Bucs unveil 'Team of the Game' initiative

Local baseball, softball squads will be recognized at PNC Park throughout season

Bucs unveil 'Team of the Game' initiative

PITTSBURGH -- With MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on hand, the Pirates on Tuesday unveiled a season-long Play Ball initiative to recognize local youth baseball and softball teams.

Throughout the season, each team designated as a Pirates Play Ball "Team of the Game" will receive complimentary tickets and food vouchers for a Tuesday home game while being recognized on the field during a pregame ceremony.

Before the Pirates hosted the Cubs on Tuesday night at PNC Park, Manfred was joined by Pirates owner Bob Nutting, team president Frank Coonelly and first baseman Josh Bell along with Pittsburgh's Holy Family Academy high school baseball team.

"Play Ball, to me, is Baseball's investment in the future of our game," Manfred said. "It is crucial that we get kids playing the game, that we attract the best athletes among young people to the game so that we continue to have the greatest athletes in the world playing at the Major League level. Even more important than that, the single biggest determinant of whether somebody is going to be a baseball fan as an adult is whether they play as a kid.

"So we need to make that investment and make sure kids -- even if they're lousy, like I was -- play the game, learn to love it, but also make sure we have programs in place -- programs like the MLB Academies, the Elite Development Program -- that encourage the best athletes to stay with our game and work toward becoming Major League players."

This will be the second full season for Holy Family Academy, an independent Catholic high school located in Emsworth, Penn. When the baseball team reported a need for uniforms and equipment, Pirates Charities partnered with a sporting goods chain to purchase gear for Holy Family Academy's players.

To that end, the Pirates and Major League Baseball donated $7,600 to support the academy's baseball program this year. Manfred, Nutting, Coonelly and Bell joined the team on the field before Tuesday's game to present a $7,600 check.

"The Team of the Game program is one of several that reflect our renewed focus and energy behind our commitment to support youth baseball and softball programs throughout our region," Nutting said in a statement. "Major League Baseball, under the leadership of Commissioner Manfred, has made tremendous strides in promoting and growing our game of baseball. We are proud to share in that commitment here in our local communities."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.