NEW YORK -- Coss Marte woke up at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, not sure exactly what to expect. He met with one of his clients for personal training at 5 a.m., but besides that, he took the day off.
Marte knew he was headed to Career Gear -- an organization with which he has been involved that helps aid men's transition from poverty to employment and financial independence by providing financial literacy, professional attire and career development -- for some sort of event, and there would be some media there, but the details were not clear to him.
As Marte and four other men involved with Career Gear waited in the room, their faces lit up with smiles and smartphones came out when they heard players from the Yankees were about to enter the room.
Derek Jeter, Alfonso Soriano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hiroki Kuroda and Brian Roberts came to help some of the members of the organization get fitted for suits donated by DKNY and to hear the stories of how each of the men got to this point. It was a part of the Yankees' sixth annual HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere and Excel) to help recognize individuals or groups of people that have spectacular stories.
The Yankees created HOPE Week to honor people with stories such as Marte, who would never have thought he would be in the position to be honored Tuesday.
"I feel blessed and honored just to be able to shake Jeter's hand, to meet Alfonso Soriano," he said just moments after sharing a conversation with Soriano in the hallway, secluded from everyone else. "It's amazing, it's just a dream."
Marte, 28, grew up exposed to drugs from an early age while growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
"As young as I can remember, I seen it all around me," he said. "People shooting up drugs in the building."
At age 13, Marte got involved in selling, and by the age of 19, he estimated he was making about $2 million a year dealing cocaine and marijuana.
"I used to be asked when I was a kid, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' And I would tell them I wanted to be rich," Marte said. "And the first opportunity I received was through the world of drugs."
Then it all came crashing down -- Marte got caught and severed four years in prison.
While incarcerated, a doctor told him he was overweight, and it was either drop some pounds or, with as high as his blood pressure and cholesterol levels were getting, he could have a heart attack soon.
"I said, 'I'm not going to die in prison,'" Marte said. "I was always driven for more and for better."
That motivation helped Marte drop 70 pounds by creating his own workout regimen while he sat in his cell. That workout regimen and motivation helped him create Coss Athletics, a fitness training and consulting company, after he got out of jail about a year and a half ago. He got involved with Career Gear right away, which he said helped him get a suit back then and has provided him with so much more.
"To talk about what I went through and inspire others that are still in my same shoes that that was not the way," Marte said, "there's other ways around it. It just takes time, hard work, dedication, and I'm living proof that this is what it is."
The Career Gear participants and their families will be guests for the Yankees' game against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. That's something Marte did not anticipate when he woke up Tuesday morning.
Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less