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50/50 raffle ahead of the game for Pirates Charities

| Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
Miracle League of Southwestern Pennsylvania
Terry Shulsky (left), a manager at the Cranberry Miracle League field, pauses with player Ella Tomaszewski and her team Buddy, Meaghan Dunbar.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Jona DeChellis, 22, sells 50/50 tickets to Jessica Hultz, 21, of Greenfield outside PNC Park on Thursday, October 3, 2013.
Miracle League of Southwestern Pennsylvania
The Miracle League field in Cranberry has become the model for other sites in this area and in Florida.

When organizers of Pirates Charities decided this spring to offer a 50/50 raffle at PNC Park, Patty Paytas says they had “modest expectations. We thought it would take awhile.”

It didn't take too long. The payoff at the Oct. 1 Wild Card game against the Cincinnati Reds was $38,008, meaning fans spent $76,016 on tickets for the Pittsburgh Pirates' charity effort.

“The success of the team just helps everything,” says Paytas, senior vice president for community and public affairs for the Pirates. The raffle is another way to fund youth-oriented programs, which include keeping baseball fields in good condition and creating fields and play areas for kids and adults with disabilities.

Paytas says the charity effort contributed $3.2 million to various programs through the end of the 2012 and probably will hit $4 million this year.

Through the course of the 2013 season, the 50/50 raffle raised $1,114,000. Pirates Charities was founded at the end of 2006, she says.

The 50/50 raffle offers a payoff in which fans at the game buy tickets for a raffle where the winner gets half of the total and the charities get the rest.

The Pirates saw other baseball clubs having success with 50/50 raffles, Paytas says, but they were not able to offer one until this year, when the state adopted the Small Games of Chance Act, allowing such programs.

This week's big payoff earlier this week indicates how popular the raffle has grown over the season. On Opening Day, April 1, 39,078 fans bought $12,926 in tickets, but on April 12, 40,706 fans wagered only $3,690.

Efforts by Pirate Charities have been crucial to organizations such as the Miracle League of Southwestern Pennsylvania, says its president and founder Mike Sherry.

The organization, which builds and runs baseball fields for those with special needs, didn't exist until Sherry was able to get the Pirates' support, he says. There are currently six Miracle League fields in Western Pennsylvania, which have received more than $700,000 since 2007. A new Miracle League site in Bradenton, Fla., near the Pirates spring-training site, will move that figure closer to $750,000, he says.

Other efforts are the Fields for Kids project, which supplies aid to keep fields in good condition. It distributed $118,000 this year to fields in places such as Wilkinsburg, Deer Lakes and Jefferson Township, Fayette County.

The Pirates organization steered the charity effort toward youth activities when it was founded, Paytas says, because of a belief in the need for exercise and recreation for young people.

“We also look at baseball as very youth- and family-oriented,” she says. “So, Sundays are always kids' days, with activities for them.”

Beyond the 50/50 raffle, money is raised in various — and wide-ranging — ways. This season, there was a Sporting Clays Invitational at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Somerset County, a golf outing in Fox Chapel and a 5K race on the North Shore.

In addition, the ROOT Sports Auction in July drew $400,000.

Pirates Charities gets involved in other methods to raise funds. Currently, a Missouri sports-collectible firm is marketing 5,000 officially licensed Rawlings baseballs bearing the Pirates Wild Card victory logo. The ball is in a clear, plastic case and its markings will be updated through the playoffs. Ten percent of its $39.95 price will go to Pirates Charities. Details: 800-345-2868 or www.nikcosports.com

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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