SECAUCUS, N.J. -- For a bunch of kids from the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens (N.Y.), it felt like Santa Claus came to town almost two weeks early.
It was a joyous occasion because of Major League Baseball, which invited selected children from that region to the MLB Network studios to participate in the 2019 Winter Wishes party on Friday evening. And what a blast it was. About 40 kids took batting practice in Studio 42, received holiday gifts from Santa and Mrs. Claus -- with Mr. Met serving as one of Santa's helpers -- and enjoyed a magic show starring Randy Masters.
Since 2002, Major League Baseball has provided holiday gifts for disadvantaged children from a local Boys & Girls Club. This year, MLB fulfilled wish letters of over 200 children from three affiliates of Boys & Girls Clubs of America based in California, Colorado and New York. The boys and girls range from ages 6-13.
"For Major League Baseball to support kids from the Boys & Girls Club from Metro Queens today, it was an amazing experience," said Melanie LeGrande, who is the vice president of social responsibility for MLB. "We had such a great amount of kids. Maybe it's their first time playing baseball. For them to come out here to get some hitting and coaching … it was a fun time.
"We haven't seen it in a long while, but we had parents come [to the event]. They felt it was an exciting experience. They wanted to be with their children, who are having this wonderful time."
After the kids arrived around 4:30, they were treated to a wide range of food options, from hamburgers to ice cream. A half-hour later it was off to Studio 42, where they took batting practice and ran the bases. Some had never swung a bat until Friday, but others, like Joshua, 6, had an idea of what they were doing at the plate. In his first at-bat, Joshua hit a line drive down the left-field line and ran the bases as if he'd hit a home run. Joshua, a Yankees fan, said he learned to hit from his father.
Arianna, 6, never swung a bat until Friday. And she called the experience "fun" after getting a base hit on her first swing. Arianna even called the game "a good exercise."
"I'm so excited to give these kids this opportunity," said Tiffany Mayol, program director for the Boys & Girls Club near P.S. 100. "A lot of times in my school, they like to play soccer and basketball. Sometimes, they shy away from baseball, but it's good to see these kids exposed to baseball."