NEW YORK -- As the Mets and Major League Baseball looked around New York for the best places and ways to contribute to the city during this All-Star season, one location was an absolute natural: Coney Island.
Many of the efforts and initiatives have centered on Hurricane Sandy relief, and Coney Island was one of the harder-hit areas from the October storm. Besides, the Mets have a short-season Class A team there. It simply made too much sense.
And so on Thursday, MLB and the Mets, along with the Starlight Children's Foundation, presented a Starlight Fun Center to the Coney Island Hospital. A Starlight Fun Center is a mobile entertainment unit -- including a television, a Nintendo Wii game system and a DVD player -- that can be brought to kids' hospital rooms.
The play serves as a distraction for the youngsters, taking their minds off the pain and fear of illness or treatment. And because the Starlight Fun Center is mobile, many kids in one hospital can benefit.
The Mets have a longstanding relationship with Starlight, making the combination of location and contribution even more automatic.
"It seemed like the right place," said Jill Knee, the Mets' director of community outreach.
Added Jill Radwin, program coordinator with Starlight: "There is not a hospital that is more deserving right now. It's been a tough year."
Knee and Mets great Ed Kranepool represented the club, with vice president of community affairs Tom Brasuell representing the league and Radwin from Starlight. Also attending were MLB goodwill ambassador Vera Clemente, widow of Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, and representatives from the hospital.
Mascots Mr. Met and Sluggerrr (of the Kansas City Royals) also dropped in to visit with kids at the hospital -- and join them playing with the Wii for a little while.
The presentation was one of a slew of events around the metropolitan area, part of MLB's annual efforts to leave a lasting legacy in the cities that host the All-Star Game.
"It's always a a priority to give back to the community," Brasuell said, "from the clubs, from the league. It's one of the Commissioner's highest priorities. [This is] a very busy hospital doing lots of great work, fantastic work, for a community that speaks over 130 languages."
He noted that as he gave interviews, some youngsters had already taken to the game system.
"They're already not thinking about their illnesses, what they're in the hospital for," Brasuell said. "That's really what it's all about, bringing a smile to their faces and making sure that they heal and get well a little faster."
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach.