Mets host 'Buses for Baseball' youths
Group of underprivileged children get to see special BP show
NEW YORK -- Little boys and girls in white T-shirts, some coming down to their knees, stood outside the Mets' dugout and glued their eyes to batting practice baseballs as they turned into white dots in the sky.
Their fingers were in their mouths. Other digits were left pointing in awe of a slugger's blast. In tune with almost every move that David Wright, Carlos Delgado and other players made, underprivileged children taking part in the Major League Baseball Players Association's (MLBPA) "Buses for Baseball" program before Wednesday's game scooted their feet closer to the infield when they approached.
The 40 or so kids from Brooklyn-based Urban Women's Safe Haven received round-trip transportation to the game, free tickets and souvenirs, but what they most anticipated was a chance to stand within feet of their heroes.
"What's it like being a Major League Baseball player?" one boy asked Wright.
"It feels good," the Mets' third baseman responded, pointing out into the Shea Stadium stands. "We get to play in front of all these people all day."
Happy to be there for just one day -- with an All-Star for one brief moment -- three children pulled out beaded necklaces and handed them to Wright.
"It's all for good luck, right?" Wright asked.
Encouraged by their supervisors to ask questions of the players, most stood silently with wonder and nodded their heads. Second baseman Marlon Anderson also received a necklace, and wore it above his orange undershirt in the clubhouse before the game.
Relief pitcher Aaron Heilman, a MLBPA representative for the Mets, knows how special this memory could be for a young person, especially those who don't readily get the opportunity to see a game. The players, he said, enjoy these moments, as well.
The "Buses for Baseball" initiative is administered by the Players Trust and sponsored by Majestic Athletic, and the program plans on providing the same baseball memories to more than 1,500 underprivileged youths this season.
"To be able to give some great experiences to some young kids, hopefully expose some kids to baseball that may not have had that opportunity, it's great," Heilman said.
The group visited both the Phillies and Mets on Wednesday, briefly heading over to the visiting dugout to meet with batting coach Milt Thompson, who promptly knocked a bag of balls onto its side and distributed the spilled contents amongst the kids' outstretched hands.
All of them scanned the cover of their ball for various scuff marks, some even taking note of previously acquired autographs. Most importantly, they smiled.
"It's fun to see their faces and see how they respond and how excited they are just to be out there at the ballpark with some of us," Heilman said. "We kind of see ourselves as everyday guys, but they look up to us, and it's good to set a good example and try to give something back to them and hopefully let them have a good day."
Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.