A sea of boys and girls took to the grounds at the Lou Anthony Sports Complex in Massapequa for a baseball clinic on Monday night, but this wasn’t just an ordinary clinic.
They were there to learn about baseball from Mets rookie catcher Francisco Alvarez.
“I feel great,” said Alvarez through his interpreter. “I feel blessed to be here with the kids, delivering joy to everyone and happy to be here.”
Those kids, decked out in blue jerseys with “Massapequa PAL” on the front and “Alvarez 4” on the back, had the opportunity to meet Alvarez, get some batting and catching tips, and also take home an autographed picture.
It was the latest collaboration between the Massapequa PAL and Pioneer Sports to bring professional athletes to the community to conduct various clinics. Alvarez joins other current Mets Edwin Diaz and Daniel Vogelbach, Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes, and Jets tight end and Long Islander Jeremy Ruckert as those who have taken the time to give back to the community within the last year.
“This is something that we’re still growing,” said Rich Lopos, president of Nassau County PAL. “We went from maybe we can get this person to now it’s what’s the next phase? What’s the next step? Who can we bring in next?”
The bar has been set for the next athlete to visit Massapequa.
Over 180 kids were in attendance for the Alvarez clinic.
“About two years ago, we started bringing in professional athletes, and it’s grown every time,” said Rich Pescatore, police officer director for the Nassau County PAL. “This, by far, knocks the numbers out of the park.”
Alvarez was on Long Island during an off-day for the Mets, who will open up the Bronx portion of the Subway Series on Tuesday night when they meet the Yankees.
After a weekend at Fenway Park in Boston, Alvarez is looking forward to his first trip to Yankee Stadium.
“It’s going to be a great matchup,” said Alvarez. “I’m excited about playing in front of two fan bases that are very huge. I’m excited to be out there.”
After losing two of three to the Red Sox over the weekend, the Mets entered their off-day seven games behind the Phillies (who played the Orioles Monday night) for the third and final National League Wild Card spot.
In true Mets tradition, Alvarez says, “You gotta believe!”
“Nothing is impossible,” said Alvarez. “We’re going to keep fighting and keep grinding and try to make it.”
The 21-year-old Alvarez is hitting .238 in his rookie season with 19 home runs and 41 runs batted in. He worked his way through the Mets minor league system and is making the most of his opportunity this year in the big leagues.
“I’m enjoying baseball right now. I’m not impressed by what I’m doing. I did it in the minors. I’m just going to keep going and keep grinding.”
Hard work and fundamentals are two of the lessons that Alvarez was conveying to the kids at the clinic on Monday night. They’ve seen what he can do on television or in person at Citi Field, and the chance to see him up close and learn from him was a great experience.
“You can see that these kids are in awe of him,” said Lopos. ‘They’re just staring at him. He’s watching the kids swing on the tees. The effect he’s having on the kids is phenomenal. They’re all giddy, and they’re all happy.”
Alvarez was more than happy to spend some quality time with young baseball and softball players. For him, it was important to give these kids that experience because it’s something that he didn’t have growing up.
“I remember those days,” said Alvarez. “I never had a chance to meet someone in the big leagues at that age. They’re very happy with this.”
Happy is not the word to describe how those kids felt Monday night. If you saw the looks on their faces, they were ecstatic and over the moon to learn from a Major League Baseball player.
The Francisco Alvarez baseball clinic was a huge success for Pioneer Sports, the Massapequa PAL, and the kids from the Long Island community who had the chance to learn from the Mets’ young catcher. The next clinic featuring another local professional athlete is currently in the works, with details coming soon.
Top: Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez coaching up kids in Massapequa. (Credit: Peter Schwartz)