“I was a little nervous,” said Gradkowski. “I was a little high and outside with the pitch, but he made a great catch. But it was cool to be out here, being around good people and getting all of the support from the fans and my family that came.”
Gradkowski signed autographs before the game for fans, many decked out in Steelers gear and giving him a warm welcome to the team.
The Wild Things showed their support, wearing their own version of the Steelers throwback jersey for the game. The team also kept a Steelers theme throughout the game, from the music between the innings to photos of Steelers players on the scoreboard.
“To see the Wild Things supporting the Steelers is awesome,” said Gradkowski, a Pittsburgh native who signed with the team this offseason. “To see how many Pittsburgh fans love their Steelers is special. I am excited about that this year and can’t wait to give them some good stuff to cheer about.”
The game also served as a kickoff for the Gradkowski Family Foundation, with a silent and Chinese auction held and fans having an opportunity to purchase tickets to sit in a private suite with Gradkowski and enjoy a buffet dinner, with all proceeds going toward the work he is doing.
“I have always tried to help out with charitable efforts, but thought it was time to start my own foundation and help people out,” said Gradkowski. “I am going to reach out to work with kids, give them hope and dreams. I was in the same position as a kid, and to know that dreams do come true is special. Kids need to know that.”