On May 5, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce celebrated Cinco De Mayo at PNC Park by co-hosting a festive evening in the Pittsburgh Baseball Club's Keystone Corner. The seventh annual Latino Celebration reflects the strong connection the team has developed with the Hispanic community.
Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington and Manager Clint Hurdle were among those in attendance and they were joined by several of the team's current players, including: first baseman Gaby Sanchez, shortstop Clint Barmes, outfielders Starling Marte and Jose Tabata, and pitchers Jeanmar Gomez and Jose Contreras. Also on hand were Pirates coaches Dave Jauss, Nick Leyva and Euclides Rojas, bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade, and former Pirates pitchers Kent Tekulve and Grant Jackson.
The celebration included delicious Latin food -- including empanadas, black beans and rice, and Cuban sandwiches to name just a few items -- plus lively music and dancing as well as an opportunity to mingle with Pirates players, coaches and front office executives.
"It's really become our signature event and the Pirates are very supportive," said Victor Diaz, the CEO of the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "It's fun to do it at the ballpark because baseball seems to be the common thread for a lot of Latinos in this region. The players love it just like our members and friends love it. We enjoy the food, plus the music is great. It's just a fun, wholesome family type of night. Everyone who comes has a blast."
This time around, those attending the celebration were asked to bring a new piece of baseball or softball equipment that will be donated to the Latino Family Center for Youth and our sister city in Mexico via the P-squared Project. In addition, Tabata -- who hails from Venezuela -- received an award from the chamber.
"Jose is very involved in the Hispanic community," Diaz said. "He always shows up to anything we have and he's also involved in a couple of other events locally. He just continues to support the Hispanic community in general and we wanted to make sure we acknowledged him for that."
Diaz also wondered if the award brought Tabata good luck.
"If you noticed, he went to New York and got very hot after that," Diaz said with a laugh. "So maybe it helped. We're very superstitious. He's had a pretty good run since then."
Diaz was referring to a series against the Mets at CitiField where Tabata went 7-for-12 to help the Pirates win three out of four. That included a terrific performance on May 11 when he went 4-for-5 with a double, a home run and three RBI to key an 11-2 triumph.
Originally, the idea with the event was to help the Pirates' Latin players become familiar with the Hispanic community and Hispanic-owned businesses in the Pittsburgh area, and it has grown from there.
"We started off that way, trying to make the players feel more at home and more comfortable in this area, and it has evolved into a great relationship," Diaz said. "It's wonderful that the Pirates are open and accessible and helpful. The relationship benefits Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans and Dominicans in this area -- many people for whom baseball is the sport."