The New York Mets were a bit out of their league Monday afternoon.
Mets infielder Daniel Murphy, pitcher Dillon Gee and Lucas Duda, an outfielder and first baseman, visited the Henry Viscardi School in Albertson to play a game of baseball — wheelchair baseball — against students who have physical disabilities.
“It’s tough,” Gee said of maneuvering his wheelchair while pitching, hitting and rounding the “bases” set up in the school’s gym. “A lot of these kids make it look a lot easier than it is.”
That includes senior Marcos Taveras, who also competes on Viscardi’s varsity wheelchair basketball team and plans to play the sport in college. Taveras, 17, of Great Neck, pitched for Team Viscardi on Monday, and when Duda hit the ball back to him, he quickly rolled his chair forward, scooped up the ball and threw the Major Leaguer out at first base.
Taveras said playing against the professionals was “an honor.”
“They have a game today and they just took the time out to come here, stop by, say hello and experience what we do in wheelchairs,” he added.
The Viscardi School and the Mets have been holding the annual wheelchair baseball game for about 30 years, said Joe Slaninka, an assistant teacher at the school, who coaches Viscardi’s three wheelchair basketball teams.
This was Gee’s third year playing against the Viscardi students.
“Every time I come here I like to spend as much time in the chair as I can and just immerse myself in what they have to deal with,” Gee said. “These kids are very athletic and they make it work.”
Murphy added, “We’re just trying to show them that we’re just like they are and we’re all in this together.”
Murphy had also played in last year’s game, so Duda was the only true rookie Monday.
“Murph and Dillon didn’t really give me any pointers today, so we’ll see how it goes,” Duda said.
Sophomore Pat McCarthy said he thought the Mets adjusted pretty well to playing in wheelchairs, but added, “They’ve got to practice some more.”
McCarthy, 15, of Wantagh, went 2-for-2 on the day.
Destini Mitchell-Murray, also a sophomore, also hit the ball well. So well, she said, that Gee joked with her, saying she “almost killed him” when she fired off a line drive his way.
Mitchell-Murray, 14, of Manhattan, said she wasn’t surprised that her team beat the Mets.
“I think it was hard for them because they are not used to pushing in the wheelchair like how we are,” she said. “Some of us have been in a wheelchair for our whole entire life.”
Mitchell-Murray said she’s been in a wheelchair since she was injured in a car accident seven years ago, but she’s learned to adjust.
“Some of us have to play baseball a different way,” she said. “We don’t all play baseball the same.”