Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pirates, Rays come up big

The Pirates and Rays put some money together and renovated the baseball fields at Norma Lloyd Park in Bradenton for the RBI Program, run by the 13th Ave. Community Rec Center.

Great move.

You won't find many major league teams that will work with another on a community project, mainly because it's hard to find two teams that share a fan base, Rays president Matt Silverman said.

The Rays and Pirates do.

The Pirates train in Bradenton. The Rays play across the bay from Bradenton. Actually, across the bay from Palmetto, but you can see Tropicana Field from several points in Bradenton.

Rays pitcher James Shields and Pirates pitcher Matt Capps, who lives in Bradenton, also kicked in, showing they do more than talk about caring for the fan base, they actually contribute to making something better for said fans.

The ball fields are beautiful. The kids in the RBI program don't know how fortunate they are to have a pair of diamonds of that quality.

It won't make them better ball players, though it could help the infielders with their fielding.

They key to their development is the input from the parents. Will they help maintain the fields? Will they help nurture the love for the game?

Football is the sport of choice in Bradenton, with every receiver hoping to be the next Peter Warrick and every quarterback hoping to be the next Tommie Frazier and every defender wanting to be the next Michael Jenkins or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

But there is nothing to say they can't be the next Lastings Milledge or Lance Carter or Joe Mays, a trio of major league players who learned their skills on those very ball fields.

Patrick Carnegie, the executive director of the 13th Ave. Coomunity Rec Center, who played ball on those fields more than a few years ago, had this to say Thursday morning as he glanced around the complex, "It really is a field of dreams, so you never know."

Hey kids, Play Ball!

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