Grasping a large prop check as part of a charity photo opportunity, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle turned toward Andrew McCutchen and said: "Have you even seen a check this big, Andrew?"
McCutchen, who signed a $51.5 million, six-year contract earlier this year, couldn't help but laugh.
Hurdle has helped his teams land free agents who sign for millions of dollars, but the check he helped pass over Tuesday for $200,000 was no less meaningful.
Pirates Charities made the donation to the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh, a nonprofit school and hospital that helps children with special needs. The donation will benefit the Children's Institute's Centers of Excellence, which helps kids with Prader-Willi syndrome, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and autism.
Hurdle's 10-year-old daughter, Maddie, has Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic disorder that threatens mental and physical development and often leads to obesity because of an insatiable appetite.
The visit to the Children's Institute is one of more than a dozen stops Pirates players and coaches will make over the next several days during the annual Pirates Caravan, an offseason community outreach and promotional tour. The caravan continues today and Thursday with stops in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and New York.
The tour will take players to hospitals, schools, community centers and malls, culminating in PirateFest this weekend at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
The event at the Children's Institute featured Hurdle, McCutchen, owner Bob Nutting, team president Frank Coonelly and pitcher Jared Hughes.
Nutting credited Hurdle with "introducing" the Pirates to the Children's Institute and building the relationship. The Pirates also visited the Children's Institute in 2011 as part of its offseason caravan. The $200,000 donation was raised partly during an in-game auction on Root Sports and partly by Hurdle's "Wins for Kids" program, which solicits donations for the Children's Institute's Prader-Willi Syndrome Program.
After presenting the Children's Institute with the check, McCutchen and Hughes met with students and patients at a party. There, McCutchen and Hughes signed autographs, posed for photos and danced with the Pirate Parrot. Hughes led a long line of participants doing "The Loco-Motion."
It is a scene that will be imitated at several of the other stops over the next two days.
An exercise-therapy room in the Children's Institute has been renamed the "Pirates Charities Therapy Gym."
"We all know that a critical part of what Pirates Charities can do is to help support organizations in our community that really impact positively the lives of children and families throughout the region," Nutting said, "and the Children's Institute is such a wonderful example of that kind of organization."
Hurdle, the national celebrity spokesman for the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association, was first connected with the Children's Institute in 2004 when, as manager for the Colorado Rockies, he made unannounced visits to the center to visit kids when the Rockies traveled to Pittsburgh. The Hurdle family uses some of the resources at the Children's Institute to help Maddie.
"I look at these young people here, and they have different hopes and different dreams," Hurdle said. "But they're real dreams, they're real hopes. My daughter has hopes and dreams of her own. And what I've come to learn in 10 years of Maddie's existence is that we're in a better place for our children with Prader-Willi now than we were 10 years ago.
"Maddie's got a brighter future than the generation before her."
First Published December 12, 2012 5:00 AM