A player can become a "rookie of the year" in the community as well as on the field.

After winning the National League Rookie of the Year honor from the Baseball Writers Association of America in 2004, Jason Bay was able to choose a charity to receive a grant for $20,000 as part of the award.

Bay, who has come a long way since growing up in Trail, British Columbia, had 26 homers, 82 RBIs and a .282 average playing outfield for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2004. He boosted the numbers to 32 homers, 101 RBIs and .306 the following year, then hit 35 homers and drove in 109 runs with a .286 average last year. He's a star in the Steel City, and his impact is growing with his stature and production. That means needed support is coming for the Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh.

Bay applied the $20,000 grant for his top-rookie honors to Ronald McDonald -- only the beginning of his involvement.

"I had just been in Pittsburgh for that one year so we asked ourselves, what can we get involved with locally?" he said. "My wife's (Kristen) family is very involved in the Ronald McDonald House charities in the Seattle area. My wife had volunteered in the McDonald House."

Bay had another personal connection to Ronald McDonald House. A cousin afflicted with Crohn's disease went to the Vancouver facility.

"The key is individuality and what's close to you," Bay said.

Ronald McDonald House has been set up in cities across North America for families with special needs for their children. Jason and Kristen Bay set their sights on the Pittsburgh facility.

"We called them up and said, 'We have a grant for you.' They were thrilled," Bay said.

That was the beginning of the Jason Bay Family Fund.

"In Pittsburgh, Ronald McDonald House is for kids with kidney ailments, where families can stay while the kids get treatment," Bay said. "Sometimes it's months at a time. It costs a certain amount of money, although a lot less than a hotel. The fund we set up, the money goes for their stay. That got us started."

Bay continued fund-raising for Ronald McDonald House through an association with U.S. Steel. The additional programs netted another $35,000. Then Jason and Kristen added their personal touch. They catered a dinner for 55 who had lived in Ronald McDonald House.

"It was nice," he said.

Ronald McDonald House, though, is one of a myriad of organizations and causes that need help in Pittsburgh. Bay can't help everybody. Sometimes a learned skill is the ability to say "no."

"It comes with part of the territory," he said. "We've adopted this. You learn how to decline gracefully. You can set up certain things that down the road can contribute even more."

One of a special group of Canadians in the majors, Bay has acquitted himself as an ambassador for all north of the border. Younger sister Lauren was a pitcher on the 2004 Canadian Olympic softball team. The members of the Bay family certainly know how to extend themselves, competitively, geographically and with their hearts and minds.

-- Red Line Editorial