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 NYMFansOnly.com