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On Opening Day, Bill de Blasio makes his pitch -- for pre-K

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio throws

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio throws out the ceremonial first pitch before the Mets' game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field on Monday, March 31, 2014. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday embedded several baseball analogies in a news conference declaring victory in his fight for universal prekindergarten, held before he threw the ceremonial first pitch at the Mets home opener.

"The opening day I'm really looking forward to is the opening day of school in September," he said at Citi Field, referencing universal pre-K programs that the city is expected to launch with the $300 million it has secured in the state budget.

De Blasio and his allies originally wanted $340 million to be raised through a tax hike on city residents earning more than $500,000, a funding stream he pushed relentlessly. But state legislators did not ultimately approve the tax, and the mayor has made no mention of it in recent days. De Blasio did not say what amount of state aid the city will get for after-school programs, another tenet of his education initiative, but called it "substantial."

De Blasio lobbed a strike to Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud from the edge of the pitcher's mound, accompanied by five children who attend school near the site of the East Harlem building collapse.

The crowd booed him twice before his pitch. He wore a customized Mets jersey with his name and the No. 6, which aides said was a nod to Rico Petrocelli, a Brooklyn native and retired infielder with the Boston Red Sox, de Blasio's childhood hometown team.

De Blasio earlier said the city is getting the funding it needs for pre-K, but he did not rule out pursuing a tax again in future years.

"We believe, if we keep our eye on the ball, that this full commitment will be met over five years," he said. "If that's the case, we've achieved the mission. If something changes, all options are the table."

He also used the Mets' 1986 World Series victory, clinched after an error by Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, as an analogy for his administration's pre-K achievement.

"The Mets were down to one strike, then they came back to win the world championship," he said. "A lot of times people were telling us we weren't going to get pre-K and after-school done. Some people said we were down to one strike. We came back to win."


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