"She was so happy," Alfonzo said. "She was living the dream. I took her to my farm. She was eating the papayas from the trees and the sugarcane. And she always told me, 'When are we going to go back, when are we going to go back?'"
Unfortunately for both Forde and Alfonzo, a return trip to Venezuela never came to be. Forde died of cancer last month. But Alfonzo, as well as Mets greats Keith Hernandez, John Franco, Willie Randolph and others, gathered together with Forde's friends to do the next best thing Wednesday: honor her life.
The group gathered at Foley's NY Bar in Manhattan to pay tribute to their departed friend and raise money for the Forde Children's Fund to support the two children who survive her. Crowds lined up out the door and onto the cold New York streets to wait to chat with, get autographs from or take pictures with the former ballplayers. And those are just the people who made it inside the door.
"I had to reach out to people and ask them not to come," Foley's owner Shaun Clancy said. "It's an hour before the event starts, and we're almost at capacity. That's a testament to people who want to come help Shannon. People have been coming in all day handing in money. Ten dollars here, 20 dollars there. A guy just came in and handed me a check for 50 dollars."
Though he was never a Met, Clancy is counted among the many who were touched by Forde's presence. Clancy said Forde was an integral factor in helping get Foley's off the ground, a fact that -- along with her other many contributions to the game -- landed Forde in the Irish-American Baseball Hall of Fame, a club housed at Foley's. Forde was the first female member of that club.
As star-studded as the night was, though, the true guests of honor were the 10 members of the "Dirty Dozen," Forde's high school best friends, who showed up for the occasion. Each donned a baseball jersey with the Dirty Dozen moniker and their respective numbers plastered in pink on their backs.
One of Forde's lifelong friends, Danielle Heuer, summed up her influence succinctly.
"She was [the best]," Heuer said. "We don't compare. But when other people love her as much as we do, you feel that you have to honor her memory and who she was. She makes me want to pay it forward."
And while paying it forward was the ultimate goal of the night, the girls of the Dirty Dozen couldn't help but reflect, too. And upon reflecting, Heuer came to the realization that looking back isn't really necessary.
"We love her," Heuer said. "We would way rather she was here, but we will honor her memory and make her proud. And she's always with us. She's watching right now."