NEW YORK -- The holiday season came early to the MLB Fan Cave on Friday, as Major League Baseball played host to 35 children from the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton, N.J. The kids were bussed in to Broadway and W. 4th Street and treated to a night of revelry and holiday spirit.
It all started with a meal, but before the night was over, the children saw a little bit of everything. They had time to pose with the World Series trophy, meet a working police dog, try on fire gear and take pictures with Mr. Met and Santa Claus before heading home.
"These kids are, they said, 'Bananas.' And this little young girl said, 'This is amazing!'" said Frank Sanchez, vice president of sports and entertainment properties for the Boys & Girls Club. "They have Santa Claus, the elves, the gifts, the dog. They make everything a learning experience, but they know they've got to feed the kids. It's a great experience. Our young people are going to be fans of baseball, but Major League Baseball helps create great kids. And this is just one example of that."
The educational segment of the evening featured two New York firefighters giving a presentation on fire safety to the youngsters, and they even let the kids line up try on their jacket and helmet. There was also an New York police officer and his K9 partner, a strapping German Shepherd that charmed the kids.
Another group of children from the Boys & Girls Club had been the guests of honor at CC Sabathia's holiday party at the Fan Cave on Thursday, and Tom Brasuell, the vice president of community affairs for Major League Baseball, said the two organizations have a symbiotic relationship.
"Being a social institution, we have social responsibilities," said Brasuell. "It's our charge, from the Commissioner, and with children and families being the primary target of our outreach, what better place than kids from the Boys & Girls Club? There are all these kids around the country -- around the world, actually.
"They've got 4 million kids at 4,000 clubs throughout the world, so they're the gold standard for helping kids. And for the most part, I'd say a good majority of the kids they serve are underprivileged. The Boys & Girls Club is about giving kids a break and about giving them a great future. We're proud to help them give these kids a great future, and also a happy holiday."
The children excitedly asked questions of both the firefighters and police officer, and they happily lined up to spend some time with Mr. Met toward the end of the night. And then came Santa Claus, accompanied by his working elves and toting gifts for each of the kids in attendance.
The night's event -- often watched by passersby on the street outside the Fan Cave -- ended shortly before 7 p.m., in time for the children to return home. But it may live on forever in the imagination of the kids who participated and also the MLB employees who helped make it happen.
"This year, it's particularly tough," said Brasuell. "Many years, the kids we do this for, if not for the generosity of our staff and the employees of Major League Baseball who provide the gifts on a day like today, these kids might not have any gifts at the holiday time. And this year, we personally selected kids that were personally affected by Hurricane Sandy, so we just want to do our part to bring back some sense of normalcy and help them have a good, happy holiday."