FLUSHING, NY – The New York Mets hosted the annual Greek Heritage Day at Citifield on beautiful Saturday afternoon on June 14. Greek-Americans made their presence felt and the highlight of the afternoon was a delightful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by children of the choir of the A. Fantis Parochial School.
The children, who warmed the hearts of Greek and non-Greek fans alike, were led by Selestina Ivantcheva, the daughter of A. Fantis’ music teacher Krassi Ivanchev.
Boy Scout Troop 72, which was originally sponsored by the Church of the Transfiguration in Corona, Queens and is now based at Long Island’s Church of the Resurrection in Brookville, was presented the Mets Spirit Award for its community service activities.
Patty Paravalos, who teaches grades Pre-K to 4, at A. Fantis, told TNH “It was beautiful. I had tears.” Paravalos, whose roots are in Sparta – her husband is from Santorini – has taught at the school for nine years.
She said there would have been more people at Citifield but the date conflicted with graduation ceremony of the school, whose principal is Dr. Alice B. Farkouh.
Still, they deeply appreciated the invitation by the Mets.
“The children all lined up in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda and were escorted through the tunnel to a room where they practiced, and then they went onto the field,” Paravalos said.
Proud parents and family friends took photos from above the Mets dugout before returning to their seats to enjoy the game.
Haeda Mihaltses, who was former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, and is now the Mets’ Executive Director of External Affairs, said “it was wonderful to have Greek Heritage Day at Citifield. We have been doing it for ten years and it’s grown every year.”
The event is often co-sponsored by a Greek-American organizations but this year the Mets took the initiative and reached out to parishes and organization throughout the New York Metropolitan Area.
Mihaltses looks forward to seeing many Hellenes at Citifield soon when Olympiacos plays A.C. Milan there on July 25
Anthony Brigis, former scoutmaster and now Committee Chairman, said “It was very exciting for the boys to be there on the field.” Troop 72 has an illustrious history, with 25 Eagle Scouts between its two sponsoring parishes, and scouts who have served as president of four different parishes. With 65 current scouts, the future is bright.
Dean Mihaltses, Associate Executive Director, Elmhurst Hospital Center, has served the community as both a scoutmaster and PC president. He was recently succeeded as scoutmaster by Anthony Perfetti.
Having Greek blue and white in the stands was about as helpful to the Mets about as helpful as it was for the Greek soccer team in Brazil that day. While both teams were shut out, 5-0 and 3-0 respectively, hope springs eternal for their fans. More than half the baseball season remains and Greece has two more games to play that they hope will catapult them into the next round of the World Cup.