www.mets.com wrote:11/22/2006 10:00 AM ET
Delgado epitomizes community efforts
Clemente Award recipient highlights Mets' outreach programs
By Chris Girandola / Special to MLB.com
NEW YORK -- The Mets traditionally have been quite involved with community outreach programs in addition to charitable events and programs to raise awareness and money for various causes. This year was no different. The club added 20 dates to its community, health awareness and heritage dates on the schedule during the 2006 season.
The new events underscored the Mets' commitment to community involvement, and the 12 heritage dates, staged for the 10th consecutive year, again celebrated the cultural diversity of New York.
The club also staged a variety of health-related programs, including: Breast Cancer Awareness, Multiple Sclerosis Awareness, Autism Awareness Day, Health Fair Day at Shea, Child Safety Awareness, the Youth Fitness Challenge and Special Olympics.
The highlight of the year within the Mets community in terms of charity occurred during the World Series, when Carlos Delgado was presented with the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to the Major League player who best demonstrates sportsmanship and community involvement.
The award, previously won by Mets Gary Carter (1989) and Al Leiter (2000), has been presented by Major League Baseball since 1971, when it was named The Commissioner's Award. It was renamed in 1973 in honor of Clemente, the former Pirates outfielder and Puerto Rican legend who died in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972, while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua.
Delgado is one of many Mets involved extensively in charity work since joining the organization. His work is an example of what the Wilpon family asked of its players when Fred Wilpon became the majority owner.
"What Carlos has done and what some of the other players have done in the community shows how the Mets are truly committed to helping in the metropolitan area and beyond," Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said.
One of the game's biggest stars, Delgado has taken pride in his humanitarian endeavors, which focus primarily on children in his native Puerto Rico. He raises funds through his foundation, Extra Bases, a non-profit charity based in his native Aguadilla that he created in 2001 to assist underprivileged and deserving children. He is in the process of expanding the foundation to serve the New York area as well.
"Roberto's legacy to me is that it's an athlete's obligation to give back," Delgado said after receiving the award in October. "That's what I have tried to do throughout my career."
Funds for the Extra Bases program are raised in part through the sale of bracelets at Shea Stadium -- the bracelets are inscribed with "Follow your dreams" and cost $3. Delgado's home runs also raise money. He and corporate sponsors contribute $2,400 for each home run he hits. His slugging -- 38 homers -- produced $91,200 in 2006, and his power has produced more than $1 million in the last five years.
The foundation also stages yearly pre-Thanksgiving feasts for hundreds of homeless, underprivileged and disabled children in Aguadilla. Delgado is on hand to help prepare and serve the food. In addition, he travels to various toy stores around Christmas and purchases gifts that he personally delivers to hundreds of children in Puerto Rico.
Delgado reinforces the importance of education as well. This year, as he did last year, he is sponsoring two four-year college scholarships. In addition, he sponsors trips to New York for the top students in Puerto Rico. Recently, more than 35 students enjoyed a five-day tour of the Big Apple that was capped off with a lunch at Shea Stadium with Delgado, who inspired the children with a passionate speech about following their dreams.
Delgado also helped launch the Mets' "School Is Amazing" week in May. He emphasized the importance of a good education to the students of I.S. 145 in Jackson Heights. The program, which is a celebration of education among middle-school students throughout the five boroughs, also was part of the club's 10th annual Winter Caravan in January. The caravan included a charity event for disadvantaged children at the ESPN Zone in Times Square with players, coaches and wives in attendance, including Willie Randolph, Cliff Floyd, Paul Lo Duca, Darryl Strawberry and David Wright.
Delgado's friend Carlos Beltran also was heavily involved with charitable programs. Beltran emulated Clemente while growing up in Puerto Rico as well, and the Mets' center fielder has been dedicated to giving back ever since he became a professional. Each year, Beltran has added something his charitable plate.
"It's been so rewarding to see Carlos and Carlos come to us and assume so much responsibility in our community programs," said Jill Knee, director of the Mets' outreach initiatives. "Our players are so willing to give and help. It's very gratifying to see how much they enjoy doing what they do."
This year, Beltran pledged to contribute $500 to the Harlem RBI REAL program for each run he drove in -- he finished with 116 RBIs -- and became the program's honorary commissioner. He visited the center in Harlem and spent an entire day with 240 children aged 9 to 12 years olds in East Harlem. Beltran then hosted approximately 50 kids at Shea Stadium.
One of the quirkiest promotions the Mets staged in 2006 was their second annual Dog Day at Shea Stadium, a two-part event in which more than 700 dogs -- and 1,300 people -- participated. The promotion, presented in conjunction with the North Shore chapter of the Animal League of America, highlighted the benefits of animal shelters. A major portion of the proceeds benefited the NSALA.
These events and programs are just a few of the events that the Mets do for the community and charity each year. The AIG Homers for Kids, Let's Go Kids, Follow Your Dreams charity, Run to Home Plate and NYC Summer Reading Club are some of the programs geared towards children. The Jackie Robinson Foundation, Relay for Life at Shea Stadium, Jump Rope for Heart and United Spinal Association Mets have focused on various causes the Mets have supported.