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Pedro Beato is fulfilling his promise

NEW YORK -- Ten years ago, Pedro Beato was a 14-year-old with a powerful right arm who pitched for Xaverian High School in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. He hoped there was a bright future awaiting him in baseball, but he didn't fret about contracts or scouts. It wasn't a pressing issue.

He was just a teenager who wanted to have fun playing the game he loved.

Then, on Sept. 11, 2001, that all changed. From the roof of his high school, he looked across the East River and watched the carnage that hundreds of millions more viewed on television.

To this day, the horrific details of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 are as fresh in his mind as they were 10 years ago.

Looking back, Beato says that moment in time showed him how important and precious life was. He saw how it could be taken away so quickly, and learned to think about his future and where he wanted to go with his life.

He started to focus on what he wanted to accomplish in life -- as long or as short as it might prove to be.

"I wanted to become involved in anything that is positive to the world and anything that is positive to the community," Beato said. "I wanted to help people."

For Beato, now a rookie right-handed reliever with the Mets, 9/11 galvanized his desire to take a meaningful role in his community.

The 24-year-old actively gives out advice and guidance to all types of youngsters, not just athletes. "I think at that age, you start thinking, I'm young, it's a long road ahead of me, but that long road can be short," Beato said. "Things can come by really quick. It was 10 years ago that this happened and I still remember it like it was yesterday, so it went by really fast. Time flies and you just can't sit back and let things happen. You have to take the initiative and be more positive in life and help as much as you can."

Whether it's kids he sees in the streets near his home in Queens, or young players working with coaches he knows, Beato is always eager to pass along things he's learned about life or his journey from the Dominican Republic to the minor leagues to Citi Field in Queens. He's also active with the Mets and their charity and community endeavors.

"He's got a good sense of what the obligations are, more than just pitching," said Jay Horwitz, the Mets' VP of media and community relations. "He's done a lot of charity work, more than a lot of first-year guys that I've known."

Mel Zitter, who runs a youth baseball program in New York City called the Youth Service League, has known Beato since the pitcher was involved with the league and has seen firsthand how Beato has made good on his promise to be helpful to others.

Since Beato signed his first contract in 2006, Zitter has called upon his former player to help at indoor gyms in Brooklyn during the winter. Beato said he spends Saturdays and Sundays with the program until he leaves for spring training.

It can range from helping with pitching drills to pitching exercises that focus on mechanics to talking to the players about the importance of school and college. It can even involve injury recovery, as Beato had Tommy John surgery as a junior at Xaverian.

"There was a kid over the winter who had Tommy John surgery and while Pedro was in spring training I asked him to do me a favor and give him a call and talk to him about the rehab," Zitter said. "He called him up immediately. It helped the kid a lot. Make yourself a 17-year-old, and you have a big leaguer calling you up, who you never even me, and he talks to you. It has to have a major impact."

Right before Beato reported to Port St. Lucie this year, he took time to help his former high school coach at Xaverian, Dennis Canale, by speaking to children at The Child School/Legacy High School, a school for students with educational disabilities. The school does not have a baseball team.

According to Canale, Beato spent six hours with the students at the school, telling them about his youth baseball experiences and what he has gone through to get to where he is. Canale said Beato told those in attendance to never let their guards down, to always have a goal in mind and, of course, to focus on their education. He also took photos and signed autographs.

"What he did for these kids here, in one day at a school for challenged children, changed a lot of lives," said Canale, who is the facilities manager at the school. "These kids have a new idol and a new role model. That's Pedro Beato. It was a pretty moving experience."

Added Beato: "It felt great. Every time I get a chance to have words with kids like that, it's a pleasure for me. It makes me feel good about myself and makes me happy that I can communicate to those kinds of students and any time I can motivate them to do something positive, it's a plus."

Ten years later, he's fulfilling the promise he made to himself on 9/11 -- and fulfilling his promise as a pitcher, too. As a middle reliever for the Mets, Beato has a 3.86 ERA in 53 appearances.

"Mentally as a person, when you help somebody, it makes you feel better," Beato said. "It makes you better as a person because you helped somebody and you know you contributed to something, or someone, and your words might help them have a better future."

Matt Ehalt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.