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With close tragic reminder, Mets get back to baseball

NEW YORK -- Edgardo Alfonzo carried cardboard boxes to be
filled with relief supplies.

A large American flag hung outside Bobby Valentine's door,
little flags lined the dugout railing.

John Franco spoke quietly about his son's Little League coach, a
New York City firefighter who was still missing.

Back home at Shea Stadium, where the twin towers used to be
visible from the upper walkways, the New York Mets did their best
to get back to baseball with a light workout Saturday.

But reminders of Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the World Trade
Center were everywhere. Firefighters were sleeping in the ballpark
and the parking lot continued to be used as a staging area for
rescue workers.

"There's not one person in this organization that hasn't been
affected by this on a personal level," Mike Piazza said. "This at
least gives us a chance to take our minds off the depression. We
have to find some way to move on."

All around the majors, teams returned to the field fully aware
that baseball was still an afterthought in America.

At Yankee Stadium, players kneeled around the pitcher's mound,
heads bowed for a moment of silence. Owner George Steinbrenner
donated $1 million on behalf of the team to the Twin Towers
Foundation and the club donated its tarp, which was being used as a
covering near the wreckage.

Outside Turner Field, the sign that usually lists Atlanta's next
opponent read: "God Bless America."

The Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals played intrasquad
games and several other teams held workouts.

"We realize it's our job. We'll do our part, however small, to
let people enjoy us playing baseball," Texas pitcher Rick Helling
said. "Hopefully, we can do a small part to make this situation
better."

Games will resume Monday, with American flags replacing the
major league logo on baseballs.

Outside Shea Stadium, dozens of police officers, firefighters
and volunteers scurried around the parking lot to collect donated
supplies that were then loaded onto trucks and vans to be carried
into Manhattan for rescue workers.

Many Mets players and coaches pitched in following the workout.
Co-owners Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday, in a rare public
appearance together, said they would donate $1 million to the
relief effort.

Piazza, Al Leiter, Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile planned to take
a bus to New York University Medical Center after the 1 1/2-hour
workout to drop off more supplies.

Inside, the Mets took batting practice and talked quietly about
the terror that hit so close to home. As they did, line drives off
Piazza's bat echoed throughout the empty ballpark.

Volunteer firefighters from Ohio, who have been sleeping in the
tunnel behind Gate D at Shea Stadium, watched the workout from the
stands. Once the Mets saw them, they quickly were brought down to
the field and stood around the batting cage.

They were greeted with gratitude by Valentine, Piazza, Leiter,
Franco and other players.

"Thank you for letting us stay in your house," one firefighter
said to Valentine.

"We appreciate all that you do," Valentine said.

Leiter's Landing, the pitcher's charity, donated blankets that
those same firefighters used to stay warm Friday night.

"Everybody has been great to us," said firefighter Brand
Eisenhardt of Berea, Ohio. "After digging in the rubble, to come
out here and see sunshine and grass and get back to some kind of
normalcy, it's a nice escape."

Planes flew low over the ballpark as they prepared to land at
nearby La Guardia Airport, but most players didn't seem concerned.
The Mets planned to fly to Pittsburgh on Sunday.

"This is forever burned in our history," Piazza said. "To go
through so much pain is going to be a true test of this country's
resolve."

Piazza said he walked around Union Square, not far north of the
attack site, on Friday night and was moved by the all the tributes
and candlelight vigils.

"At least for us to get out here and get back to what our job
is, that's what a lot of people all over the city are doing,"
Piazza said. "We have to find a way to continue to support what
life in America is all about, and that's freedom."