The eyes only got wider as Xavier Nady came over and said hello. He welcomed the group to PNC Park and then hopped into the second row to take a group photo. He stayed in the stands, letting children climb on him as he posed for more photos and signed autographs.
"It's a lot of fun to go over there and put some smiles on faces of kids that might not ever get a chance to go to the game," Nady said. "To carry on a conversation with them and get in their seats, it was pretty neat."
Nady hosted dozens of local children before Friday's game as part of the Buses for Baseball program, which is supported by the Players Trust, a charitable foundation of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Nady stayed with the kids for over 20 minutes and accommodated every request, except for one from 13-year-old Desmond Davis.
"I'll trade you hats," Davis said, pointing to his new Pirates hat.
"I'd give you this one if I didn't have to wear it tonight," Nady replied.
Even though he couldn't snag a Major League player's hat, -- "I was this close," he said, Davis was still having the time of his life.
"I'm just so excited. It's so cool," Davis said while sitting in the front row. "I've never been this close to a baseball field or a baseball player."
Actually, he was able to see several players up close, as Nady made sure a number of his Pirates teammates came over to say hello and sign autographs.
Shawn Chacon sprinted in from the outfield yelling, "Heads up, heads up," as he jumped on the tarp, stopping just short of the kids, before he began signing. Nate McLouth and Matt Capps were just a couple of the many other players who signed and gave the kids autographed baseballs.
"It's great being in a position where I feel like I can give back a little bit," Capps said. "To go out and have a little bit of fun with them is fun for us as players, too."
Even after most of the players had left to take batting practice or play catch in the outfield, they kept giving to the kids. Balls rolled towards the stands from all corners of PNC Park and were tossed into the crowd.
The reverend Terry Davis grabbed one of the first ones and was immediately mobbed by children looking for the ball. He gave it to a little girl before moving a few seats away to avoid any possibility of catching another.
"I was kind of being bum rushed for that ball," Davis said, laughing.
Davis said the Buses for Baseball program provided a great opportunity for the children, and he enjoyed seeing their reactions on the field.
"We have so many kids that want this experience," Davis said. "They may not even know all the players, but the fact that someone in this type of profession is taking time with them, signing their sheets, signing their hats, giving them a ball, speaks volumes.
"They'll never forget that for the rest of their lives."
It was a day Irwin Banks won't be forgetting anytime soon, either, because it was the first time he was able to bring his 7-year-old son, Ian, to a professional game. Banks said he remembered the first time his father brought him to Forbes Field as a special day, and said the players' reception to the kids made the experience even better for Ian.
"The way they're welcoming these kids is just unbelievable," Banks said. "He's having the time of his life right now."
Ian agreed with his dad, saying he was having "a lot of fun," as he showed off his glove that was autographed by several players, including his favorite, McLouth.
The experience was great for the kids, but rewarding for Nady and his teammates as well.
"For me, it's pretty much all about trying to put a smile on a kid's face," Nady said, smiling himself.
He, along with his teammates, lit up dozens of faces on Friday.
Jeremy Anders is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less