A group of health care workers at a Newark hospital recently got a surprise “thank you” for battling on the front-line of the pandemic, courtesy of New York Mets star Pete Alonso.  Alonso, who plays first base for the Mets, popped in unexpectedly during a Zoom call between four workers at University Hospital and the Major League Baseball Players Trust on Monday (watch the video above).

“I’d like to thank you so much … you guys are absolutely amazing,” Alonso told the excited health care heroes, adding that they’re not just outstanding employees, but “outstanding people” as well.  The Newark hospital was asked to select four workers who represent its values of “integrity and teamwork.” Administrators gave a well-deserved nod to Brittany Bell, a paramedic, Evelyn Bragg, an EKG technician, Sima Farid, a social worker, and Dorathy Mbamalu, a nurse.

When the coronavirus descended upon University Hospital almost two years ago, nothing could have prepared employees for the unprecedented flood of urgent decisions, shortages of protective gear and new protocols. It was a desperate time for a hospital that serves one of the nation’s most vulnerable communities.

“University Hospital was founded with a mission to care for every person, regardless of his or her ability to pay,” administrators said. “As such, the hospital treats the largest share of uninsured and underinsured patients in the state of New Jersey.”

“The greater Newark community has been hit hard by COVID, having experienced the most coronavirus deaths and cases in New Jersey,” administrators continued. “Despite these challenges, University Hospital staff members continue to provide the best possible care, even as they witness their family, friends and colleagues affected by COVID.”

That’s exactly the kind of gumption the Major League Baseball Players Trust is trying to honor with its “High Fives for Our Healthcare Heroes” national campaign. Through the initiative, players are paired with a hospital in a city that they currently play or have played in. The mission? To thank front-line workers for the difficult and selfless work being done across the country to bring an end to the pandemic.

In addition to the call from Alonso, the University Hospital Foundation earned a $5,000 gift on behalf of the Players Trust to support employee relief and recognition efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.