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Matz hosts bowling event for first responders

Strikes With Steven benefits children of fallen heroes
MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

Steven Matz is living his dream right now, but he's also paying forward his good fortune to the bravest citizens around him.

A Long Island native, Matz grew up rooting for the Mets and is now preparing for his fourth season as a full-time starter for them. But he also grew up wanting to be a firefighter if baseball didn't work out, and in his time as a Met, Matz has built a reputation for his charitable works with the city's first responders.

Steven Matz is living his dream right now, but he's also paying forward his good fortune to the bravest citizens around him.

A Long Island native, Matz grew up rooting for the Mets and is now preparing for his fourth season as a full-time starter for them. But he also grew up wanting to be a firefighter if baseball didn't work out, and in his time as a Met, Matz has built a reputation for his charitable works with the city's first responders.

Those efforts continued Thursday with the Strikes With Steven charity fundraiser at Bowlmor Lanes in midtown Manhattan. Members of New York's fire and police departments and the U.S. military, along with their families, got the chance to meet and bowl with the lanky left-hander in a night of goodwill for public servants.

"Growing up in the New York area and looking back at 9/11, you realize that these people are going to their jobs every day and they're sacrificing their lives," Matz said. "These people keep this community together, and we just want to be there for their families."

Thursday's fundraiser was the latest in a series of ongoing events Matz has hosted for his TRU32 charity, which honors first responders in the greater New York area. Matz launched TRU32 in 2016 as an extension of recently retired reliever Brad Ziegler's Pastime for Patriots initiative. 

Matz has hosted dozens of first responders and their families at Mets home games while raising awareness for the sacrifices of these brave men and women.

"After a long day at work and the type of stress that's involved in our affairs," said police Lt. Emmanuel Kwo, an 11-year veteran of the NYPD, "being able to go to something like a baseball game to let off steam with your friends and family. … It's a tiny thing, but it means so much to be able to just relax."

The money raised at the lanes on Thursday will fund scholarships for children of first responders who lost their lives helping others in the line of duty. Twenty-eight teams took to the lanes, followed by a light-hearted showdown between the FDNY and NYPD. Comedy veteran Jim Breuer was also on hand to give everyone a smile.

New York's finest made it clear that Matz's outreach has not gone unnoticed.

"We've gone through a lot in our lives, and just to take a break from our daily routine, it's great to see this," said Kevin Connolly, a recently retired firefighter from Staten Island, who served 28 years with the FDNY. "We do a lot with the kids of those who have fallen, but when it comes from outside the department, it's special. They're thinking of us, and they really care."

Matz also touched briefly on the biggest news coming out of Queens right now: The Mets' hiring of agent-turned-general manager Brodie Van Wagenen. The two have already been in touch, and the southpaw came away impressed by their initial conversation.

"It's an exciting time for the Mets," said Matz. "Brodie has already reached out to me to talk about some things, and it was cool getting to know him. We ended on a great note. A lot of us are really excited about next season."

He also offered a confident prediction regarding his rotation-mate, Jacob deGrom, and next week's National League Cy Young Award announcement.

"I think Jake's got it," Matz said. "I got to go out there every fifth day and watch him from the sidelines, and it was special to watch."

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

New York Mets, Steven Matz