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For Bucs, giving thanks means giving back

For Bucs, giving thanks means giving back

PITTSBURGH -- For all the shortcomings the Pirates may have displayed on the field in 2010, the club undoubtedly impacted the community in ways that had nothing to do with wins and losses.

As 2010 nears an end, so, too, does one of the organization's most active years in Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities. Various players created their own initiatives and undertakings, while Pirates Charities raised and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to local causes.

"Making a meaningful impact in the greater Pittsburgh community is something that is extremely important to the Pirates as an organization," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said. "We are proud that so many of our players, coaches and employees choose to give their time off the diamond and make a positive impact on the communities in which they live."

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The year's biggest charity event came at the end of July, when Pirates Charities hosted its fifth annual Pirates Charities Golf Classic. Held at the Fox Chapel Golf Club, the event gave fans the opportunity to take the course with current Pirates players, team alumni and members of the front office. In all, the event raised $141,311.

Another of Pirates Charities' biggest fundraising events was held just a month earlier. During a game against Cleveland, Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh held an on-air auction. Among the items up for bid were a private pitching tutorial, a trip to Spring Training and a backstage tour of the FSN studio. Bids were received from 17 states, and more than $76,500 was raised.

Pirates Charities, the philanthropic arm of the organization, oversaw a Field for Kids program that provided grants to improve local baseball and softball fields. It also partnered with the local Make-A-Wish Foundation to support a scholarship program.

Infielder Andy LaRoche, one of the most visible players in the community this season, was recognized for his community involvement by being the team's Roberto Clemente Award nominee. LaRoche treated children with Down Syndrome to VIP treatment during each homestand, and he frequently showed up at the Pirates Charities Miracle League Field to be an honorary coach and meet the children.

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"Bringing kids out, I enjoy it just as much as they do," LaRoche said. "It is an honor. It's something that I hope I'll be able to do with kids, as long as we keep finding kids that want to keep coming out and hang with us. If so, I'm more than happy to hang for a little while."

Paul Maholm and his wife, Jessica, raised $27,000 for the Gilda's Club of Western Pennsylvania through the couple's "Strike Out Cancer" event. The Maholms also hosted support groups from Gilda's at PNC Park throughout the year.

Hosted by Zach Duke and his wife, Kristen, the annual "Bowling with the Bucs" event raised $20,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Jeff Karstens set aside one day during each homestand to visit patients in a local hospital. Ross Ohlendorf held a story time with students who had achieved summer reading goals.

A group of players attended the July Miracle League Fantasy Camp, while another group handed out supplies at a local Domestic Violence Awareness initiative. As a part of Major League Baseball's Clemente Day, Pirates players and coaches delivered a truck full of goods to children at the Pittsburgh King PreK-8 school.

The Pirates' Major Leaguers were not the only members of the organization to serve in the community. The organization's Community Commitment Program requires that players at each level in the system put in at least 10 hours of community service during the season.

The year won't come to an end without a few more community outreach projects first taking place, either. On Dec. 4, the Pirates are hosting their annual holiday party. This year, guests from the Allegheny County Child Services Department will come to PNC Park, where various activities will be set up for them to enjoy.

Later in the month, members of the Pirates' front office will be serving dinner at the Light of Life Rescue Mission. President Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington will be among those volunteering.

The front office is also hosting its own holiday party, this one for children of Holy Family Institutes. All kids in attendance will receive a stocking full of goodies, including a Pirates jersey, and will enjoy dinner, cookie decorating, Wii tournaments and other activities.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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