Pirates Community Baseball Center Opens Doors

Article excerpt

Jalen Jones loves to play baseball, but with temperatures in the teens, this is not the perfect weather to be on a field for batting practice.

Still, the 13-year-old seventh grader from the North Side was able to hit balls Thursday. He was one of the first youngsters to try out the Pirates Community Baseball Center located at the Shadyside/East Liberty Boys & Girls Club.

The facility was christened at a news conference yesterday.

"This is great," Jones said. "Because it is way too cold outside to be playing baseball. I plan to come here a lot."

Members of Pirates Charities hope he does.

Pirates Charities teamed with the Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund and the Roberto Clemente Foundation to build a state-of-the art, year-round baseball and softball training complex. The project consisted of refurbishing an old, leaky swimming pool and cost $300,000, of which Pirates Charities contributed $165,000.

The facility has two batting cages for softball and baseball and one pitching cage. Each batting cage can hold 400 baseballs and 200 softballs and generate pitches as fast as 85 mph. There will be no charge to use the cages, which will be open seven days a week. An estimated 2,000-3,000 boys and girls are expected to use the facility.

Jones was one of the first to test out the batting machine.

"Good hit," said Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield, who stood outside the cage. "Way to go. I am always looking for talented ball players."

Littlefield said the center can create interest in the sport year round, especially in Pittsburgh where the winter months can keep players sidelined because of bad weather.

Matt Limbach, 15, from Mt. Lebanon who goes to Shady Side Academy, said this will give him a chance to get a jump start on the baseball season. …