07/07/06 9:52 PM ET
MLB joins Boys & Girls Club renovation
All-Star Week project to help 700 local kids
By Christie Cowles / MLB.com
Seven-time All-Star and former Pittsburgh Pirate Al Oliver joined in the festivities at the club as well. He held court with a group of kids in the outfield, sharing stories about his playing days and encouraging them to do their best and make positive choices in life.Oliver said he was happy to get involved with a project that would benefit children. He currently lives in Portsmouth, Ohio, and is active with the YMCA there. He was involved with Boys & Girls Clubs during his Major League career and said he has enjoyed working with youth-related organizations throughout his life. "As soon as I heard Boys & Girls Club, I jumped on that," said Oliver. "I really believe that it's important for our young people today to make positive choices. ... The younger we are when we learn, then we just carry those things on." In another corner of the outfield, the Pirate mascot entertained the kids as he posed for photos, danced and played "Simon says" with them. The club members were happy to see the renovations and can't wait to try out the new field. Kasey Dansak, 10, said she's been involved in baseball and basketball activities and camps with the LaRosa Boys & Girls Club for two years so far and said she likes baseball because "it's the only sport you can strike out in." "Half the fun of it is striking out and then coming up with a big hit the next time you're up," Dansak said. Devin Hill, 9, has been with the club for three years and said he enjoys playing in the gym and getting involved in games and activities there, such as baseball. "It's a fun activity I can do in the summer, so I don't have to sit in the house," Hill said. "[The new field] is very cool -- the Boys & Girls Club in McKeesport rules." The dignitaries present, including McKeesport Mayor James R. Brewster, U.S. Representative Mike Doyle, State Senator Sean Logan, McKeesport City Councilman Michael E. Cherepko and MLB's vice president of community affairs Tom Brasuell, the volunteers and kids gathered for a board-cutting ceremony at the end of the day's work. Then ceremonial first pitches were thrown by representatives from Home Depot, KaBOOM!, the Boys & Girls Club and MLB's Brasuell to christen the refurbished field. "This ground that we're standing on -- future kids, and you [kids] here are going to be able to play, enjoy and learn baseball and softball -- we hope it's going to produce future Major Leaguers one day," said Brasuell. With the bright green grass covering the outfield, the fresh infield dirt just waiting to be slid in and Oliver standing nearby reminding them he was just like them not so very long ago, the kids seemed to think that perhaps those big-league dreams could come true for them one day also.
Christie Cowles is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.