Ridgewood/Queens dad finds faith in fatherhood, baseball
Alan Alcantara’s view from center field was a familiar one.
The Dominican-born 31-year-old grew up playing baseball, continuing through high school and even recently playing center field for three years for his job’s softball league.
He grew up watching Sammy Sosa, emulating the batting stance of Ken Griffey Jr., and idolizing his favorite player, Pedro Martinez.
But when the Ridgewood resident found himself in section 140 at Citi Field last week, just beyond the center field wall, he was without a glove and instead holding his one-year-old son, Levi.
The first inning home run hit by the Mets’ own Starling Marte was hit over the wall, and although Alcantara didn’t catch the ball on the fly, he positioned himself to catch the ball off the bounce after it ricocheted off the center field void between the Home Run Apple and his seats.
“I saw the ball coming off the bat,” Alcantara recalls. “It was a split-second decision to get up on the rail.”
The 431-foot moon shot to center field was hit 107.2 miles per hour off Marte’s bat, finding its way into Alcantara’s outreached arm, while he was standing on the side railing of his seats.
He says he’s been asked multiple times why he didn’t put his child down before attempting to catch the ball, but he says everything happened in “about two or three seconds.”
“My first thought was, let me stand up right away to see if I can catch it, so it doesn’t hit my family,” he added.
Alcantara, a church administrator at the Transformation Church in Ridgewood, happened to be at the game as part of an annual tradition with his co-workers. Families, volunteers, directors of ministries and even the church’s senior pastor — who Alcantara says is a huge Mets fan — were in attendance the night of Tuesday, May 31.
The bonding experience became a tradition last year, he says, as a way for the church’s congregation to regroup and celebrate life amid a global pandemic.
Alcantara, a father of two and soon-to-be three, says he received a flood of text messages from relatives and friends in his home country, who later saw the video clip of him catching the home run ball. A friend of his, a Pastor from Colombia, told him that he saw the replay of the catch while he was in the airport.
“I literally couldn’t pay too much attention to the game after [the catch],” Alcantara said.
The Mets would go on to defeat the Washington Nationals that night by a score of 10-0. They currently sit atop the NL East standings and have posted a 38-19 record through the first 57 games of the season. Only the 1986 Mets, who would go on to win the World Series that year, have posted a better club record to start the season.
During the pandemic, the Transformation Church pivoted to streaming their live services online, enabling the church at 16-40 Hancock Street to reach a larger audience than before, Alcantara says. Attending the church since he was 16, and a staff member for the last three years, Alcantara says that the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the church’s local membership.
“We saw a lot of deaths within our members’ families,” he says. “There was a time when our pastor did so many funerals in one week, it was crazy.”
Transformation Church started as a Hispanic church before opening up english-speaking services about a dozen years ago, in an attempt to reach the American-born youth whose parents were also Hispanic.
“They understand Spanish, but not fully,” Alcantara, a graduate of Baruch College, said. “We want them to understand the word of God.”
Migrating from the Dominican Republic at 13-years-old, Alcantara has called Ridgewood his home for nearly two decades now. In addition to preaching the gospel and coordinating Sunday services, Alcantara helps the church hold annual food drives around Thanksgiving to aid local families.
“We want to be able to put our faith into action, not only preach the word, but also live it out and help people because it’s part of the gospel,” he added.
With Father’s Day right around the corner, Alcantara took his brief viral moment to celebrate the dads who are present in their child’s life.
“I want to thank the fathers for all the work you do for your kids,” he said. “I know sometimes we go unseen, but God sees it, and your kids do as well, and they will thank you for it.”