New York Mets slug­ger do­nates cus­tom­ized cleats to 9/11 mu­seum

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Jake Seiner

NEW YORK — Mets slug­ger Pete Alonso vis­ited the Na­tional Septem­ber 11 Me­mo­rial & Mu­seum on Tues­day to do­nate the cus­tom cleats and base­ball bat hon­or­ing first re­spon­ders that he used in a game on the 18th an­niver­sary of the ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

Alonso pre­sented the equip­ment to mu­seum Pres­i­dent Alice M. Green­wald. He said “it means the world” that the me­mo­rial wanted the gear for its per­ma­nent col­lec­tion.

“Just be­ing here in New York, I just wanted to show ev­ery bit of grat­i­tude I could,” Alonso said. “Not just for the first re­spon­ders, but for the fam­i­lies as well who were di­rectly im­pacted. You guys will not be for­got­ten.”

The 24-year-old rookie sur­prised his team­mates with cus­tom­ized spikes to wear dur­ing a game against the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs, which the Mets won by scor­ing 9 runs on 11 hits. He had spent weeks jot­ting down their shoe sizes, pre­ferred brands and styles, then hired a com­pany to paint them red, white and blue with let­ter­ing for first-re­spon­der units.

The mu­seum reached out to Mets Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer Jeff Wilpon about ac­quir­ing Alonso’s shoes.

“I barely got the words out of my mouth that the mu­seum wanted them and Pete was say­ing, ‘Ab­so­lutely,“’ Wilpon said.

Green­wald thanked Alonso for “such a mean­ing­ful ges­ture of re­mem­brance and re­spect” and called it an “ex­tra­or­di­nary gift.”

“They might smell a lit­tle,” Alonso warned. He added that it was “se­ri­ously an honor.”

Alonso and fi­ancee Ha­ley Re­nee toured the mu­seum be­fore the pre­sen­ta­tion cer­e­mony, which ran about 30 min­utes late be­cause Alonso was so de­lib­er­ate ex­plor­ing the ex­hibits. This was his fourth visit to the mu­seum, which opened in 2011.

“There are some ab­so­lutely breath­tak­ing ar­ti­facts here,” he said.

Alonso was a first-grader in Tampa, Florida, on Sept. 11, 2001. He re­mem­bers be­ing in school when he learned of the at­tacks, but said he gained a greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the day’s im­pact when he played for the Mets’ mi­nor league af­fil­i­ate in Brook­lyn in 2016. He re­called see­ing tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials ad­ver­tis­ing com­pen­sa­tion for ill 9/11 sur­vivors. More than 2,100 peo­ple have died due to dis­eases linked to the de­bris from the fallen tow­ers, near­ing the roughly 3,000 killed di­rectly in the at­tacks.

After win­ning the All-Star Home Run Derby in July, Alonso do­nated $50,000 of his $1 mil­lion prize to the Tun­nels to Tow­ers Foun­da­tion, which sup­ports fam­i­lies of fallen first re­spon­ders. He also gave $50,000 to the Wounded War­rior Pro­ject.

“It’s still a con­tin­u­ous thing,” Alonso said. “That’s what I re­ally didn’t un­der­stand. The fact that it’s still cur­rently im­pact­ing the com­mu­nity to­day, to me, is ap­palling.”

Alonso, the fa­vorite to win NL Rookie of the Year after lead­ing the ma­jors with a rookie-record 53 home runs, ini­tially asked Ma­jor League Base­ball if he could have hats de­signed for the Sept. 11 game. The league hasn’t per­mit­ted the Mets to wear first-re­spon­der hats since 2001, and it re­jected Alonso’s pro­posal. Alonso did not con­tact MLB about the cleats, fear­ing those would also get shut down.

“I don’t know why there’s red tape,” Alonso said. “It’s un­for­tu­nate, but we found a way around it.”

He said he’d like to make the com­mem­o­ra­tive footwear a yearly tra­di­tion.

JAKE SEINER/AP

The cus­tom first-re­spon­der cleats New York Mets slug­ger Pete Alonso used in a game on Sept. 11 are shown at the 9/11 mu­seum in New York on Tues­day.

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