MOOSIC — Many of the fans in attendance were there to see New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira. For the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, however, the festivities before the game were all about Greater Pittston.
In conjunction with the RailRiders and the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce, Wednesday’s game was part of Greater Pittston Community Night at PNC Field. A portion of the proceeds from the game went to the Care and Concern Free Health Clinic as part of the team’s “Pay It Forward” program. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., $5 out of all walk-up ticket sales were donated to the Pittston clinic.
“It really is an honor,” clinic director Gloria Blandina said while standing on the concourse Wednesday. “Everyone at the clinic is a volunteer and we really do what we do because we want to. It’s a nice feeling – almost like a thank you, although we don’t look for that.”
As a native to the area, Blandina has seen Greater Pittston through the good and the bad times. Having a night such as the one on Wednesday, she said, shows how Pittstonians feel about their fellow residents.
“Pittston is supportive of so many things,” Blandina said. “You look around and see familiar faces and you think it’s pretty neat. It’s hometown and you have to love it.”
The three-time all-star Teixeira didn’t disappoint, singling in his first at-bat. But prior to the game’s first pitch, Greater Pittston was the talk of the stadium.
The Pittston Area girls basketball team, who recently won a silver medal at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association District 2 Class AAAA championships, along with the Pittston Area cheerleaders, were each introduced to the crowd. Next, Greater Pittston residents fired out several first pitches.
Chamber of Commerce’s Brandi Bartush, along with the Care and Concern’s Angelo Montante, each fired strikes for their first pitch. But the biggest ovation came when first-year Pittston Area girls basketball manager Ellie Bartoli did her best Mariano Rivera impression.
Standing next to the recently-graduated player Marley O’Brien, Bartoli fired a fastball to RailRiders Director of Marketing and Promotions “B-Ray.”
“I love Ellie to death and she’s adorable,” said O’Brien, an all-star on this past year’s team. “I know she was really shy before this year and it took a lot of convincing for her to be a manager. It helped her come out of her shell much like we had to.”
Bartoli, who will be a senior this fall, helps the Pittston Area girls basketball team during practice and games. Head coach Kathy Healey said Bartoli is a great shooter, and has overcome her shyness from the beginning of the season.
“At practice she’s amazing and does a lot of work for us,” Healey said. “She knows everything about the game and she’s a very, very great shooter.”
She’s also an inspiration to the team. Following the team’s lost to Hazleton Area in the district final this past February, Bartoli was crying with her silver medal around her neck.
“She said, ‘My grandpa would have been so proud of me to know I got a silver medal,’” Healey said. “That was the icing on the cake for everyone.”
The girls recently left for their annual basketball camp trip. This year, the team is headed to West Virginia University. In the past, they’ve visited Notre Dame and North Carolina. Bartoli didn’t make the trip to West Virginia with the team, but she can definitely be seen on the sidelines this coming winter.
“It meant a lot to her being on the field,” O’Brien said. “We know what she goes through and it topped off a good year for her too.”
Destiny Hart, 29, of Avoca, gave her rendition of the national anthem prior to the start of the game.
The Care and Concern Clinic, which was also preparing for its annual golf tournament Friday, June 24, had a table set up on the concourse if anyone wanted to stop by and get more information. The clinic is doing very well, according to Blandina, but it has seen a drop in the number of patients served. Blandina hopes that’s from more patients enrolling in Obamacare.
The Care and Concern Clinic is a free health clinic located at 35 William St. in the old Seton Catholic High School building in Pittston.
“People don’t know where they can go and I’m glad we can be there to help,” Blandina said.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick