Ed Kranepool confirmed his interest in becoming part of the Mets' ownership group, telling Newsday in a telephone interview Tuesday night, "I'd be crazy not to seek this opportunity."

The former Mets first baseman - who made his playing debut at the age of 17 during the franchise's inaugural season in 1962 - said he's wanted to take this step for more than 30 years. But he has never been interested in leaving New York, so he waited for the opportunity to happen with the Mets.

Now, with the Wilpons announcing Friday that they are willing to sell 20 to 25 percent of the team, the chance for Kranepool to increase his involvement finally might have arrived.

"Do I have interest?" he said. "I'd have to say, obviously."

Kranepool, 66, has aligned himself with a group consisting of Martin Luther King III, former SportsChannel executive Larry Meli and Donn Clendenon Jr., son of another former Mets first baseman. Kranepool said it's "premature" to talk too specifically about the group, saying only that King's attorney will be the front person in terms of contacting Steve Greenberg at Allen & Co., who is handling the process for the Wilpons. But Kranepool insisted the financial end would not be an issue.

"We have the people," he said. "I'm not too concerned about the finances."

Kranepool said he became friendly with King from doing charity work together in recent years. King recently told The Associated Press that he wasn't leading the group, but Meli later told Newsday that King simply wanted everyone to know he wasn't the person providing the finances.

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"When the time's right, I'll say who the players are," Kranepool said. "Right now, it's all too premature."

Kranepool spent all 18 of his years in the majors with the Mets, holds several franchise records and has remained in the New York area since he retired in 1979. He said he first lived in Farmingdale in the late 1960s and early 1970s before planting his family roots in the Old Westbury area.

Right after his playing days were over, Kranepool said he was involved in one of the groups looking to buy the Mets when they were for sale in late 1979. But they lost out to the group headed by Doubleday & Co., which also included Fred Wilpon.

Kranepool said he chose to remain on the sideline instead of trying to pursue a career in baseball elsewhere. He currently works on Long Island in the credit card processing business. "New York's my home, and I wasn't going to move from New York," he said. "My life has been here. It's been great to me."

A member of the 1969 Miracle Mets, Kranepool stressed he isn't doing this for publicity. "I just know it's for real," he said. He also made it clear there's a lot of unknowns right now, saying that he won't truly know what kind of opportunity this is until the two sides sit down at a table.

But for now, he's excited about the possibilities.

"My first and only love in my life - other than my wife - is baseball," he said. "You played it as a kid, and then you played it as a pro. And the next step is higher opportunities. Here we go."