By Laura Amato
Walter Chaluisant could not stop moving his eyes, determined to take everything in and hoping he didn’t miss a single moment or a single smile.
Chaluisant, the president of WORKS Little League in Woodhaven, couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing – dozens of players from the league sprinting across Citi Field on Saturday afternoon as part of the Play Ball Initiative, sponsored by the Mets and SNY.
“For us, for our kids, we can’t get clinics like this and it’s tremendous,” Chaluisant said. “What the Mets and SNY are doing, reaching out to the kids, is great. They’re all happy, they’re all smiling, they’re excited to meet all the people from the leagues. It’s incredible.”
The WORKS players found themselves on the Citi Field grass after one of the league’s board members applied for the SNY grant earlier this year. The league was told it had been selected for the event just a few weeks ago.
To say that the kids were excited would be an understatement; there was yelling and jumping and just a bit of screaming, all of them ready for their big-league moment.
“The kids are overjoyed right now,” Chaluisant said. “They couldn’t believe that they were actually going to be on the field, where the Mets play, and they’re so happy right now. Just to see their faces is very nice for me.”
Of course, the afternoon clinic was much more than just scoping out the view in center field. The players also ran through drills with actual Mets, fine-tuning their hitting and fielding skills and the pros were having as much fun as the little-leaguers.
“We’re having fun, playing out here with the kids and teaching them a little bit about baseball,” said Mets infielder Matt Reynolds. “The kids were great. Honestly, I felt like I didn’t have to teach them too much. It was a good day.”
Chaluisant and his fellow coaches were thankful for the clinic, and they’re hoping that the afternoon at Citi Field helps spark more interest in baseball.
WORKS Little League offers teams for players ages 4 to 14, as well as a challenger division for children with disabilities from ages 5 to 18. The focus — no matter who is stepping up to the plate — is to provide one very simple thing: the opportunity to play baseball.
“We want our kids to just continue playing baseball,” he said. “We have a love for baseball, my sons and I, and we want to teach that to everybody. Baseball, to us, is a great game. We want to help them get to high school and then who knows after that.”
It was a memorable day for WORKS and an afternoon that Chaluisant knows was a dream come true for most of his players, many of whom already have aspirations of returning that field sooner rather than later – in uniform.
“We’re not far and a lot of kids come to Mets games, but they couldn’t believe they were really going to be on the field,” he said.
“Hopefully this leads this to more interest in baseball and makes them want to stay in baseball.”