That Magic Moment: On This Date in Mets History

The date was April 30, 2002, only one year ago. Mike Piazza hit two home runs and drove in six runs as the New York Mets defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 10-1. Mike Piazza, however, was not the story that day. The magic moment that day belonged to pitcher Al Leiter who picked up the victory and in doing so became the first pitcher in history to have beaten all 30 major league baseball teams.

When first coming up through the farm system of those dreaded cross-town rivals - the Yankees - Leiter was hailed as the next great arm in pinstripes. He never did realize much success with the Yankees, but he did develop into a tough-as-nails competitor that has eventually become one of the best lefthanders in the game.

For all the magic moments Al Leiter has delivered on a baseball field and the more to come, his true magic may shine brighter elsewhere. Yes, to be certain, the true magic of Al Leiter brilliantly glows in his heart and his belief in humanity.

When Leiter signed his four-year contract with the Mets in 1998, he pledged one million dollars to charity. Two years earlier, Leiter and his wife founded Leiters Landing, a foundation to help children in need. The charitable organization is committed to the betterment of youth through education, health care, and social and community service. Leiters Landing also serves as a fundraising arm to assist other children's charities.

Some of the activities associated with Leiters Landing have included donating computers to underprivileged schools in Harlem, helping to launch a program where young volunteers work with Meals-on-Wheels to deliver meals to 15,000 home-bound elderly, working extensively with organizations like the Starlight Foundation, which helps terminally ill children, and participating in hospital visits throughout the year.

The Leiters also distribute Mets tickets to numerous youth groups, including Happiness is Camping - a camp for kids with cancer, Exodus House - a school for advanced students in Harlem, and the Ronald McDonald House.

Al Leiter was named the recipient of the 2000 Roberto Clemente Award. Presented annually during the World Series, the Roberto Clemente Award is given to the major league baseball player who combines outstanding skills on the baseball field with an exemplary sense of civic responsibility.

Manny Sanguillen, the former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher said, "Roberto Clemente played the game of baseball with great passion. That passion could only be matched by his unrelenting commitment to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate and those in need." The same might be said of Al Leiter.

Upon the conclusion of Al Leiter's baseball career, he and his career will most likely be remembered in terms of numbers - games, wins, losses, ERA, and even more numbers. Numbers in a sport driven by stats, like baseball, frequently overwhelm and numb even the observant fan. Sometimes numbers can be magic, sometimes … maybe. Beyond numbers, though, there can be bigger magic.

When Al Leiter had returned to his hotel room April 30th of last year, in fact, it is said that he didn't know what he had accomplished until he switched on the television. Leiter had just beaten all 30 major league baseball teams including the team he came up with - the Yankees.

But, he was probably thinking of his charities.

John C. Sinclair writes a New York Mets historical column every Wednesday on

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