Jay Horwitz admitted he misses some of the day-to-day nature of his previous job, heading media relations for the Mets and over four decades becoming one of the franchise’s most iconic personalities.
But the more he spoke about his new job as vice president for alumni public relations and team historian, the less he sounded as if he would miss the old one.
“I really enjoy it,” he said Monday from his office at Citi Field. “I think it will be a new chapter in my life. I’m 73 years old. I still have a job where I can contribute.”
There was no one better positioned for the task, given the trove of contacts and relationships he already had. But he attacked the newly created role like an eager rookie.
Working with Devon Sherwood, a younger staff member who better knows the ways of digital media, he has launched “Amazin’ Mets Alumni Podcast,” in which he interviews former Mets from across the decades.
Posted so far: Mookie Wilson, Ed Kranepool and Turk Wendell, with John Franco (who tortured Horwitz with good-natured practical jokes) on deck and Dwight Gooden in the hole. Also coming: Jay Hook.
The segments last about 15 minutes and reflect Horwitz’s personal comfort with the subjects, and vice versa. For example: He spoke to Gooden about the pitcher’s habit of ordering a full lobster as an appetizer before his main meal.
“The average fan isn’t going to know that,” Horwitz said.
His larger, more fundamental project is reaching out to a broad array of Mets alumni and improving the database of their contact information and personal stories.
Some go into a quarterly alumni newsletter; others will be saved for podcasts or media inquiries.
Horwitz said Mets COO Jeff Wilpon saw a deficiency in that area and knew just the man to address it.
“We’ve been dealing with just a handful of guys through the years,” Horwitz said. “[Wilpon] wanted to expand the search to bring a lot of people back to the family.”
The fact that Horwitz’s assignment comes in time for the 50th anniversary of the 1969 championship was a coincidence, he said, but it is a timely one. He has been rediscovering fringe players from that roster and gathering as much anecdotal information as he can — even from earlier than 1969.
He recently spoke to Hobie Landrith, 88, who played in 23 games for the 1962 Mets. “[Landrith] said, ‘The last time somebody from the Mets called me was 50 years ago,’ ” Horwitz recalled.
Another recent call went to Jack Fisher, who told him a story about Opening Day at Shea Stadium in 1964.
The list goes on. Duffy Dyer, Rod Gaspar, Bobby Pfeil, George “The Stork” Theodore, Craig Swan (about his model airplanes hobby), Joel Youngblood, Doug Flynn, Mike Baxter (about his catch that saved Johan Santana’s 2012 no-hitter).
And Joe Pignatano, who played for the ’62 Mets and coached them in ’69. He is 89 and recently broke a hip.
Then there’s Ray Daviault. His only major league season was as a ’62 Met. He went 1-5 with a 6.22 ERA.
“I think it’s important to let these guys know you don’t have to be a superstar for the organization to care about you,” Horwitz said. “Some of the guys from ’69 are not feeling great. It’s good to let people know we care about them.”
Horwitz said the professional “change of pace” comes at a good time for him.
“I’ve always been able to laugh at myself, and I never prioritized [stars in] the locker room,” he said. “I treat everybody the same and I think it’s worked out for me, because I have a level of trust with most of the people I speak to now.”
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