Mets, others pay tribute to 9/11

NEW YORK -- Former reliever John Franco reconnected with one-time batterymate Mike Piazza for a ceremonial first pitch, and first responders and the children of 9/11 victims unfurled a 300-by-100 foot American flag in the outfield, as the New York Mets had a moving pregame ceremony Sunday night in remembrance of the victims of the terrorist attacks a decade ago.

The Mets had played the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 21, 2001 in the first game back in New York after the terrorist attacks, helping the city heal with an emotional win on Piazza's eighth-inning home run.

"There are so many people who did so much for the city. It's an honor for me to be out there," Franco said before the Mets lost to the Cubs 10-6 in 11 innings. "Myself and my teammates did such a small part. But being born and raised in New York, it's an honor for me to be out there with the heroes -- the police and fire department."

Said Mets manager Terry Collins: "It was really, really well done. Even Mike Piazza, standing next to me, said, 'Boy, isn't this beautiful out here. What a nice tribute.' I think he's absolutely right."

The Yankees were playing in Los Angeles but managed to pay their respect before their Sunday afternoon game.

Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees caught ceremonial first pitches from two first responders and a survivor of the attacks.

"I wish we were at home with the people of New York," Posada said.

Mets players wore hats from first-responder agencies before Sunday's game against the Chicago Cubs.

Native New Yorker Marc Anthony sang the national anthem, as he did on Sept. 21, 2001 at Shea Stadium.

Also honoring the 10th anniversary were the Washington Nationals, where two red, blue and white logos were painted on the field in foul territory along the base lines, with the date "September 11, 2001" and the words: "We shall not forget." The Nationals also wore blue jerseys with a stars-and-stripes background for the team's 'W' logo.

"Frankly, I was a little bit skittish with regard to coming out to a ballpark and large gathering of people with feelings of how scared we were 10 years ago," said Joe Bailey, a 40-year-old fan from Bethesda, Md. "I think as part of our resolve, it's to go ahead and continue on in the American way and do what we do, and one of those things is to be passionate about baseball."

Mets reliever Bobby Parnell said it was fitting he received an FDNY hat to wear pregame.

"If I had a different one I'd probably ask for this one," Parnell said.

Parnell's father is chief of the Salisbury, N.C., fire department. Parnell and a member of that department, Chip Thomas, toured the Ground Zero memorial on Saturday evening. Parnell said his father recently received a piece of steel from the World Trade Center, which will be made into a memorial at his North Carolina hometown's fire department. Robert Parnell Sr. had applied for the WTC steel after 9/11.

"It was a good visit," Parnell said about the Saturday night trip to Ground Zero. "There weren't very many people down there, but the people that were mostly were firefighters in their dress blues and their Class A uniforms. Everybody was real quiet, just walking around and seeing the scenery. There was a bike rally that started in Florida. They rode their bicycles all the way from Florida up here in memory of the fallen firefighters. We saw them, and they had stopped in North Carolina, where my dad works. I followed them along and saw them last night riding around. It was pretty cool."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.