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MLS champion Wingert returns to West Islip

Chris Wingert, who plays for Real Salt Lake

Chris Wingert, who plays for Real Salt Lake of MLS, speaks with students at Westbrook Elementary. (December 17, 2009) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Returning home to reconnect with childhood roots usually has a special place in the heart of professional athletes.

Real Salt Lake defender Chris Wingert, fresh off his team's MLS Cup victory, was thrilled with the idea of coming back to West Islip.

The St. John the Baptist graduate spoke to and signed autographs for children at Westbrook Elementary school Thursday morning.

"I love coming home to New York. Whenever I get a chance in the offseason I like to get back," said Wingert, who grew up less than a mile from Westbrook. "My dad teaches in West Islip, so it's nice for me to be able to do this. I did something at [West Islip] high school and I plan on doing something at my old high school."

A group of several dozen students - second through fifth grade - were all ears as Wingert spoke of his experiences. The school showed a video of the shootout between Real Salt Lake and the L.A. Galaxy in the MLS Cup final.

"The kids were so excited. It's a fantastic thing," said physical education teacher Kevin Lewis, who helped organize the event. "It's wonderful for me as an educator and also for the kids. It's always exciting to see one of the local kids who has done well come back."

Wingert, 27, said he hopes to get more involved with the local community when his playing career is over.

"When I'm all done playing, I plan on moving back here," Wingert said. "We'll see what happens. Coaching is the next logical step when you're done playing. You never know what can happen, but I definitely think I'll be involved with it at some level."

For the time being, Wingert will have to be content with living out his dream as a professional soccer player and getting his message across to kids.

"Not everybody gets to go back home and get involved like this," he said. "A lot of people in this community have a lot to do with where I'm at now."

New York Sports