SPORTSThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Mets Slugger Offers Advice to Young Players at Local Camp

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2014 NWE 0805 Lucas Duda High Five Back Page SportsNew York Mets first baseman Lucas Duda carries a big stick and is among the leaders in home runs and RBI in the National League, so when the 6’4” slugger walked on to the field at Summer Trails Day Camp in Somers last Thursday he was greeted with chants of “Let’s Go Mets!” and enthusiastic requests to swing the bat.

It took a few minutes for the soft spoken 28-year-old to warm up to the eager young crowd but eventually he did take a few cuts and watched as each camper took a turn hitting off a tee.

“To have Lucas Duda say ‘Nice Swing,’ that’s the highlight of their summer,” said Jamie Sirkin, director of Summer Trails. “That’s unique. That’s certainly something that kids remember for a lifetime.”

Duda also showed some of the older campers the proper footwork when covering first base, signed autographs and posed for photographs.

“I get nervous every day when I go to the ballpark. Being nervous is a good thing,” Duda said. “You have to continue to play hard and have fun. If you don’t have fun, why play baseball?”

Since Summer Trails was founded 41 years ago, it’s been an annual tradition to have a Major League Baseball player visit during the eight-week camp.

“It’s a big deal. It’s a very big deal,” said Dave Parent, the camp’s baseball manager. “It’s the highlight of the summer for most of them. They’re (major leaguers) all good guys.”

Last year, Yankees backup catcher Chris Stewart visited the camp. Yankees David Robertson and Brett Gardner made appearances the prior two years, so some campers were looking forward to seeing a Mets player this year.

Dave Silverstein, one of the founders of Summer Trails, said in the past it was easier to get big name players to make appearances when the camp developed a relationship with Gene Michael of the Yankees. Lou Piniella, Willie Randolph and Catfish Hunter visited Summer Trails, as did David Cone and Howard Johnson of the Mets.

“They were all here back then,” Silverstein said. “Most of the guys have been nice to the kids.”

Duda said he was an Angels fan growing up in California and one of his favorite players was Tim Salmon. He said he was always “pretty good” at baseball and is enjoying playing under the spotlight in The Big Apple.

“Playing in New York is great. It was a little bit of a shock all the hustle and bustle,” he said. “It was a tough kind of road (getting to the majors). It took some time, but you have to persevere and have fun.”


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