Normally, Citi Field in New York sees Major League Baseball action. But last Wednesday, 60 local Little Leaguers took over the ballpark for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The kids met at the home of the New York Mets for an event sponsored by Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and its “Show Your Stripes” campaign. They began the day with a tour of the stadium, getting a glimpse of the inner-workings of the massive ballpark. Then they hit the field to take part in some fun on-field activities.
But the biggest part of their day was who they got to hang out with.
Mets pitcher Jon Niese, Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, and New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz surprised the kids once they got to the field. The big leaguers assisted the awed and enthusiastic amateurs on the field, and they mingled with the kids as if they were long-time teammates.
“We were in their shoes at one point,” Niese said. “It’s really cool to see their reaction and how excited they are.”
The young ball players were split into three stations. The two Mets’ athletes operated one together, Cruz controlled another, and a final group was located at home plate. Sticking with Kellogg’s “Show Your Stripes” theme, each of the groups each carried an underlying mantra.
In left field, Niese and Murphy’s location involved team sprit and camaraderie. The two Mets shared their own stories involving their Little League and Major League careers, discussing everything from pre-game superstitions to pranks on teammates. One group of kids even demonstrated their own home run celebration: four players take the position of bowling pins while another uses his or her hat as a figurative bowling ball. Niese and Murphy both seemed to like the creativity.
In center field, Cruz talked to the kids about individuality and the importance of “showing your style in a positive way.” Cruz is no stranger to expressing himself, with his salsa dance celebration becoming notorious in the NFL. But he also reminded the kids “not [to be] a showboat,” and to “represent yourself in a positive way.”
After his impassioned message, the kids then barraged Cruz, who answered questions, signed autographs, and took pictures. He was easily the fan favorite of the young baseball players.
“I liked meeting Victor,” said Shawn S., a player in the Massapequa Coast Little League. “It was really exciting to have an opportunity to meet him.”
In the final station, the kids had a chance to mimic a Major League Moment: Walking up to the plate like a pro. After choosing a walk-in song, the players took swings behind home plate as their name echoed from the stadium speakers and a live video was shown on the stadium Jumbotron in center field.
After all the kids spent time at each station, they headed out to centerfield to get photos with the pros and pick up a goodie bag. Each Little Leaguer received a Kellogg’s knapsack containing two mini boxes of Frosted Flakes cereal, a “Show Your Stripes” t-shirt and hat, and two tickets to the Mets game later that night.
It was an experience the Little Leaguers would never forget. And it’s something the pros enjoyed, too. They might have even been a little jealous.
“I never got to do this when I was a kid,” Niese said. “I never got to go to a big league stadium and meet big league players. So it’s really neat.”
Photos: Jason DeCrow/AP Images for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes