NEW YORK -- Each year, the National Conference on Volunteering and Service hosts a summit somewhere in the country, from Atlanta to San Francisco to New Orleans. This year, the conference was in New York City, and the Mets caught wind of it. They wanted to help.
And so various players and front-office personnel showed up at events throughout the five boroughs, from a playground in Corona to a garden in Harlem to a rooftop in Brooklyn.
"They said it was the first time a Major League team has done such a thing, and they'll consider working with sports teams in the future," said Jill Knee, the Mets' director of community outreach. "It just worked out well. It all kind of fell into place."
So it was that the Mets added to their history of volunteerism with a week's worth of events in late June, hopping around the city to various service events. Among the players who lent their hands were R.A. Dickey, Angel Pagan, Ryota Igarashi and Ike Davis, all of whom later lauded the efforts.
"Any time you can give back to something greater than yourself, it's a great thing," Dickey said after helping plant flowers in Harlem.
There were other new community initiatives for the Mets in 2010, as well. Expanding upon their annual wheelchair softball tournament, the Mets in August played host to the 34th annual National Wheelchair Softball Tournament, welcoming in 14 teams from around the country. Playing in a parking lot on the site of what used to be Shea Stadium, each team enjoyed significant support from the Mets and an array of corporate sponsors.
"For them to come to New York City, I think it gave everyone a boost," Knee said. "It was just fun, being in the backdrop of a Major League Baseball stadium. It really was a terrific event."
In addition to those initiatives, the Mets continued their usual charitable efforts, from their Welcome Home Dinner in April to their School Is Amazing and Citi Field Kids programs throughout the summer. And the Mets once again plan to host their three main annual winter initiatives: a holiday party, a coat drive and a blood drive -- the latter of which last year earned them the highest possible award from the New York Blood Center for donating more than 920 pints of blood.
It all amounts to a busy schedule for the Mets -- and that doesn't even include the foundation work of several individual players, including third baseman David Wright and center fielder Carlos Beltran, who continues to raise funds for the upcoming grand opening of his baseball academy in Puerto Rico.
"They're very interested, the players," Knee said. "They're very available, for the most part. A lot of these initiatives, too, once they get started with them they're fun. And it exposes them to causes they knew nothing about before. They get into it, that's for sure."
And the Mets hope that community work may just inspire others to "get into it" as well.
"We're just so uniquely positioned to bring attention to these causes," Knee said. "We're committed to being an active member of the community. That's something that ownership stresses from the top down."