David Wright stepped in, got in his crouched stance and locked in on the pitcher. But one strike after another from the nasty windmiller left him frozen, and all he could do was smile. That is, until he pooh-poohed the changeup and wound up having to dodge a pitch thrown behind him.
"I'm a Yankees fan," said 10-year-old Jenny Hickey, who was playfully implored to throw one at the star player. "But the Mets are definitely one of my favorite teams now."
In what has been a summer of excitement, the New Hyde Park 9- and 10-year-old Little League softball team experienced perhaps its greatest thrill on Monday: the big-league treatment. Coming off an Eastern Regional championship in August, the girls were honored by the Mets at Citi Field before a game against the Pirates.
The evening, set up by the New Hyde Park softball board and Mets public relations, included VIP everything and a video feature on the stadium monitor. And, upon their 4:15 arrival at the ballpark, the team was whisked onto the field to watch batting practice "from about 20 feet behind the cage," coach Tom Donnelly said.
The players signed autographs and spoke briefly with the girls, but Wright went a step further and earned himself a few more fans.
"They were looking up at him like a [god]," Donnelly said. "He came over and was posing for pictures with them and everything."
Afterward, Wright asked the pitcher to step forward and show him what she's got - with Mike Pelfrey looking on.
"I wasn't nervous, but really excited," said Hickey, who has now squeezed Wright between Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira as her favorites. "It was unbelievable."
Maggie Donnelly, the coach's daughter, called it a once-in-a-lifetime experience. "I can tell all my friends about it," said the third baseman, who idolizes Wright. "I'll never forget it."
The Mets then beat the Pirates, 1-0, in 10 innings, and the girls stayed the duration - on a school night - so homework was done at 1 a.m., Donnelly said. "It was worth it."
The girls went 17-0 this summer and became the first Little League team from their area to win a state championship. They then traveled to Fleetsville, Pa., for the Eastern Regionals, where they beat the Connecticut state champ in the final.
From there, the accolades heaped. Last month, the team was enshrined in the Little League Baseball Museum in Williamsport and, when they returned to school, got announced as champions on the PA system. Sunday, they'll be presented individual trophies at the softball breakfast at The Inn at New Hyde Park.
"Being with my friends the whole summer, getting our names in the paper," Maggie Donnelly said. "It was the best summer ever!"