New York Daily News

January 24, 2003

Valentine linked to Mets by Sept. 11

By ADAM RUBIN
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Bobby Valentine welcomed Al Leiter with a handshake, telling his former ace, "Long time no see. I just e-mailed you."

Then Valentine greeted Jeff Wilpon, the Mets' chief operating officer, with a similar palm-to-palm exchange.

The Mets and Valentine, divorced after last season's miserable campaign, reunited last night, to be honored for a contribution that will forever link them.

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the Sergeants' Benevolent Association and the Detectives' Endowment Association of New York City recognized the Mets for their post-Sept. 11 contributions at a banquet that included Commissioner Raymond Kelly and families of victims of the terrorist attacks.

"This is to thank the Mets organization for the generosity and support they showed our families, immediately after Sept. 11 and continuing," said deputy chief Ed Cannon. "The real spirit was Bobby V. He basically motivated the players. And I think those players will be grateful for a long time. He pointed out they had a greater responsibility."

Said Wilpon: "This is a great thing. We're happy to be invited. They didn't have to honor us. It's a little embarrassing. We didn't do it to be honored."

Wilpon, despite the split with Valentine, didn't hesitate to heap praise on the former manager.

"Certainly Bobby Valentine was a big part of that," Wilpon said. "I have no problem with Bobby. I've seen him a number of times. New Year's Eve, I saw him - would you believe - in Connecticut. He just happened to be at the same restaurant."

Valentine attends plenty of functions for charity, hoping his presence helps.

"I'm trying to do a lot of things," he said. "I have more time now - which is the good news and the bad news. The good news is people know that I give, so I'm out there receiving - because when you give, you receive. I'm having a good time doing it.

"The president said, 'We will never forget.' I've become a little amazed at how many people didn't hear that. And what I found is the old adage of time healing all wounds is not a truism. You need many other ingredients during that time to heal the wounds."

Have the wounds Valentine suffered as a result of being fired by the Mets healed?

"I don't have any wounds with the Mets," Valentine said, before allowing: "There's probably still a stone or two that needs to be overturned and put in the past."

As for the response of the 2001 team, he added: "The more I think about it, now that it's becoming some recent history and good memories, it was a special group of guys. We experienced things that hopefully no one will ever come close to experiencing again. We experienced it together and I think that we're all better off because of it."