Yesterday, Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner visited PS 142 on the Lower East Side as part of celebrating the School is Amazing program, which , in conjuction with EmblemHealth, aims to encourage academics, athletics, and the arts at schools in the five boroughs.
142 has a whiffle ball program designed to help kids hone their skills on the field, but also uses the sport to help them adjust to a variety of needs, such as physical limitations, behavioral issues, even a few immigrant children for whom playing helps them acclimate to a new culture. Interesting note, this program was started by a teacher at the school, Susie Cavin, who funded it out of her own pocket. She passed away recently and now, the program is now headed by Carlos Melendez, who is also an alum of the school and played whiffle ball under Ms. Cavin when he was a student. The whiffle ball teams, aside from the t-shirts the kids wear, is now funded by the staff and the kids play on their lunch period during the day. This is not an after school program.
Murph and Tuner met with the kids in the school’s gym, taking questions for about fifteen minutes. Most of them centered on who their favorite player was growing up (Tuner’s was Gary DiSarcina on the Angles), who it is now, and what other sports they like (Murphy was a swimmer in high school and digs soccer, especially the World Cup). Murphy gave Tuner a lot of credit for helping him out at second base, especially advice on how to better turn a double play (Murphy suffered a season ending injury last year trying to make a pivot while turning two). They stressed that education opened doors for them (both attended college, Murphy on an academic scholarship), and also that hard work and practice helped them make it to the top. Tuner also noted that was important “to believe you can do it” in order to persevere.
After the Q&A, they led the group in warm-up stretching, followed by the kids taking turns showing off their hitting, fielding and throwing skills. The guys then taught a few of them how to properly execute a bunt and signed a boatload of autographs – from balls to bats to shirts.
“Baseball is something that is real simple, and it stays that way even when you grow up” Turner said after the event. “You get older, and life gets complicated, but the game is always there, and it’s doing something you love”.
Players and teams do community outreach all the time, and we all hear about it but it rarely registers. Yesterday was a good eye-opener not only in the snese that the Mets are active in promoting worthwhile causes, or the players showed such enthusiasm for doing so, as well as having a good relationship with each other and the kids (not to mention what must have been an early morning for them after an extra inning game the night before), but to see that people you don’t read about in the news, people like Ms. Cavin and Mr. Melendez, are out there making the city a better place for people like the kids at PS 142. And on a rainy Tuesday morning, they finally got their place in the sun.