North Xtra: Allegheny Valley team gets involved in community

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The Allegheny Valley Baseball Club is unique, in that it not only has a Greater Pittsburgh Federation League team but also a squad that plays in the Tri-State Collegiate League.

And yet, despite the time commitment the coaching staff and others within the organization have to devote to play out a 60-plus game schedule between the two squads, the Bucs still find time to help others in the community.

"I always tell the guys you don't have to go pro to give back to the game you love," Allegheny Valley manager Kevin Giza said. "We've all been blessed to be able to play baseball at a high level -- it's nice to give back to those who also love the game.

"Through our involvement with different organizations and groups, we're not just building better baseball players, but also leaders."

Allegheny Valley's organization is in its 11th year, and in 2007 the Miracle League of Southwestern Pennsylvania was formed to give children and adults with disabilities the opportunity to participate in organized baseball.

When Giza heard about the creation of the league, he called the league president, Mike Sherry, to tell him he wanted to get involved and ever since the league started playing games in 2009 at Graham Park in Cranberry, Allegheny Valley players have been lending a hand.

They've also helped the Miracle League in the South Hills, which was launched in 2012 by Sean Casey and his wife, Mandi, with the help of Pirates Charities.

"I've been able to help out the past two years with the Miracle League and it's been a great experience," said Allegheny Valley's Mike Pezzone, an Upper St. Clair and Allegheny College alumnus. "I love playing baseball and to see others who love it and get an opportunity to play, it's just a great feeling. It really hits me."

Additionally, for the past four years Allegheny Valley has played host to the "It's your perfect pitch" baseball and softball camps for the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.

WPSD's boys and girls softball teams are the two-time defending champions at the WPSD Softball Invitational.

"My cousins are deaf and I saw the enjoyment they got from playing baseball, so I reached out to the dean of the school to see if we could help out in some way," Giza said. "It's been great to be a part of it."

In the past, the AVB Club has also donated to the John Challis Courage for Life Foundation and partnered with Ryan Douglass and with the Josh Gibson Foundation to hold baseball camps.

The Bucs have also been pretty successful on the diamond, too, finishing as the Greater Federation League runner-up in 2007 and 2010.

"We continue to keep it going," Giza said. "It's great to be able to do what we're doing and to see guys go out and succeed in life and then come back and continue to want to play with us and help in the community."

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