Young readers come on out and meet the Mets for story time

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A pair of Mets starters gave a group of kids a fun storytime session Monday at the Central Library and received some lessons of their own as they toured the branch’s amazing new science center.

Dozens of youngsters cheered as starting pitcher Dillon Gee and infielder Nick Evans arrived at the Children’s Library Discovery Center in Jamaica for a special visit. The ball players came on behalf of their team to support the Queens Library’s summer reading program.

Evans, who grew up in Arizona, said he and his teammates always promote the value of education to their fans.

“Growing up it was, ‘Do your homework first and then play outside,’” he said.

Evans and Gee, both 25, joined Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante and 9-year-old library user Brandon Simmonds, of Springfield Gardens, in a reading session right in the middle of the Discovery Center’s first floor.

The group of children sat attentively on a colored map of Queens as the four read out loud “Hello Mr. Met,” a children’s book that gives kids a day in the life of the team’s mascot. Brandon, who attends the Jamaica Estates Elementary School, then impressed the major leaguers by reading a second children’s book “Duck on a Bike.”

The boy said he could not believe he was just inches away from the Mets players who he sees all the time on TV.

“It was exciting,” he said. “I always like to read.”

Evans and Gee were amazed with their surroundings as they tried out the features of the Discovery Center, which has grown into a popular destination for children. The space opened last month and was designed not only to give the Central Library’s kids space a spruce job, but also give users of all ages a state-of-the-art science learning zone with hands-on experiments.

The most popular feature of the center is the interactive floor map. As one moves through various parts of the borough, they will hear different sounds associated with particular neighborhoods. The section near Citi Field plays sounds of home runs and cheering crowds.

The players tried out some of those science stations, with a quick test of their reaction time using rulers and a physics lesson involving bouncing various balls off different surfaces. Gee, a Texas native, had a slightly inferior reaction time to his teammate after two tests.

The pitcher said he wished he had something like this when he grew up.

“It seems like it’s a really cool place for kids to come,” he said.

Galante praised the Mets for helping out the library system, because he said when the kids see their favorite celebrities reading in person, it goes a long way.

“The Mets have always been supportive and we are grateful,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 11:10 am, October 12, 2011
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