NEW YORK -- Jose Reyes was just 19 when he made his Major League debut in 2003, the same year that Mike Redmond helped the Marlins to the World Series title as a backup catcher.
Now they are going to be star player and manager when the Marlins report to Spring Training in February. Reyes was honored Wednesday night at the 18th annual Lou Gehrig Sports Awards benefit dinner along with Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey and sports commentator Mary Carillo, and after receiving his award, Reyes told MLB.com he is excited about getting to know his new skipper better and turn around his club in 2013.
"He's a good guy," Reyes said of Redmond, while sitting at a Marriott Marquis ballroom table next to Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and signing baseballs for donors who helped raise more than $800,000 for the ALS Association's New York chapter. "I played against him. I talked to him on the phone. I can't wait to go to Spring Training and get to know him well.
"After a disappointing season that my team had, for me, I just can't wait to get ready to get to Spring Training and hopefully have a big year."
Redmond was announced last week as the Marlins' new manager, replacing Ozzie Guillen.
As honorees at the ALS fundraiser, Reyes and Dickey coincidentally were both bright spots on National League East teams that had disappointing years.
On top of a strong individual season in which he played in 160 games and stole 40 bases, Reyes won the Baseball Writers' Association of America "Good Guy" local-chapter award in Miami, just as he had done the previous year in New York. He founded the Santiago RBI Program in his native Dominican Republic, an extension of Major League Baseball's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program, and he donates money there to help educate children while teaching baseball.
Sitting at his ballroom table, Reyes said he was humbled by the evening's discussion of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative muscular disease that famously claimed the life of Gehrig. Dr. Tom Maniatis, professor and chairman of Columbia University Medical Center's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, received a Jacob K. Javits Lifetime Achievement Award.
Reyes and the crowd believe that real progress is being made and he believes a cure for ALS is coming in his lifetime.
"This means a lot -- just helping," Reyes said. "This is terrible to see for the people. I'm very humbled by seeing all the people who have this disease. It's important. Not just for me, but for everybody, just to be here and kind of support them in any way I can."
Reyes was presented with his Lou Gehrig award by Bob Costas, and had an uncustomary bout of nerves in giving his acceptance speech. He paused for a long moment during his speech, telling the audience, "I'm kind of nervous."
"First I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to be here tonight," he said. "I want to thank the New York chapter of ALS, and I'm glad to be back here in New York. As you know, I played here for the Mets, and I appreciate all the support you all gave me, from the bottom of my heart.
"For me, the real heroes are here in this room. We are here to help them to fight this terrible disease. From the bottom of my heart, I am very humbled."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.