Pirates launch 'Fields for Kids'

Pirates launch 'Fields for Kids'

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates launched their newest Pirates Charities initiative at PirateFest on Saturday with the announcement of a "Fields for Kids" program for the Pittsburgh community.

Pirates principal owner Bob Nutting announced this new grant program, which will provide matching grants from $1,000 to $5,000 for improvements, construction and renovations for baseball and softball fields in the region.

"I really believe that with the difficult economic times that we are headed into, it's even more important for Pirates Charities to reach out into the community," Nutting said. "It's a program designed for the youth of the area to get out and play baseball in a safe, wholesome environment."

Pirates Charities has initially committed $100,000 to the program, which includes $25,000 from Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit and $25,000 from the Grable Foundation.

"I just remember how much time I spent on a baseball field when I was that age, and the facilities that I had and the advantages that I had," Doumit said. "Now I'm fortunate enough to be put in a position where I can give back to the community and give these kids some of the same advantages that I had.

"I've driven around and kind of seen some of these sandlots, and it doesn't look like it is top-of-the-line-type stuff," he continued. "I want these fields to be enjoyable and something that these kids can be proud of."

These matching grants will be available for use in a variety of different renovation and construction projects, including the upgrading of sod, playing surfaces, fencing, dugouts and irrigation systems. These grants can also be put to use for facility improvements, including lights, bleachers, scoreboards and concession stands.

"We're extraordinarily blessed as a Major League Baseball club," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said. "It's our obligation and duty to give back into our community, because that's where our fans are. The best way that we will have fans for the future is making sure the youth of this country stays passionate about baseball."

Organizations that are interested in applying for one of these grants can find an application on the Pirates Charities page. Due dates for these applications are March 2, May 11 and Aug. 10, and final grant determinations will be made in April, June and September.

This is the third large initiative that Pirates Charities has made in the past year. In addition to working with more than 2,200 organizations in 2008, the Pirates also pledged money to help with the construction of the Josh Gibson Field in Pittsburgh's Hill District as well as the construction of the Miracle League Field in a northern Pittsburgh suburb.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.