Mets rookie star Pete Alonso donated part of his Home Run Derby winnings to organizations benefiting people who protect our country and city.
Before Friday night’s win over the Pirates at Citi Field, Alonso presented two checks to the Wounded Warriors Project and to the Tunnel To Towers Foundation, each for $50,000.
“I just feel extremely blessed, and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to donate,” Alonso said.
The money totals ten percent of Alonso’s $1 million prize for winning the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game.
On July 8 at Cleveland’s Progressive Field, Alonso hit 23 home runs in the final round, becoming the second member of the Mets to win the event. Darryl Strawberry was the first back in 1986.
Chris Young of Major League Baseball called the win a “tremendous performance” before presenting Alonso with a check, as well as two more checks made out to the charities.
For Alonso, who comes from a family with a military background, choosing the two was easy.
“I feel really strongly about people who put their lives on the line every single day,” he said. “For me, I think that’s kind of overlooked every once in a while. It’s something we all kind of take for granted.”
Noting his admiration for people who risk their lives to protect others, Alonso said, “The price of freedom isn’t free.”
He said it was the sacrifices of the men and women overseas who make it possible for him to play baseball and Mets fans to visit Citi Field.
“A bad day of work for me is getting booed off the field,” he said. “I can’t even imagine what a bad day of work is for people who put their lives on the line every single day.”
Wounded Warriors Project CEO Michael Linnington praised Alonso for using his notoriety to raise awareness for the sacrifices of military men and women.
“This money will serve and save lots of lives of our wounded heroes that come home,” he added.
Since 2003, the Wounded Warriors Project has transformed the ways injured veterans are empowered in the communities to which they return, such as providing them with programs like career counseling and long-term rehabilitation.
“We couldn’t do it without generous patrons like Pete Alonso,” Linnington said.
Tunnel To Towers CEO Frank Siller accepted Alonso’s second donation.
“Everybody knows about Wounded Warriors, not everyone knows what the Tunnel To Towers Foundation does,” he said. “Today a lot of people are going to find out what we do.”
Tunnel To Towers remembers Stephen Siller, a firefighter who ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel with 60 pounds of gear on his back to aid people at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
The foundation provides services to the families of firefighters, law enforcement and veterans who died in the line of duty.
Following the press conference, Alonso was approached by Lisa Tuozzolo, who gifted the champion a patch reading, “Never Forget Sgt. Paul J. Tuozzolo.” Tuozzolo was a member of the NYPD who was killed in the line of duty in 2016.
“It’s not just keeping Paul close to our hearts anymore, but it’s also remembering other officers that have died in the line of duty,” she said. “I’m really proud that Pete has it because it brings awareness and attention to all our lost officers.”
Tuozzolo’s sons, seven-year-old Austin and six-year-old Joseph were beaming when Alonso took them on the field before that evening’s game.
“I just want to use my platform for good and bring awareness to these causes, and hopefully other people can be inspired to help out,” Alonso said.
And while this is his first year in New York, he says he already feels a special bond.
“I feel connected to the city, and it’s something I want to do to show my appreciation,”he said. “The city adopted me, and I adopted it. It’s part of me now.”