Children chanting “Pirates! Pirates! Pirates!” is not commonplace in the halls of Center Elementary School. But you can bet that’s what you hear from hundreds of students when members of the Pittsburgh Pirates come for a visit.
Eight members from Pittsburgh’s professional baseball team took the school by storm Wednesday as part of Roberto Clemente Day and to promote the MLB’s Summer Slugger program launched through the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this year.
Pirates in-game host Joe Klimchak, the assembly’s emcee, introduced the players — Trevor Williams, Geoff Hartlieb, Jacob Stallings, Chris Stratton, Keone Kela, Steven Baron, Joe Musgrove and James Marvel — as students loudly greeted them.
The Pirates even brought in Roberto Clemente Jr. and the Pirate Parrot to take part in the assembly, which was held in the school’s gymnasium. Students and staff dressed in their favorite Pirates garb for the occasion.
About 120 fourth-grade Center Elementary students participated in the Summer Slugger program. The software is designed for third- through fifth-grade students to keep minds sharp heading into class in the fall.
Students got to play a game, designed by EverFi’s Summer Slugger, at the end of the assembly. Students were given multiple questions testing students’ knowledge of spelling, grammar and mathematics.
The game was a taste of the Summer Slugger program students participated in over the summer.
JR Pilyih, a Center teacher, said there were 14 students who completed the most lessons over the summer. The students are now fifth-graders at Holiday Park. They each won tickets to a Pirates baseball game, among other prizes.
The school was one of 27 that participated in the program over the summer. Pilyih said the school plans to continue using the software through the school year and hopes to participate in the Summer Slugger program next summer.
Some students got to interact with the Pirates players during a Q&A session.
One student asked what the Pirates would do if baseball didn’t work out for them.
“I always wanted to be a firefighter. That was my backup plan,” said pitcher Keone Kela.
Another student asked if the Pirates played any other sports other than baseball for fun.
Pitcher Chris Stratton said he likes to play basketball.
“And Fortnite,” he added, as children cheered in approval of his choice in video gaming. The professional athlete obliged and demonstrated his favorite celebratory dance when someone asked him what it was. His favorite? The Floss.
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Roberto Clemente Jr. drove home the message on the importance of kindness, something he learned from his father, who played for the Pirates for 18 years before dying in a plane crash destined for Nicaragua for humanitarian purposes in 1972.
“He left a legacy and you can do the same,” Clemente Jr. told the captivated students. “We have the power to be kind.”
Center principal Jason Knisely said he was happy the Pirates chose the school to celebrate the success of the summer program.
“Avoiding the ‘summer slide’ is so important in the education of a child,” Knisely said. “So when the fourth-grade teachers at Center heard about this opportunity, they were very excited to share it with the students. Combining technology, baseball, reading, and math made learning fun.”
He said the assembly kicked off a month of service projects throughout the school.
“Each classroom at Center will be participating in their own service project over the next month to honor Roberto Clemente,” he said.