On Monday, former MLB pitcher and SNY analyst Nelson Figueroa held his First Annual Charity Bowl at Lucky Strike in Manhattan. On MLK Day 2017, a self-proclaimed “kid from Brooklyn” did his part to share his gifts and blessings with a fan that gave him a lucky bracelet eight years ago. “I threw my only complete game shutout that season, so I don’t know if it was coincidence, but it was very special to me,” reflected Figueroa on Monday night.
In 2009, Peri Finkelstein attended a Mets game with her family. Like many young fans, Peri hoped for an autograph from a few major leaguers. She even came prepared to offer handmade bracelets to any player that was extra kind. On that day, it was Figueroa.
Flash forward eight years and the Finkelstein’s have reunited with Figueroa to raise money for Chai Lifeline, an organization that aims to support families dealing with ill children. Peri was born with muscular dystrophy, a condition that causes progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass. For years, she and her family have raised money for Team Lifeline. Peri even has her own sub team, Team Peri, which helps raise money for the organization.
Last year, Peri announced her plans to walk the final 1,000 steps of the Miami Marathon. Although dependent on a wheelchair most days, Peri was determined to challenge herself for a good cause. When Peri crossed the finish line, she had taken over 1400 steps, exceeding her goal. Even in a short time speaking with Peri and her family, one can tell this accomplishment was not the exception. Instead, it was perfectly in line with Peri’s strong will and determination. This year, she aims to walk the final mile of the Miami Marathon. Figueroa will join Team Peri as a donor and racer for the Miami Marathon on January 29th.
Monday was a start-studded event. From Blue Blood star Robert Clohessy, to former New York Mets pitcher, John Franco, celebrities showed support for Figueroa and Team Peri. Franco was happy to help a former comrade, “When I [hosted charity events] when I played, Nelson was one of the guys that I took under my wing and he was always there for me.” Figueroa’s bowling event was inspired by a similar bowl-a-thon Franco hosted during his playing days. Therefore, the former Mets closing pitcher was more than happy to help. “What better way to come back, and help raise some funds … it’s great,” said Franco.
While Figueroa originally imagined he could raise $10,000 to help Team Peri, his ambitions grew thanks to 19 year-old Michael Gruen, Senior Vice President of 3PT Sports Management. “[Michael] said, ‘If we [do] this right, we can raise somewhere in the $100,000 range, $200,000 range,’” shared Figueroa, “he took on the task, went to town, and I’m so proud of him.” In essence, two teenagers (Peri, 17 and Michael, 19) were an integral part of Figueroa raising $105,000 and counting at his First Annual Charity Bowl. Most of that total was raised through an online action on Charity Buzz. The CharityBuzz auction is still live. Items include lunch with recently retired Team Canada legend Hayley Wickenheiser, as well as two tickets to a New York Mets game with comedian Jim Breuer and Nelson Figueroa.
As for Peri and her family, the event is another way to help an organization that has been an integral part of their support for the entirety of Peri’s life. “Chai Lifeline was always there as an organization … even when we [thought] we didn’t need help, they were just there,” said Lori Finkelstein, Peri’s mother.
Now, the Finkelstein’s are contributing what they can to an organization that continues to support them, “Chai Lifeline is all about families,” stated Lori, “it warms our hearts to know that we’re never in this alone. I think that’s what people should take out of [tonight]; you are never alone in what you’re going through. And, for sure, Nelson has made our family feel like that.”
After completing the Miami Marathon with Team Peri, Figueroa will return to the SNY desk to discuss his former team. When asked about bold predictions for the Mets in 2017, Figueroa talked starting pitching, “If the five starters are healthy, I predict [the Mets] will be able to do good things.” Figueroa added that if the Mets return a healthy Neil Walker, David Wright and Lucas Duda (all were sidelined with back injuries last season), he likes their chances against the Nationals.