By Paula Katinas
Former New York Mets legend Edgardo Alfonzo, who helped power the ball club to the 2000 World Series, encouraged students to hit a home run by giving back to their community during a visit to a Forest Hills after-school program Monday.
Alfonzo, 44, who is currently the manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones, spent a fun-filled afternoon with sixth and seventh graders at the Queens Community House Beacon Program at Junior High School 190 in Forest Hills.
The former all-star second baseman answered questions, played catch, and signed autographs for the kids.
“I have been given a great opportunity to do what I love. I’m glad I am able to give back to my community and make people smile. We need that today more than ever,” Alfonzo said.
Alfonzo, whose nickname is “Fonzie” is considered by many Mets fans to be one of the best second basemen in team history. His career in the major leagues lasted from 1995 to 2006. During the 1990’s, Alfonzo led the Mets in runs, hits and doubles. He was named to an All-Star team, won a Silver Slugger Award, and had three top 15 MVP finishes.
In 2000, the Mets played in the World Series against their cross-town rivals, the New York Yankees. The Mets lost the Subway Series 4-1, but many Met fans still have fond memories of that time.
The JHS 190 appearance, which was dubbed, “Catching Up with Fonzie,” gave students a chance to ask Alfonzo questions.
“What was it like to play in a World Series?” one student asked. “I was nervous,” Alfonzo replied. “The stakes were very high. But I found courage and stayed focused.”
Alfonzo, who was inducted into the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame in June, is a native of Venezuela. “I always talk about my experience when I first came here and what I went through to become a professional baseball player. If these kids take home just one idea or inspiration from my story, then I’ve done my job,” he said.
Ben Thomases, executive director of Queens Community House, said the visit by Alfonzo was important to the students.
“Positive role models like Edgardo Alfonzo have a huge influence on youth, especially those who closely identify with his experiences as an immigrant,” Thomases said.
Queens Community House will be honoring Alfonzo at its Strengthening Neighborhoods Inspiring Change Gala on October 23. The event will take place at the Museum of The Moving Image in Astoria.
Founded in 1975, Queens Community House offers after-school programs as well as assistance to families and senior citizens. The organization operates programs in 32 sites in Queens.
Alfonzo said he is grateful to receive recognition from Queens Community House.
“When a player gets on the field, their focus is to play the game well. It’s never a thought that you’ll one day be known for the work you do. It's an honor to be celebrated by Queens Community House for my history as a baseball player, but even more important to be recognized for doing good,” Alfonzo said.