Mets All-Star Pete Alonso donates custom cleats to 9/11 Memorial and Museum

LOWER MANHATTAN, New York City (WABC) -- New York Mets All-Star rookie Pete Alonso made a memorable donation to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in Lower Manhattan Tuesday in honor of those who gave their lives for this city.

The first baseman coordinated the purchase and production of custom 9/11 cleats for Mets players to wear on the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

The shoes were painted red, white and blue and included "We will never forget" and lettering for first responder units.

"Just being here in New York, I just wanted to show every bit of gratitude I could," Alonso said. "Not just for the first responders, but for the families as well who were directly impacted. You guys will not be forgotten."

The 24-year-old donated his cleats to the museum at an event with 9/11 Memorial & Museum President Alice M. Greenwald.

The museum reached out to Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon about acquiring Alonso's shoes.

"I barely got the words out of my mouth that the museum wanted them and Pete was saying, 'Absolutely,'" Wilpon said.

Greenwald thanked Alonso for "such a meaningful gesture of remembrance and respect" and called it an "extraordinary gift."

"They might smell a little," Alonso warned. He added that it was "seriously an honor."

Alonso and fiancée Haley Renee toured the museum before the presentation ceremony, which ran about 30 minutes late because Alonso was so deliberate exploring the exhibits. This was his fourth visit to the museum, which opened in 2011.

"There are some absolutely breathtaking artifacts here," he said.

Alonso said he wanted to design hats the Mets could wear on the field, but that idea was rejected by Major League Baseball, which hasn't allowed the Mets to wear first responder hats during games since 2001.

"I think it's kind of sad that first game back, they've kind of shot it down every single year since," Alonso said at the time. "It's real unfortunate. So a way to kind of get around that was the cleats."

Alonso said he went around the Mets' locker room and collected shoe sizes and preferred brands for each teammate. He did not contact MLB about the cleats, fearing those would also get shut down.

"I don't know why there's red tape," Alonso said. "It's unfortunate, but we found a way around it."

The cleats were just the latest in Alonso's efforts to assist those impacted by the attacks. After winning the All-Star Home Run Derby in July, Alonso donated $50,000 of his $1 million prize to the Tunnels to Towers Foundation. He also gave $50,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project.

"It's still a continuous thing," Alonso said. "That's what I really didn't understand. The fact that it's still currently impacting the community today, to me, is appalling."

Alonso was a first-grader in Tampa, Florida, on Sept. 11, 2001. He remembers being in school when he learned of the attacks, but said he gained a greater appreciation for the day's impact when he played for the Mets' minor league affiliate in Brooklyn in 2016. He recalled seeing television commercials advertising compensation for ill 9/11 survivors. More than 2,100 people have died due to diseases linked to the debris from the fallen towers, nearing the roughly 3,000 killed directly in the attacks.

Alonso, the favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year after leading the majors with a rookie-record 53 home runs. He said he'd like to make the commemorative footwear a yearly tradition.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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