CWS grants help Catholic Schools, others

The College World Series June extravaganza brings teams and people to Omaha from all over the country – but it has a charitable arm, too.

And over the last 41 years that effort has helped area baseball and softball programs, including those run by Catholic parishes and schools.

Last year, for example, Creighton University in Omaha received $25,000 to help fund new turf on its baseball practice field, which also serves as a practice field for visiting teams during the College World Series. And in 2011, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, also in Omaha, received a $4,500 grant to install dugouts and repair fencing at the baseball field of its sister parish, St. Adalbert.

Since 1973, the local nonprofit organization that hosts the annual NCAA Division I men’s championship tournament – College World Series of Omaha Inc., or CWS Inc. – has donated more than $3.8 million to area public and private baseball and softball programs.

Founded as a way to thank the community for its support of the College World Series, the grants also are "a way to show that this great event has a positive impact beyond those days in June when the event takes center stage," said Kathryn Morrisey, CWS Inc.’s executive director.

When assessing grants, Morrisey said the committee looks at a group’s dedication to investing in the physical labor of completing a project, along with its willingness to share the facility with other groups.

Both criteria fit two recent grants received by St. Bernadette Parish in Bellevue for improvements to Dave and Don Schrack Field, the parish’s baseball/softball facility.

A 2011 grant for $5,000 helped complete a recently opened three-story brick structure behind home plate that includes a concession stand, restrooms, press box and storage area. And a 2012 grant for $4,500 will help build two batting cages located just outside the field down the third-base line, work that should be complete by the end of the summer, said Greg Pivovar, who raises money for the parish’s Men’s Club.

"We’re very grateful to the College World Series," Pivovar said.

The improvements create pride and increase participation among St. Bernadette’s more than 15 baseball and softball teams which include students up to the eighth grade, Pivovar said. And the parish gladly shares the facility with the varsity and junior varsity softball teams at Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School in Bellevue and Omaha-area baseball and softball teams from parishes such as Holy Cross, St. Thomas More, Our Lady of Lourdes and Ss. Peter and Paul.

"They are welcome to use it," Pivovar said. "We want to be good neighbors."

About 250 games are played on the St. Bernadette field each spring, Pivovar said.

From a faith perspective, St. Bernadette athletes learn the importance of service by helping run the facility, Pivovar said.

Men’s Club members provide a powerful witness by daily chalking and dragging the field, stocking the concession stand and mowing the grass, but the athletes help staff the concession stand and run the scoreboard, he said.

"This is everybody’s project," Pivovar said.

Usually ranging from $2,500 to $5,000, grant applications are accepted each year from Aug. 1 through Oct. 1, Morrisey said.

St. Bernadette officials are grateful for past funds but they are not done yet. Pivovar said he plans to apply for a grant this year to help upgrade the bleachers.

"It’s a wonderful thing they do in spreading that money out," he said.

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