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YORK -- As Ruben Tejada and Justin Turner posed with about 50 children from the YMCA Jr. Mets on Tuesday in Jamaica, N.Y., the kids were just as excited to try on the infielders' gloves as they were to kneel beside two Major League players.
The Mets and Citi sponsor the YMCA Jr. Mets, providing aluminum bats, gloves and official big league baseballs that are shared among the children in the eight-week youth baseball program. But on Tuesday, Tejada and Turner also shared their time, spending an hour at Marconi Park, signing autographs and teaching the fundamentals of the game.
"I feel like I grew up pretty fortunate," Turner said. "My parents were able to give me the stuff I needed and put me in situations to succeed. You come out here and see how excited these kids are just to get adjustable Mets hats, it definitely makes you reflect back on how you grew up and everything that I had as a kid."
The Mets began their partnership with the YMCA in 2001, but Citi came on board this year, helping expand the program's reach.
The YMCA Jr. Mets directors emphasize both athletic and social skills and also teach participants about health and wellness. They worked on baserunning before Tejada, Turner and Mr. Met arrived, then received lessons from the two Mets infielders.
"It's great," Tejada said. "You see how excited they are inside the lines, and you know they like and know about baseball, and you have to try to help."
Turner rolled ground balls to children fielding them with their bare hands, and when return throws were errant, Turner offered one-on-one instruction of how to set and throw to a target.
The 27-year-old Turner grew up in Long Beach, Calif., where he said parks and baseball fields littered the landscape. The Jamaica YMCA Jr. Mets play on a turf field with spray painted lines in a city known more for producing basketball talent.
"A lot of kids are exposed to the NBA. A lot of kids are exposed to the NFL. Some kids are even exposed to soccer, because we have a lot of new Americans associated with our programs," said Cedric Dew, executive director of the Jamaica YMCA.
"Baseball is sort of the American story, so having kids gain exposure and having their parents be fans of it is great. If you think about Major League Baseball, there are a lot of Dominican players, and we have a lot of kids from Hispanic communities. We have a lot of kids from Indian communities who have zero exposure, so this is a great exposure opportunity for them."
Steven Miller is an associate reporter for MLB.com.