Sara Coon, the health and physical education teacher at Mars Primary Center, reached out to the Pirates in early April, seeking baseball equipment so she could include the sport in her curriculum. The school, she explained, had no such equipment and the kids often asked to play baseball in her class.
The Pirates were happy to oblige and agreed to donate a package that included gloves, balls, bats and batting tees. Team officials also informed Coon that they wanted to present the donation in person, and on Wednesday, that happy occasion took place.
The bonus was that Pittsburgh pitcher David Bednar, who went through the Mars school system from third grade through 12th, was part of the Pirates’ contingent that visited. Upon his arrival, Bednar chatted with school officials and posed for pictures. Then, as he made his way from the administrative office to the gymnasium, the halls were lined with cheering Mars Elementary School students.
“The kids were super excited,” Coon said. “They were holding signs that they had colored and they gave Mr. Bednar a great welcome. He and the Pirate Parrot were giving students high-fives, we were playing music and the kids were chanting, ‘Let’s go Bucs.’ It was fantastic.
“I thought the Pirates were just going to send the equipment to our school, so we were thrilled to learn that they wanted to come out in person. It just kind of snowballed. This was more than I had hoped for. What the Pirates donated is good, quality equipment that we’ll be able to use for years to come.”
Down at the gymnasium, Bednar directed a baseball-themed physical education class, providing a group of first graders with instruction and tips on how to throw. Who knows, perhaps one of those youngsters will become another graduate of Mars High School (located about 25 miles north of Pittsburgh) to make it to the Major Leagues?
“It was really coming full circle for me to go back to where I was a kid once and see how excited everyone was,” Bednar said. “I especially liked getting the younger kids involved and helping them see how much fun playing baseball is. That was special because they really did enjoy it. Baseball is a great team sport, and I hope the kids keep going and continue to play.”
During Bednar’s three seasons on the varsity baseball squad at Mars High School, the team went 41-15 and made the playoffs all three years. His father, Andy Bednar, was the head baseball coach there for more than 20 years. Since being acquired from the Padres prior to the 2021 season, the 27-year-old right-hander has become one of Pittsburgh’s top relief pitchers.
Bednar, who still makes his home in the Mars-Cranberry area, poked a little fun at himself after Wednesday’s event.
“Some of the kids definitely made the connection that I went to school there and now I pitch for the Pirates, but a lot them were more excited about the Parrot, which I don’t really blame them,” Bednar said with a laugh. “I hope, though, that this helps them see that anything is possible if you keep working hard. It sounds cliché to say, ‘Follow your dreams’ — but truly, anything is possible.”
“The kids identified with David,” Coon added. “I heard several of them saying, ‘I’m going to play in the Major Leagues someday. I’m going to pitch for the Pirates too.’ Today was such a positive experience all the way around. I loved it.”