For the first time since returning to play in 2001 in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the Mets will wear first responder hats in-game on Friday night when they play the Blue Jays in Buffalo.
"We're really excited that this year we're gonna be able to wear commemorative hats in the game," Pete Alonso said Friday during an appearance with Moose and Maggie on WFAN. "So years prior, we weren't allowed to. I think because of last year with the cleats and also Jeff Wilpon was in the commissioner's ear about letting us wear the hats to represent people who responded that day -- FDNY, NYPD, Sanitation, Port Authority, and EMTs.
"Without those people, who knows what could've happened. So we're gonna be commemorating those people with five different hats. You're gonna have people representing those different organizations on the field today. I'm really excited that we get to represent everybody that was there to help and save others."
The Mets had tried to wear the first responder hats in-game on the anniversary of Sept. 11 numerous times since 2001, and had been denied by the league and/or threatened with fines.
Last season, the Mets wore the first-responder hats before the game on Sept. 11, but switched to their regular hats before the game started. In order to still recognize the first responders, Alonso had custom cleats made for everyone on the team and the players wore them without asking the league for permission.
"Just kind of being in New York, I really felt passionate about this," Alonso added, going on to talk about not only the first responders who died on Sept. 11, 2001, but those who continue to be impacted years after the fact due to diseases from being part of the cleanup efforts.
For MLB, part of its position prior to 2020 had been that it didn't want to be in the business of ranking tragedies, with one example being its refusal to let the Nationals wear Virginia Tech hats after a gunman slaughtered 32 people on campus on April 16, 2007.
While speaking last year, former Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre explained that reasoning.
"We try to keep the hats the way they are because every team could really have a legitimate reason to want to wear a different hat to honor something that happened in their particular area," Torre said. "And we just try to keep it consistent with the uniform."
Torre's response last year drew the ire of Mike Piazza, who said the reasoning was understandable but that Sept. 11 was not "analogous" with other tragedies.
"For what it's worth I strongly disagree with @MLB policy on not allowing the @Mets or any other team to wear police or first responder hats for 9/11 games," Piazza tweeted. "Understand their argument but non analogous with respect to other tragedies, and/or other events. We were directly affected and did not play for a week.The Mets and Yankees for that matter were extremely close to many lost, I hope and pray something can be worked out."
Piazza, of course, hit what turned out to be the game-winning home run in the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 21, 2001 at Shea Stadium during what was the first sporting event in New York City after the attacks.
Now, for the first time since that season, the Mets will again honor first responders in-game by wearing the hats of those agencies.