The Pittsburgh Pirates will not be seen in the major league baseball playoffs again this year ― they just concluded their 19th consecutive losing season.
But thanks to a unique partnership with Pittsburgh Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Bucs are big time champions off the field this season.
On July 22, Pittsburgh Presbytery had their night at the Pirates’ PNC Park and launched “Home Runs for Hunger” to help raise awareness and support for those people in Southwestern Pennsylvania needing food.
“Home Runs for Hunger” was born when the Pirates got off to an uncharacteristically fast start this season, fueling unprecedented excitement among their fans.
“There is momentum that has built with the Pirates this year in terms of civic spirit, and we want to build on that momentum,” pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery the Rev. Sheldon Sorge told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when the campaign began. “We not only want to celebrate but to do it in a way that benefits the community.”
During the second half of the season, Presbyterian congregations “sponsored” Pirates home games and every time a Pirate player hit a home run, the sponsoring Presbyterians gave $100 or more to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
Through on-line giving, individuals, churches, and several businesses ― and Pirates hitters ― raised $8,076, easily exceeding the goal of $6,000 set when the campaign started.
“This comes out to almost $188 for each of the 43 home runs hit by Pirate players since presbytery night in late July,” said Gregg Hartung, director of the Pittsburgh-based Presbyterian Media Mission. Hartung coordinated the media and social networking that happened throughout the three months.
“We learned a lot,” said Hartung, “and more importantly we helped people in the context of the Biblical mandate to ‘feed the hungry.’”
The Pittsburgh area has been hit hard by job losses and home foreclosures, Hartung said, indicators that poverty and hunger is on the increase.
On Fan Appreciation Night at PNC Park, Sept. 24, a check was presented before the Pirates game to the food bank by the Rev. Doug Portz, associate pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery and the Rev. Ken White of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Mt. Lebanon, one of the major supporting congregations of the campaign.