Tag Archives: New York Mets

Kids meet former Mets’ hurler John Franco

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alexa Altman

Thirteen-year-old Joseph Santana stood in line wearing an oversized striped Mets jersey, clutching a cobalt blue baseball cap. He bobbed excitedly as the line grew shorter, anticipating his turn. When he reached the front of the line, he thrust the cap at former Mets relief pitcher John Franco, who scribbled his signature in black Sharpie marker across the brim.

“Thank you!” said Santana, a broad smile stretched across his face.

“I’m a big Mets fan!” Santana exclaimed. “I’m happy I got to meet a Mets player!”

Santana was just one of over 200 kids who attended the Citi Holiday Event at Citi Field on Tuesday, December 6. The event partnered Citibank with United Neighborhood Houses (UNH), a non-profit organization that provides social, educational and recreational services for local residents. UNH has over 37 settlement houses that work with low-income youth, aiming to instill life skills, job training and college preparation in the area’s children.

Natalie Abatemarco, managing director of community development, was excited to continue the event Citi has put on annually since the ballpark’s opening in 2009.

“We’re here to celebrate with the United Neighborhood Houses and bring young people to Citi Field,” said Abatemarco. “These are our Citi Field kids and we’re excited to celebrate the holiday season with them.”

Kids buzzed around the room of the Acela Club at Citi Field as ballpark staff members served them heaping plates of macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers. Mr. Met, the Mets mascot, greeted guests and posed for photos. They then took tours of the facility, ending with a few swings in the Met’s batting cage.

Monica Guzman brought over 60 kids with her from Sunnyside Community Services, each of whom she hopes will cherish this special event.
“This will be a day they’ll remember forever,” said Guzman. “They’ll go on to tell their kids about it.”

Franco, a New York native himself, was happy to spend the holidays back on his home turf.

“I hope there are a lot of smiles,” said Franco. “I hope we bring a lot of happiness to the room.”

Franco spent most of the evening surrounded by swarms of kids, ecstatic to meet the baseball legend.

Two Men Shot Dead, One on a Bus in Queens

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Two Men Shot Dead, One on a Bus in Queens

A gunman killed two people — one on a crowded city bus — in Queens on Friday afternoon, the authorities said. The police said that when they arrested a suspect, he told them he “had a beef to settle.” One of the victims was his girlfriend’s son. He apparently did not know the other one. A third person was shot on the bus, but survived. The violence began at about 3:40 p.m. in an apartment in the Baisley Park housing complex at 116th Avenue and Guy R. Brewer Boulevard in South Jamaica, the police said, where an 18-year-old, described as the son of the suspect’s girlfriend, was shot in the neck and then fell or jumped out of a second-floor window. Read More:  New York Times


TSA Officials Deny Grandmother Was Strip-Searched At JFK

A grandmother from Long Island says she was injured and humiliated during a strip search at Kennedy Airport. Lenore Zimmerman, 85, says she asked be patted down instead of walking through a body scanner because she thought it would interfere with her defibrillator. Instead of a pat-down, she says the security screeners took her to a private room and asked her to remove her pants and other clothing. Read More: NY1


Victim Marvin Gilkes told wife ‘I love you so much’ before being shot to death by maniac on Q111 bus in Queens

The Queens bus passenger fatally shot by a crazed ex-con told his wife “I love you so much” the day he died — and was on his way to see his mom when he was shot on the Q111. Minutes before Marvin Gilkes was shot in the back of the head Friday, accused gunman Damel Burton had killed his girlfriend’s 18-year-old son, police said. Authorities say he was delusional, certain his past crime victims and every passenger on the bus was out to get him. Injured — but recovering in Jamaica Hospital— was Jojuan Lipsey, 29, who was shot in the jaw on the bus. Read More: Daily News


Marlins reel in Jose Reyes for 6 years, $106M

Jose Reyes is speeding to the suddenly splurging Miami Marlins. The All-Star shortstop became the second top free agent to land with the Marlins in a matter of days, agreeing Sunday night to a $106 million, six-year contract, CBSSports.com’s Danny Knobler confirms. After adding All-Star closer Heath Bell for $27 million over three years, the Marlins gave the NL batting champion a deal that includes a club option for 2018 that would make the contract worth $120 million, a person familiar with the deal told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not yet been announced. Read More: CBS News


Heist cop hired to drive Brooklyn bus

An infamous dirty cop — who was caught moonlighting as a bank robber in the 1990s — has a new gig driving a city bus in Brooklyn, The Post has learned. Former Queens cop Paul Voss is now working the night shift driving the B44 bus, some 13 years after his arrest for sticking up five banks — including one when he was on duty. The MTA knew all about his criminal past, but it decided to hire the badge-betraying bandit last April. Read More: New York Post


J. Cole earns Best New Artist Grammy nod

In a year that J. Cole released a debut album that reached the top of the Billboard charts, the St. John’s University graduate has been recognized for his meteoric rise with a Grammy nomination. Cole, 26, was nominated for Best New Artist where he will go up against The Band Perry, Bon Iver, fellow Queens rapper Nicki Minaj and Skrillex.  Acts such as The Beatles, Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys have taken home music’s version of Rookie of the Year. Read More: Queens Courier


Accused deadbeat dad ordered to pay child support for Staten Island son

A Queens man is accused of ducking out on more than two years of child support payments for his Staten Island son. Authorities say Sammy D. Pico, 28, was ordered in October 2007 by a Family Court judge to pay $63 a week in child support. According to court papers, he was in arrears for $16,485.  His son, who is now 11 years old, lives in Grymes Hill, according to authorities. Read More: Staten Island Live

Man in Fake Beard Fires at Officers in Queens, Police Say

A man disguised with a fake beard and wearing a dark trench coat pulled a gun from his pocket and shot at two police officers who approached him in Queens on Friday afternoon, the police said. Neither officer was injured when the man, described only as in his 30s, opened fire at the corner of 37th Road and 76th Street in the Jackson Heights section. He fled and was not caught. His fake beard, dark glasses and hat were recovered during the chase, the police said. Read More: New York Times

Police Find Queens Shooting Victim In Car With Multiple Wounds

Police are investigating the shooting death of a man found with multiple gunshot wounds inside a car in Queens. Ronny Valdez, 29, was found Saturday morning slumped over the wheel of a White Acura with New Jersey license plates in Howard Beach. Neighbors say Valdez was shot while driving and lost control of the vehicle, side-swiping another car before coming to a stop. Read More: NY1

Met Mike Baxter comes home

| smosco@queenscourier.com

Mike Baxter

New York Met Mike Baxter returned to his Whitestone roots when he visited the Dwarf Giraffe Athletic League (DGAL) on Saturday, October 29. Baxter shared skills that got him into the Major Leagues with kids from the community – emphasizing the importance of education. He told the kids that if they work hard and study, good things will happen. He also spent time on hitting tips, ensuring that Baxter will not be the last pro to come out of Whitestone.
DGAL is a non-profit organization serving the Whitestone community since 1955. The organization provides programs to youngsters with an emphasis on instruction, sportsmanship and teamwork. For more information, visit www.dwarfgiraffe.com.

Mets change Citi Field dimensions

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of the New York Mets

The New York Mets are hoping that the principle of addition by subtraction will work wonders for the team’s win column.

The organization announced on October 31 that they are shrinking the dimensions of the field of play in Citi Field for the upcoming season. Portions of the outfield wall will be decreased by as much as 12 feet, and the height of the home run line will be dropped to eight feet from foul pole to foul pole.

Since Citi Field opened in 2009, the Mets have hit 331 home runs, leaving them in last place in Major League Baseball (MLB) in that category. During the same three-season stretch, they also rank last in home runs hit at home, with 162.

The team is last in home runs per fly ball percentage since 2009 as well, with 6.6 percent of fly balls leaving Citi and seven percent soaring over the fences on the road.

“We wanted to make Citi Field fair to both pitchers and hitters,” said Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson.

A new wall will be constructed in left field, beginning between the New Era and Caesars signs and angled towards the Citi sign in left-center field. The wall will be roughly four feet closer to home plate in left field and approximately 12 feet closer in deep left-center field.

A wall will also be erected in right-center field. It will extend towards the bullpen and be as much as 11 feet closer to home plate.

The fence in front of the Mo’s Zone and Modell’s Clubhouse will move forward by approximately 10 feet as well.

The measurements from home plate to center field and to both the left and right field foul poles will remain unaltered.

Along with the dimensional alterations, the aesthetics of the ballpark will also be updated.

The outfield wall will become blue for the 2012 season, in honor of the Mets’ 50th Anniversary.

A unique seating section will be installed in left field between the newly designed and existing walls, providing seats to 100 more fans.

The Modell’s Clubhouse, located in right field, will also be expanded to include an outdoor area consisting of roughly 40 additional seats.

“After conferring with Sandy and all members of his staff, ownership concurred with the recommendation to change the dimensions at Citi Field,” said Mets COO Jeff Wilpon. “We decided to change the outfield wall from black to Mets blue, which many of our fans have wanted.”

Scout Day at Citi Field

| smosco@queenscourier.com


Before the New York Mets closed out the 2011 season, Citi Field welcomed the Cub Scouts from Sacred Heart School in Bayside as the color guard for the game. It was a huge honor and privilege for the scouts, who carried the colors to centerfield while the younger scouts watched from the warning track.

(Right) Webelos II Colorguard (from left to right) Den Leader Gina Bacile, Ryan, Yarinsky, Jermige, Maximo, John, Ryan, and Andrew. Girl Scouts were also Renata Billelo and her friend and mom.

‘Another step closer to the new Willets Point’

| smosco@queenscourier.com

The chop shop wasteland that is Willets Point continues to inch toward a rebirth.

According to published reports, major developers and the owners of the New York Mets are among the firms that submitted Requests for Proposal (RFP) for the right to develop the site adjacent to Citi Field in Flushing.

Sterling Equities, which is controlled by Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, teamed up with The Related Companies and submitted a proposal to develop phase one of the project, which covers 12.75 acres. Other bidders include Flushing-based TDC Development and Silverstein Properties – the latter of which is building three towers at the World Trade Center site.

Though the firms would not comment on the proposals, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) said that it has received numerous proposals and that each one will get a fair review and equal consideration.

“After receiving numerous responses for the first phase of development, we are another step closer to the new Willets Point,” said EDC spokesperson Jennifer Friedberg. “This project will create thousands of jobs and allow an environmentally contaminated area to become a model center for economic growth for Queens and New York City. We are eager to continue examining the proposals and to create the blueprint for the future of Willets Point.”

The effort to redevelop Willets Point – dubbed “The Iron Triangle” – has been a long and arduous process and requires several steps before a shovel can be put in the ground. The site requires environmental remediation, infrastructure upgrades and land acquisition leading up to the project, which the city has split into three phases, covering 61.4 acres and approximately nine million square feet of development.

While the city controls a majority of the land, the remainder might have to be scooped up by Eminent Domain. The first phase, which includes housing and retail, is projected to be completed by 2016 and the entire Willets Point project is scheduled to be finished by 2022.

Mets Clubhouse – Hope on the Horizon

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


As yet another baseball season comes to a close, I would like to thank all of the readers for checking in each week. In this final issue of Mets Clubhouse, I look towards the future and list several players fans may see in a Mets uniform a few short years from now.

There is one word that strikes fear into the heart of every sports fan: rebuild.

While rebuilding usually translates to not being competitive for several years, it can also spell a shift in direction and a positive change in philosophies.

Such a change is long overdue for the New York Mets.

The Mets must, and likely are, in rebuilding mode, and the hiring of Sandy Alderson last October proved that team ownership desires baseball minds focused on youth products rather than expensive signings. Management has already hinted at a significant payroll cut for the 2012 season.

With most franchises, long term success is only established when their minor league affiliates are regularly producing talent. The Mets already enhanced their farm system during the season by trading Carlos Beltran for highly respected pitching prospect Zach Wheeler. The team will look to continue to do so this offseason and during next summer’s First-Year Player Draft, during which the Mets could have up to three first-round picks if Jose Reyes decides to take his talents elsewhere.

The team’s compensation for losing their leadoff hitter could be the first-round pick of the team that signs him as well as a conditional first-round pick to group with the one they currently hold, which if the season ended today would be the 13th overall selection.
While this draft reportedly lacks the superstar talent that has been present in recent years, three early picks have the potential to bolster any farm system, particularly when Alderson is the man in charge of the selections.

Pitching is not a large concern for the Mets, with Wheeler, Matt Harvey and Jenrry Mejia as solid prospects, and hurlers Jonathan Niese and Dillon Gee already having success in the majors.

The Mets should therefore look to improve their performance at the plate next summer.

One prospect that may be available is outfielder Victor Roache. Roache, who attends Georgia Southern University, exploded last year as a sophomore to lead all of college baseball with 30 homeruns and 83 RBI. Roache would surely provide the Mets with the big bat the team is missing, as well as provide offensive production from the outfield, an area in which the Mets were greatly lacking this season.

While it appears unlikely that Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero would fall to the Mets, Alderson could draft Stanford’s Kenny Diekroeger, who has hit .324 over two seasons with the Cardinal, to replace Reyes if he departs.

Other offensive options include LSU commitment Joey Gallo, a versatile player who has tremendous power at the plate and can reportedly throw 94 mph from the mound or across the diamond, or third baseman Trey Williams, a Pepperdine commitment with remarkable homerun hitting capability.

If the team does decide to improve pitching, the Mets may snag Kevin Gausman, a 6 foot 4, right handed pitcher from LSU. Gausman is considered one of the top pitching prospects in the nation, with a smooth delivery and a fastball that averages in the mid to low 90’s, but has been clocked as high as 100 mph.

Despite negative connotations associated with rebuilding, Mets fans should view this time as a chance to correct the mistakes of the past and build a contender the right way – by drafting and scouting intelligently and developing a superior farm system. If anyone is meant for the job, it’s certainly Sandy Alderson.