to not be OK.
During the holidays last year, Bednar joined the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Pirates community team for a Thanksgiving dinner distribution to load meals, gift cards and goodies into more than 300 local families’ cars. Additionally, David helped to lead a donation effort of more than 500 canned goods for Light of Life Rescue Mission, a Pittsburgh-area homeless shelter, in support of their efforts to feed the homeless a full Thanksgiving dinner.
"David truly embodies the culture of service that is expected here at the Pirates,” Jacque Skowvron, executive director of Pirates Charities & Community Engagement. “Part of wearing the uniform is giving back and serving our community, and David has lived up to that organizational standard. It's always fun to see him in action, interacting with kids, fans and community groups. He is genuine and relatable, warm and inviting, and takes the time to make each interaction special."
Throughout the 2023 season, Pirates and Pirates Charities celebrated 15 years of Miracle League’s presence in Western Pennsylvania with various Miracle League events throughout the season, and Bednar spread his love for the sport at all of them. Three Miracle League Fantasy Camp events were held for approximately 120 athletes with unique abilities where Pirates players and coaches led them through several skill-based stations and focused on the message of highlighting what these athletes can do instead of what they can’t. At each event, No. 51 presented a commemorative medal to athletes and signed countless autographs for all his Miracle League buddies.
Bednar continued his work in the mental health space when the Pirates and Pirates Charities celebrated Mental Health Awareness Month by hosting the second annual Pirates Charities Family Walk at PNC Park. This community event invited fans to a non-competitive walk around the ballpark, with all proceeds benefiting the Pirates Charities Chill Mobile program. He and his wife, Casey, were present at the walk to mingle with attendees, sign autographs and share stories of his involvement in the program.
Last but not least, Lending Hearts. Bednar has formed a strong connection with this local organization that supports Pittsburghers and their families impacted by pediatric cancer. Through financial support and by providing special visits to local patients, he has made an impact in this very important space over the last year. In July, the pitcher hosted a clinic at PNC Park for current patients and their siblings where he taught them basic baseball skills and gave them a day on the field they’ll never forget.
“Once I got traded over and had the opportunity to a Pirates uniform on, just trying to embody that spirit and try to carry on that legacy as best I can,” Bednar said. “It’s something I take a lot of pride in and something the organization itself takes a lot of pride in. I’m very thankful for the Pirates and for Mr. [Bob] Nutting and his family, who place such an emphasis on that aspect of it and continue to give back.”
Bednar truly embodies and embraces everything Pittsburgh, just like Clemente did. He’s always ready to jump in when help is needed, and he goes above and beyond every time he does. Whether that’s saving a game for the Bucs or spreading the love of the sport to the youth, Bednar is constantly demonstrating his passion for the game which also earned him the Pirates' 2023 Heart and Hustle Award.
Being a nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award means everything to the Pittsburgh native given what Clemente meant to the world of baseball and the city of Pittsburgh. Coming from someone who won the award back in 2015, Andrew McCutchen knows just how much this recognition means to him and what it would mean for his teammate.
“It’s just as, if not more important to me than the MVP. It just showed me that I'm being able to use what I have and the resources that I have to be able to try and make a difference around me, and around others,” McCutchen said. “Now with Bednar, essentially, being able to be from here and represent the Pirates, that's great to be a nominee but hopefully, he’s able to win it because I’m sure it’d mean a lot to him.”
There’s still time to vote for David Bednar to win this year’s Roberto Clemente Award!