It may have been an impromptu diamond, and much smaller than the one they’re used to, but for six members of the Kingsport Mets, the size and location of the baseball field didn’t make a difference. It was the company they were keeping Wednesday morning that mattered.
The Mets joined forces with the Greater Kingsport Family YMCA on Wednesday as part of the organization’s Y on Wheels community outreach project. It’s a program where the YMCA brings sports equipment, healthy snacks and staff members to underserved neighborhoods in our community on a regular schedule.
Wednesday’s event took place at Holly Hills apartments. Mets players signed autographs and played wiffleball on a basketball court with the kids. Other activities in a nearby field included a bean bag toss game and oversized Connect Four.
“These kids rarely have an opportunity to attend community events and appreciate having special guests come to connect, teach skills, and in this case, play catch,” said Abigail Weaver, vice-president of advancement with the YMCA.
Weaver said the Mets have forged a partnership with the YMCA where players, managers and other employees want to get even more involved in the community outside of Hunter Wright Stadium.
“We’re just here with the YMCA, hanging out with some kids and playing baseball, signing autographs and trying to connect with the community,” said center fielder Kennie Taylor, who was drafted by the Mets in June.
Taylor hails from Tampa, Fla., and has family in Chattanooga, but it’s his first time in the Model City.
“I like it a lot. It’s a nice area. A new place and a new experience. I’m excited to be here,” Taylor said.
Brendan Hardy is a 19-year-old pitcher who is seeing his first full season with the Mets. Kingsport reminds him of his hometown, Gulfport, Miss., not too big and very “chill and laid back.”
“It’s always nice to give back to the community and show your face, especially with us being a local team,” Hardy said. “It’s important to show up in the community, to come out and have fun with the kids, to show them that dreams come true and can be accomplished.”
Outfielder Cole Kleszcz hails from Southern California and just got drafted by the Mets this year.
“It’s good to come out here, put a smile on their faces and have a good time with them,” Kleszcz said. “This sport is a great sport and it’s fun to come out here and teach younger kids and have fun playing with them, no matter what age you are.”