BY STEPHEN McGUIRE
He’ s the granddaddy of baseball mascots and through the years he has seen some tough times but Mr. Met is back and better than before after spending 40 years of leading cheers, beating out bandits, keeping our country safe and winning a place in the hearts of Mets fans.
He’s serving in the U.S. Army now and has gone from wearing a baseball as a head to keeping the ball rolling at a prison camp for terrorists.
His name is Lee Reynolds and over the course of the last three years he has been a man behind the mask of New York Mets mascot Mr. Met.
Major Reynolds is currently stationed in the Army public affairs office at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to Army officials.
Camp X-Ray is the name of the military compound where al Qaeda and Taliban detainees captured in Afghanistan are being held.
According to Mets officials, Reynolds’ role as the Mets mascot is one shared with a “couple of people.”
Mets officials said that they hope he is safe and that they are grateful for Reynolds’ service to his country.
According to published reports Reynolds, 38, will be stationed in Cuba for the next six months.
Reynolds told a reporter for the New York Post, “Reserve soldiers come from all walks of life, and right now I’m serving my country and serving my state after 9/11. I am very proud to be here, in spite of having to miss the entire baseball season and the Mets have always been 100 percent supportive. They’ve said the door is open for me.”
Mets officials confirmed what Reynolds said adding that the decision for his return to Shea was “up to him.”
A Big Head To Fill
Being Mr. Met is a labor of love according to Reynolds and Mets officials who said that all potential applicants wishing to fill the big head of the Mets mascot usually do a lot of clowning around before being hired.
A Mr. Met who made the cut and spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity explained how he attended Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Clown College where he learned juggling, unicycling, stilt walking and animation before being hired for the job.
From there he went on to audition for Paramount’s King Island where he got a full time job as a clown.
“I read an article in People Magazine about a school for aspiring mascots called Mascot Mania. On my own I got information about the school and attended the next weekend session,” he said. “It was there that I heard about the opening with the Mets. This job has really been a dream come true. It’s unusual for a performer to be able to have a year-round steady job, let alone a chance to be a character that is nationally known and loved. In this character I can perform all the skills that I love – juggling, unicycling, stilt walking, magic, dancing and balloon art. The best part of the job is the kids. To them he really is a celebrity.”
The big leagues’ First Mascot
Before the San Diego Chicken or the Philly Phanatic there was Mr. Met – the first live character Major League Baseball Mascot.
According to Mets lore Mr. Met was born on April 11, 1962 – the date of the Amazin’s first game at the former Polo Grounds where the team played its home games for its first two years.
Now a citywide and nationally known fan favorite, he was initially introduced as a drawing on the cover of the 1963 Mets yearbook.
He made his first live appearance in front of a home crowd at Shea Stadium when the venue opened in Flushing Meadows in 1964.
Mr. Met continued to rally home crowds until the late 1970s when his Shea appearances dwindled.
For a while Mr. Met made no appearances at all.
Through the 1980s Mets fans would sometimes show up at the stadium donning their own self-constructed paper maché heads in an effort to revive the mascot’s crowd-pleasing spirit.
But Mr. Met returned to Shea in the early 1990’s as part of a special kids promotion with the cable-television network Nickelodeon, Mets officials said.
Since then, about five or six people have been behind the ball in the role of the Mets mascot.
How Mr. Met Lost His Head
In May of 1998, a group of cold-hearted bandits broke hearts in Metsville.
Stadium officials reported that a thief or thieves broke into the Shea Stadium office of Mr. Met and made off with his oversized baseball head, unicycle and uniform.
The thieves also took baseball bats, 200 t-shirts, a radio, baseballs and other items.
Police said the heartless crooks lifted a metal gate to gain access to the office and fled with the goods by climbing over a fence in the rear of Shea Stadium.
“Stealing a team’s mascot uniform is not stealing from the team – it’s stealing from the fans – from the kids who enjoy seeing the mascot at every game,” said one Mets fan following the theft.
Mets officials said that Mr. Met was devastated when he walked into his office and found his uniform gone.
Team officials acted quickly to replace the stolen articles.
Although the bandits were never apprehended Mr. Met has made a full recovery and has been cheering on his favorite team ever since.
Mr. Mets’ 40th Birthday Party
Mascots from across Major League Baseball joined Mr. Met on April 14, 2002 to celebrate the character’s birthday.
Although his birthday was celebrated on April 14, Mets officials contend he was born when the Mets’ played their first game.
On hand to celebrate the 40-year milestone were mascots from around the majors including the Seattle Mariners Moose, the Pittsburgh Pirates Parrot, the San Diego Padres Friar, the Toronto Blue Jays Ace and the Brooklyn Cyclones Sandy the Seagull.
It was Mr. Mets’ special day at Shea .
Invite mr. met to your birthday
According to Mets officials, Mr. Met can visit you.
The Mets official mascot is available for appearances at birthdays, weddings bar/bat mitzvahs, fundraisers, parades and community events.
A special kids birthday package includes a photo session with Mr. Met and his specially designed truck, autographed postcards and special prizes.
For more information about having Mr. Met visit you, call 507-METS ext 4602.
Elvis has left the borough
He had the same spirit as Mr. Met, but he was king for only a day it seems.
His name was Elvis and he was the mascot of the former local minor league team the Queens Kings.
The Kings played for only one season in 2000.
After 2000, the Queens boys of summer were gone.
No one’s certain what became of Elvis.
If you know, give us a call.
– Liz Goff contributed to this story