BROWNSVILLE — An 82-year-old Brooklyn native who was just diagnosed with a terminal illness is devastated. But according to her granddaughter, it’s not just because of the diagnosis. It’s because she may not be able to see her beloved New York Mets play during her final days.
18-year-old Ally Henglein took to Twitter to share the news that her beloved grandmother Kathleen Selig was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer, and was told on Tuesday, March 18 that she only has a few weeks left to live. Despite the devastating news, Henglein thought of one thing: her beloved New York Metropolitans.
“The devastating news she received this morning isn’t even what she is most concerned about,” Henglein wrote on Twitter. “it’s the COVID-19 outbreak postponing the Mets season that she’s been waiting (not so patiently) for. When live games aren’t streaming, she sits for countless hours in front of the TV watching reruns. She has been the Mets biggest fan through thick and thin, and she makes sure that everyone around her knows it. She strikes up a conversation with every stranger who wears anything Mets related, sometimes to my embarrassment. The Mets have helped her through her loneliest of times, so much so that she has asked us to.”
Henglein, a freshman at St. John’s University in Queens, talked to this paper about what inspired her to take to social media and share her grandmother’s story.
“I guess I was inspired to put this out there because I’ve been a Twitter user for years now and I often see tweets of this kind, asking for help to reach someone’s attention,” she said. “I was on the phone with a friend and I kind of joked about the idea of writing to the Mets. The joke quickly turned to reality when I decided to email the Mets corporation directly. After the email, I immediately posted something similar to Twitter, because why not? There was a chance I could make my Gammy happy and I wasn’t going to pass that up.”
Shortly after she posted the lengthy message, several people, including Mets favorites, responded.
“So far, the response has been way more positive than I could have ever imagined,” she said. “Pete Alonso, a current Mets player, reached out and quoted my tweet with some kind words. The New York Mets verified twitter account also Direct Messaged me with a promise to call my Gammy at some point today. Pete said he’d be sending a video message her way as well. Although these two accounts reaching out is amazing, the warm wishes and prayers from strangers, old high school peers of mine, and the local community mean the most! But I know when my Gammy receives Pete’s video and the Mets’ call, that will mean the most to her as she is a diehard fan.”
Pete Alonso tweeted, “Sending my love to your grandma. It’s stories like these that make me extra proud to be a Met. Check your DM, I’d love to send her something special.”
And on Wednesday, March 18, the Mets set up a phone call with new manager Luis Rojas.
“The Mets just called her and she spoke with Luis Rojas on the phone!” Henglein said in excitement. “She just went to get her purse and grabbed out a letter from 1990 addressed to her from (former Vice President of Media Relations for the Mets) Jay Horwitz. She is crying and saying how thankful she is. All of her memories of the Mets are coming back to her. My whole family is in tears. This turnout is unbelievable.”
Alonso also stepped up to the plate.
“(He) was kind enough to send my Gam a heartfelt video, she’s at a loss for words,” she said. “Thank you to everyone who retweeted, I’ve never seen her so overcome with emotion. I know she’ll fight to see opening day after all of this love and support.”
Alonso told Selig via online video as she was in tears, “For me, I wish baseball was still going on. It’s tough without it going on. It’s affecting all of us and life is not the same without Mets baseball but I hope that this coronavirus thing passes very soon and we can get back to playing and everything is good in the world when Mets baseball is back. I appreciate your lifelong support.”
She also told Rojas, “You have no idea what this is doing for me. I love you guys.”
Selig, a Brownsville native, has always been part of the Flushing faithful and has stayed true to the orange and blue.
Henglein said, “I asked my Gammy why she loves the Mets and she said, ‘I have no explanation. They are just the best there is. I was at the World Series when they won, I met them in California. I was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan until they moved to California. We had no team here in NY, and then the Mets came, and I’ve been a fan ever since, everything I own is Mets.’”
Her favorite team was the famous 1986 Mets that won their second and last World Series title against the Boston Red Sox. Her favorite player is Mookie Wilson.
The news of her terminal illness is fresh and surreal, according to Henglein.
“She just found out yesterday so this all came on so quickly,” she stated. “She’s been as strong as ever. She’s been one of the most stubborn people I’ve ever met, and nothings changing now. All she is worried about is that the Mets season is postponed.”
Major League Baseball stated on Monday, March 16 that opening day would be pushed back at least eight weeks due to the CDC urging to stop gatherings of more than 50 people for eight weeks. Some media outlets have reported that the start of the season could go as late as June, if that.
“She is devastated,” Henglein said. “She says she is ‘besides herself, because this year I really needed it to pick me up.’ She is watching re-runs for now.”
Selig told this paper what her greatest hope would be. She said, “That they have a great season, and stay healthy. I hope I get to join them on opening day.”
As for Henglein, the news about her beloved grandmother hit her hard.
“This has been some of the toughest news I’ve had to handle in my life,” she said. “My Gammy is and always has been my best friend. We have the closest relationship and granddaughter and Grandma could have. All of my childhood memories are with her. I know I have to be strong for her even though it’s difficult. I want to do anything I can to make the rest of her life as light-hearted and happy as possible.”
She even wrote an essay Selig for her first year writing class in college just a few months ago.
“The memories I share with my Gammy are endless, and we both love to reminisce about them, she wrote. “When I was a little girl before we moved upstate, I spent more time at her apartment than I did at my own house. I slept over almost every night, including weekdays. When I was young enough to still use a walker, I would cry until she put her brown fur coat around my shoulders, and her beige leather purse in my lap. I wanted to be just like her before I could even comprehend words. I still do. As I grew older, we spent countless hours playing store, restaurant, and bank. Gammy always appeased me and did whatever I wanted without question.”
Former Mets player Gregg Jefferies also responded, tweeting, “Kathleen you hang in there, the world needs great Mets fans like you. God bless you.”
“It feels surreal,” Henglein said. “I always see viral tweets on Twitter but never expected one of my own to blow up the way that it did. It restores my faith in humanity because in the current climate of today’s world, it seems as though we are all divided. I’m honored that everyone could come together to support a good cause.”