This once in a lifetime opportunity came about thanks to BigsNYC’s corporate partner Holiday Inn, which supports Big Brothers Big Sisters of America with a $250,000 commitment – $100,000 of which presented with a corporate check, and the remaining $150,000 is gained through fund raising efforts that include such endeavors as “Wear Jeans to Work Day,” where employees make donations to dress down.
Holiday Inn, the official hotel of the Major League Baseball worked with BigsNYC to select four young men to be this year’s “shaggers,” fielding balls hit by this year’s All Stars.
“I was never here before, so I always thought I was missing out and time’s been running out, you know?” said 14-year-old Bronx native and Fox Street resident Michael, whose last name could not be released for security reasons. “But now I don’t care because this one day totally makes up for it—being on the field and meeting Josh [Hamilton] and everything… Not a lot of people can say they got to do this – I got to be on the field.”
BigsNYC, the nation’s first mentoring organization, has served the needs of New York City’s most at-risk youth since 1904, by developing and nurturing mentoring relationships between willing adults and school-age children, primarily from single-parent families.
The kids selected to participate at the Home Run Derby were chosen by their BigsNYC’s program directors. Some decisions were based on academic achievement and others were because the kids loved baseball, as was the case with Michael and Efrain.
“Things went extremely well,” said Mark Davis, BigsNYC program manager. “The kids were ecstatic just to be close to the field, and it was a great surprise for them when they got to meet with some of the All-Star players.”
Davis added that the boys related well to Josh Hamilton, who became a champion after overcoming adversity.
“Watching him hit those home runs, getting closer to the record — it was pretty cool,” said 173rd Street resident Efrain, a brain tumor survivor and Mets fan. “And we got to meet him too. He was nice to us – like he was excited to talk to us.”
Adding to the nostalgia of being kid on the field of Yankee Stadium during such a monumental event, was that it was the last All Star game to be played at “The House that Ruth Built,” before its demolition later this year.
Work on a new Yankee Stadium will be completed in time for the 2009 season.