06/09/08 11:17 PM ET
Mets players raise money on off-day
Team's charity auction nets over half-million for causes
By Jon Blau / MLB.com
On Monday, instead of buttoning up their uniforms, the Mets were flashing fashionable suit jackets at the Richards clothing store in Greenwich, Conn., schmoozing with fans and autograph seekers alike. They spent their one day away from the diamond raising money for charity at the Mets Foundation's "Teammates in the Community" fund-raiser sponsored by NetJets.
In total, after auctioning away opportunities like taking cuts with third baseman David Wright or racing speedy Jose Reyes around the bases, the live auction pulled in a total of $580,000 for various charities, topping last year's tally of a half-million dollars.
All the while, the Mets snacked on some finger food. It would have been like any other off-day, except on this one, Wright needed a security guard to yell, "Take two steps back, please!" when a herd of followers was about to smother the Mets slugger.
"Whatever you guys say, I am still convinced they would have went out to dinner tonight," Jeff Wilpon, the Mets' chief operating officer, joked with a few members of the press. "Why not do it here?"
The money raised will be split between multiple charities represented by the athletes themselves. Carlos Beltran's "Harlem RBI" to Carlos Delgado's "Extra Bases Foundation" to Aaron Heilman's "Canine Companions for Independence" charity, to name only a few, will share the dollars raised equally.
Wright, who has a foundation in his own name, was constantly signing balls and taking photos with Mets fanatics. When Pedro Martinez entered the store, he quickly amassed a large group of followers, somewhat draining the masses that were eager to meet Wright.
Mets from every time period were lounging around the store, too. Rusty Staub sat in a chair only a few feet away from Darryl Strawberry. And as the Mets in attendance lined up for a picture, with New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica in the center, Tom Seaver replaced him at center stage for the second round of photos, prompting Lupica to say, "Now this picture's going to be worth something."
Scott Schoeneweis, flanked by fellow pitchers Heilman, John Maine, Mike Pelfrey and Billy Wagner, stood out with his white suit.
"If you are going to do something like this," said Schoeneweis, whose charity was the Ronald McDonald House at Duke University Medical Center, "then this is how you want to do it."
General manager Omar Minaya, who found time to talk some baseball news during the event, recognized that the players could have taken this day for themselves. But the players held the perspective that spending time in the community was a worthwhile choice.
"It's an off-day, but the players are here because this is important to them," Minaya said. "That's the kind of organization we are."
Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.