Pirates support Indiana Township ball field to encourage people to Live Like Lou
Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting joked that his PNC Park might be the only stadium in the area better than the Live Like Lou Field set to open in the spring in Indiana Township.
"It will be excellent," Nutting said last week during a groundbreaking ceremony at Emmerling Park. "It will be a field where children learn about courage, commitment and giving back — all of which baseball does so beautifully."
Work will transform the Emmerling Park field into a multi-use playing area with $275,000 in safety and accessibility upgrades.
The project will add a scoreboard, dugouts and a paved walkway to bleachers that will allow handicapped spectators access. It will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The most significant draw will be field lights that will extend playing time, said Larry Rich, vice president of the Fox Chapel Area Baseball Softball Association.
His passion for baseball paired him with Neil and Suzanne Alexander, founders of O'Hara-based Live Like Lou, and they spearheaded the project more than three years ago.
Neil Alexander was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in 2011 and died in 2015, but not before championing his Live Like Lou organization that raises awareness of the neurological disease and reminds people to live courageously.
"We want to transform this field into something special that will remind everyone to live like Lou and realize the simple joys in life," Rich said.
Work will begin this year and a grand opening is expected in time for more than 300 young athletes in the Fox Chapel Area Baseball Softball Association league to take the field in the spring. Pirates Charities and Live Like Lou each donated $50,000 to the project.
Pitcher Franco Pistella, 11, was on hand in his red baseball uniform at the groundbreaking to meet the Pirate Parrot and help shovel the first bit of dirt for the project.
"I can't wait to play under the lights," the Hartwood Elementary fifth-grader said.
Coach Bonnie DeMotte said the improvements will impact every player and guest in coming seasons. The lights will extend playing time and the ADA-accessibility will make it easier for grandparents to come watch, she said.
Pirates Charities Manager Jackie Hunter said the group has provided 293 similar grants since 2009. This project melds perfectlywith the role of Pirates Charities, which is to support youth fitness and education in local neighborhoods.
Township Manager Dan Anderson said supervisors dovetailed a $42,000 project to provide handicapped-accessible parking, new signs and a paved walkway to the bleachers.
Work will make the field a gem for the entire community, not just ballplayers, Anderson said.
When she came to the podium, Suzanne Alexander appeared overwhelmed that her husband's dream had come to fruition.
She reminded the crowd of his love for the game, saying "he wouldn't propose marriage to me until I memorized the Pirates 1991 lineup."
Alexander said the groundbreaking represented the goal of Live Like Lou, which is to spread awareness, find a cure and encourage people to mimic Gehrig's tireless perseverance.
"For 2,130 games you could look out and see Lou Gehrig at first base," Alexander said. "When things get hard, you show up.
"I look around and see all the people who have showed up to make this happen."
Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tawnyatrib.
Naming opportunities still remain at the field for bases, foul poles, fences, bleachers and lighting. For more information or to donate, visit fcabsa.com.
Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2, email@example.com or @tawnyatrib.