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Mets help renovate baseball field damaged by Sandy

Former pitcher Gooden visits O'Donohue Park, speaks to local youth league

FAR ROCKAWAY, N.Y. -- After growing up in Tampa, Fla., Dwight Gooden is plenty familiar with the destruction hurricanes can cause. Last October, though, Gooden watch his adopted hometown go through similar circumstances when Hurricane Sandy ravaged areas in and around New York City.

"It was a very difficult situation to watch. Obviously being from Tampa, you get a lot of threats about hurricanes and tornadoes," said Gooden, now a resident of northern New Jersey. "I've always felt that even though I was born in Tampa, I was raised here in New York. I came here at a very young age, at 19."

Despite nearly nine months having passed since the hurricane, the areas hit hardest are still recovering from the devastation. On Thursday, Gooden saw some of the progress firsthand.

Major League Baseball and the New York Mets joined together to renovate a baseball field at O'Donohue Park in the Rockaways, an area of Queens that saw some of the worst destruction from Hurricane Sandy. The renovations were revealed on Thursday, helping kick off the start of All-Star Week in New York City.

The Mets are hosting the All-Star Game for the first time since 1964.

Upgrades to the field included new infield mix, regardening of the infield and outfield grass to allow for better drainage, amending of soil, new sod and a new irrigation system. The dugout fencing, backstop, outfield fencing and bleachers have also been renovated.

The Scotts Company LLC worked with Major League Baseball to assist with the project.

Tim Brosnan, Major League Baseball's executive vice president, business, said the All-Star Game allows MLB and the Mets to show there is still work to be done in the recovery process from Hurricane Sandy.

"Hurricane Sandy's victims are still very much in need," Brosnan said. "Baseball intends to use its nationwide and worldwide platform to reignite the push to help the folks who were so devastated by Hurricane Sandy."

Phillip Goldfeder, a New York State assemblyman for Far Rockaway, said the renovations to the field show how far the recovery process has come since Sandy. Goldfeder also credited the Mets for their dedication to Queens.

"The Mets have been dedicated to this community, this borough for a long, long time," Goldfeder said. "Today is just a shining example of that."

Players from the Orthodox Youth Baseball League were on hand to see the new field, many of them clamoring for a chance to meet Gooden and get an autograph.

Gooden said many of the Major League players who will be at Citi Field on Tuesday honed their skills on fields just like the one at O'Donohue Park.

"Tuesday, come the All-Star Game, a lot of those guys playing in the game started on a field like this at your guys' age," Gooden said.

Gooden said his favorite All-Star Game memory was his first appearance back in 1984 when he struck out three batters, during a season he finished 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA. The former pitching great asked the youth players on hand to take advantage of the field and enjoy it.

After the renovations, O'Donohue Park now offers Little Leaguers an ideal place to play baseball.

"It's a great thing," Gooden said. "A lot of appreciation goes to everyone for making this possible for these kids."

Chris Iseman is an associate reporter for

New York Mets