NEW YORK — Alan Alcantara played a lot of baseball growing up in the Dominican Republic, sometimes without a glove.
When the Mets’ Starling Marte ripped a home run in Alcantara’s direction at Citi Field on Tuesday night, it didn’t matter that he was holding his 1-year-old son, Levi. Alcantara had a free hand, and that’s all he needed.
The 31-year-old Alcantara reached over a railing from his seats in center field and caught the first-inning homer barehanded, all the while cradling little Levi with his other arm.
“I knew I was not going to have time to put the baby down,” Alcantara told The Associated Press. “So I decided to just hold on tight to him, jump on the rail and see if I could catch the ball. And we did.”
The SNY broadcast captured Alcantara’s catch, with stunned play-by-play man Gary Cohen asking “did he catch that?” and declaring “this man will go viral.”
Indeed, a coworker of Alcantara’s wife sent them a screengrab of the catch moments later. The Alcantaras were at the game between Washington and the Mets as part of an organized church group, and other members watching from home also reached out quickly when they saw the grab.
“As soon as it came off the bat, I knew it was coming my way,” he said. “So it was just a matter of seeing where it was going to land. It was just a quick reaction.”
Alcantara, a resident of the Ridgewood neighborhood in Queens for 17 years, said he’d never caught a foul ball or home run at a big league game before.
The barehanded grab?
“Instinct,” he explained. “In Dominican Republic, we don’t all get to have gloves, so we do play baseball barehanded, so I figured I could do it. I did it many times when I was a kid, so why not?”
As Alcantara described the catch a couple of innings later, Levi grabbed the ball out of his dad’s hands, smiled and held it close.
“His face was like, What are you doing?” Alcantara recalled. “And then my 2-year-old, which was right next to us, was super scared because probably never seen his dad screaming and acting the way I was acting.”
Alcantara’s wife is expecting the couple’s third son, but none will get to keep the souvenir. Alcantara is giving it to his pastor, a diehard Mets fan.
“I know they’re going to hear about it on Sunday,” he said, pointing to his fellow church members. “They’re going to talk about it for sure.”