Sports-Mad Kid Becomes Mets PR Director — Jay Horwitz
Sports-Mad Kid Becomes Mets PR Director — Jay Horwitz
He’s a Mets legend … Jay Horwitz is one of the most good-hearted and inspiring officials at the New York Mets. As the Mets’ long-time PR director, Horwitz shaped some of the most memorable moments in team history. He discusses his childhood, career and message to kids with disabilities with host Charles Mizrahi.
- An Introduction to Jay Horwitz 00:00:00)
- An Inspired Memoir (00:02:13)
- Early Days at the Mets (00:8:16)
- The Ultimate Liaison (00:13:18)
- Shea Stadium and 9/11 (00:15:59)
- Today’s Mets Player (00:27:45)
- The Mets Family (00:30:23)
- A Long, Unique Career (00:34:31)
Jay Horwitz is an author, podcast host and media relations official for the New York Mets. As the former head of PR, Horwitz became a trusted friend and mentor to generations of players.
Today, he continues to support these players as the alumni director. Horwitz also hosts a biweekly podcast (below) in which he sits down with former Mets players, coaches and other officials to discuss all things baseball. In addition, he released his incredible memoir last year. It chronicles his childhood struggles, passion for sports and long-term career for the Mets.
Before You Leave:
JAY HORWITZ: I’m sitting in the in the press box next to Shannon. And I said to her: “I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I just got the feeling that Mike is going to do something big.” I didn’t want to predict a home run. But sure enough, he hit a home run over the left field fence. For the first time in 10 days, people laughed. Firemen, policemen and kids were laughing. It was a homerun that helped unify the city. Mike had seen well over four homeruns. He values that home run. It’s probably the best home run he’s ever made.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: My guest today is Jay Horowitz. Jay is the current vice president of media relations for the New York Mets. As the beloved long-time PR director for the New York Mets — for close to 40 years — he has witnessed and quietly shaped some of the most memorable moments in team history.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Jay is also a trusted friend and mentor to generations of players — from Darryl Strawberry to Jacob deGrom. Jay recently wrote his memoir. It’s titled, Mr. Met: How A Sports-Mad Kid from Jersey Became Like Family to Generations of Big Leaguers.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I recently sat down with Jay, and we talked about his difficult childhood and the message he wanted to share with kids who were born with a disability.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Jay, thanks so much for coming on the show. I want to tell you: I’ve been a big fan of yours since 1981. It was a Friday. It was a rain-delay evening. We were all around. And we were watching you being interviewed. I think you were one or two years into the PR job for the Mets. It was so great. You were so enthused and happy. You looked like a kid who owned the candy store.
JAY HORWITZ: Yeah, I was with Steve Albert — Barb’s brother — in Pittsburgh. It was a rain delay. He put me on for a long time, and we had some fun reminiscing about my Fairleigh Dickinson days.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Wow. I couldn’t have been the only one who loved that interview, right?
JAY HORWITZ: I appreciate it, thanks!
CHARLES MIZRAHI: All the Jay Horwitz fans —
JAY HORWITZ: Thank you very much.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: All right. I read your book — Mr. Met — in one sitting. It’s a fast read. It’s about your life as a PR person for the Mets. It’s called, Mr. Met: How A Sports-Mad Kid from New Jersey Became Like Family to Generations of Big Leaguers.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Before we get into the book, what really got me was all the way in the back. You talk about the reason you wrote the book. I think it’s so important. Jay, could you share that with us?
JAY HORWITZ: Well, there were two reasons why I wrote the book. One was to pay tribute to my assistant of 22 years — Shannon Ford. She was a courageous woman who passed away at the age of 44 from breast cancer. She left two young kids. She balanced her job, work and family — right until the end. She willed herself to go to the 2015 World Series.
JAY HORWITZ: All the players loved her. The media loved her. The front office loved her. She bled orange and blue for the Mets. When I hired Shannon, women in sports PR were an anomaly. Shannon wasn’t afraid to go to top players and ask them to do things. She wasn’t intimidated by the locker room. I felt it was important.
JAY HORWITZ: After a five-year battle with cancer, she passed away in March 2016. I just felt it was important to remember her legacy. Another reason that I wrote the book was because I was born with one eye. When my mother carried me, she had glaucoma. I was born with one green eye and one blue eye. When I was about 13 years old, the effects had spread to my other eye. So, I had to have my eye taken out. I had an artificial right eye.
JAY HORWITZ: I was ridiculed as a kid. I was made fun of because of the way I looked. Up until about three years ago, I used to watch the games with binoculars because I couldn’t see that well. And I always used to say: “I have no sight in my eye. I can see a little bit. I can see light.”
JAY HORWITZ: Finally, I said [to myself]: “Why don’t I just admit what I have? Maybe I could be an example for a young person born with a deformity. They can make something of their lives.” That’s what I try to get in the message. You don’t have to be perfect to get ahead. You can still do things with your life. Hopefully, that’s one of the things that people got from my book.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Growing up — before you had your operation — you had one green eye and one blue eye, right?
JAY HORWITZ: Right.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: And kids would make fun of you?
JAY HORWITZ: I had no sight in my right eye because of the glaucoma. I had film over my eye. I had the artificial eye put in before I got to work for the Mets. It wasn’t until four or five years ago that I told a few people I had an artificial right eye. I was too embarrassed to say something. Whatever it was, I thought: “Maybe I should come clean in the book. And maybe I can help some people.”
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It’s so amazing. You’re a man who’s more than 70 years old now.
JAY HORWITZ: I’m 76.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: God should grant you a long, long life — 120 years old. That’s something that never ceases to amaze me. No matter how old we get, that hurt — from the words that we heard as kids — stick with us for the rest of our lives.
JAY HORWITZ: Yeah, there’s no question. I remember. Kids could be cruel, you know? I had a sixth-grade teacher — Miss Joyce — who was very kind to me. She told me not to mind the other kids. She would come home and tutor me. She would get me through the ordeals. I owe a lot to her for keeping me on the straight and narrow when I was a youngster.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Those little things make all the difference. Someone took an interest in you. That’s amazing. Before we get more into the book, your parents were extremely supportive in this, right? Reading the book, it seemed like they were super parents in the way they supported you.
JAY HORWITZ: Yeah. My mom and dad were big sports fans. My father was a gigantic Willie Mays fan — a Giants fan. When the Giants left to go to California, he took me to Philadelphia to see them play. I inherited my love of sports from my parents. The one regret I have — my father died in 1971 — is that he never got the chance to see me work for the Mets. I had a big thrill when I got to work for a professional baseball team. It would have meant a lot to him. My mother actually came to the 1986 World Series. She was there when we beat the Red Sox. It made me very happy that she got to see that.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Oh, wow. Was she at that game with Mookie Wilson?
JAY HORWITZ: She was at the game. She was at game six and seven.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Oh, my goodness. All right. I don’t want to hog this up with reminiscing about the New York Mets. Our family has been a fan of the New York Mets since we were born. My mother was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. For those who don’t know, when the Dodgers left, there was a big void in in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Dodgers fans hated the Yankees. People who lived in the Bronx — and outside of the city — were New York Giants fans. And it left a hole until Mrs. Joan Payson and Bill Shea started a team, right?
JAY HORWITZ: Right. The Mets came into being in 1962. They made Shea Stadium and Citi Field.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: And they were not a good team. They were horrible.
JAY HORWITZ: Well, in 1969, they were pretty good team.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Well, yeah — in 1969, 1973 and 1986. OK, forget that. Let’s go with this. I want to skip over your Fairleigh Dickinson days. I have so many things that I want to ask you about. Growing up in New York, everything’s under a microscope if you’re a ballplayer, right? Everything. It’s not the same as if you played in Cincinnati or Montreal. New York is extremely difficult for any team — especially if you’re a superstar who plays in New York. Agreed?
JAY HORWITZ: Right. No question.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: OK. You got into PR for the Mets in 1980 or 1981, right?
JAY HORWITZ: It was April 1, 1980.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: The Mets were not good. They weren’t good in the 1980s. I remember going to Shea Stadium in the late 1970s. I used to bring my glove. And my kids asked me: “Why did you bring your glove to Shea Stadium when you’re a kid?” We sat in the bleachers. I meant this seriously when I was seven to 12 years old. There were so few people there that if they needed someone to play first base, they might call someone out from the stands.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: There were so few people. And the announcers said: “Today’s attendance is 5,648.” There was no way! They must have counted everyone four times. Shea stadium had a capacity of more than 50,000 people, right?
JAY HORWITZ: It was 55,000.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Back in the day, there must have been 1,500 to 2,000 people there. It was really sad.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: OK, you get this dream job of being part of PR for the New York Mets. At the time, America’s team is the New York Yankees — especially with George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin. George Steinbrenner was the owner of the Yankees. Billy Martin was contentious throughout…
CHARLES MIZRAHI: As a PR person, how do you even dream about getting the New York Mets any press in a city that’s in love with the New York Yankees?
JAY HORWITZ: Well, that’s one of the reasons I was hired. It was a Yankee town. They wanted to get a PR person with an offbeat personality. Not to bore you with the FU stories — we had a one-armed fencer, a priest who played hockey, a fourth-year freshman football player … So, they wanted somebody who could pitch human interest stories.
JAY HORWITZ: When I got to the Mets in 1980, I did stories on Lee Mazzilli — a speed skater. Doug Flynn played with the Elkridge boy. Craig Swan — one of our pitchers — was a trainer. So, until we got good in 1983, those were the kinds of stories I was pitching. My boss didn’t expect me to get on the back page. But I wanted to do my job and keep going.
JAY HORWITZ My motto has always been: You can’t be guarded. Do your job professionally, and do the best you can. That’s what I tried to do — at least until 1983 when we traded for Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry came up.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It was a metamorphosis. Every New York Mets fan remembers the day when you had Keith Hernandez — and the days of Piazza and Carter. Those things stand out in your mind because the team turned.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, from the business perspective — business is a very crowded place no matter the market or industry you’re in. As a PR guy, you had an extremely difficult job. You had to take a team that was — at times — a laughing stock. The de Roulet sisters were running things at one point. Mrs. Joan Payson’s kids didn’t know much about baseball. The sports writers didn’t have a love affair with the Mets. In fact, they were pretty antagonistic toward the Mets at the time.
JAY HORWITZ: It was a Yankee town. From 1980 to 1982, we weren’t that good. But in 1983, the team started to take shape. We got Keith. We got Darryl. We traded for Hernandez. After the World Series in 1983, we hired David Johnson to manage.
JAY HORWITZ: David Johnson was the perfect guy for the team. He was our confident guy. He was not a breaker. But he didn’t need the job. He was a real estate guy. He flew his own plane. He got a degree in mathematics from Texas A&M. At a press conference, I said to Frank Cashen: “Why did it take you so long to hire me?” And so, Davey was the guy who molded everything. He exuded confidence — which the players picked up on.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: What is your job description? How do you know you’ve had a good day as a PR person?
JAY HORWITZ: I had to be a liaison. Between meeting the players — we do Monday things. They do press notes and a press guide. Be available during the games. Give updates about injuries and stuff. To be a good PR guy, you have [to have] three separate masters. No. 1 is ownership — your front office. No. 2 is the players. No. 3 is the media.
JAY HORWITZ: You have to have credibility with all three. Once you lose credibility with media, you’re a dead person. And if the players don’t think you have their backs, you’re a dead person. If the ownership doesn’t think you have its back, you’re dead. So, it’s quite a balancing act to cater to all three masters.
JAY HORWITZ: That’s what I tried to do in my league. I took ownership and let the players know that I was there for them. Going in the locker room, my motto was: “Treat the No. 25 guy like the first guy on the team.” If you worked for The New York Times or The Star-Ledger, I would take care of you. I tried to treat everybody the same. That’s how I’ve existed in the locker room for 38 years.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah. You’re getting these guys. I forget that, even though they’re great, many of these guys are in their early 20s. They’re kids! They’re kids coming in from Small Town USA — the Midwest — to the media capital of the world: New York. And the only person they turn to for help in navigating this tremendous marketplace is a guy like you.
JAY HORWITZ: I tried to let the players know that I didn’t want to be a suit. I didn’t want to be a front-office suit. I didn’t only go to their lockers when I needed something. I’d ask: “How are things with your family? Is everything good? Do you need tickets for something? Are your kids good? Do you need a reservation at a [restaurant]?” I wasn’t always asking something. That way, if they saw me coming, they wouldn’t run the other way. I just tried to be there.
JAY HORWITZ: I remember that when David Wright came up in 2004, I helped him find a place to live. I gave recommendations on where to eat or where to see a good movie. That’s how you win over the players. Let them know that you’re not just there to ask them to do stuff. You’re there to help them get adjusted to a new city.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: One thing that the Mets did amazingly well was, after 9/11, Bobby Valentine — who was the manager at the Mets — was a force of nature. He commandeered Shea Stadium — the whole parking lot — and turned it into a relief center.
JAY HORWITZ: Everybody asks me: “What’s the highlight of your career?” In 1986, we got a ring — which is great. But for me, being associated with that 2001 team — we just had the 20th anniversary of that weekend. Bobby Valentine, John Franco, Todd Zeile, Vance Wilson, Armando Benitez and Edgardo Alfonso, Steve Trachsel and Jay Payton did what they had to do. They went out into the community. They went to firehouses. They went to police stations. We visited people in hospitals. John Franco put it best: “We put a small Band-Aid on a big wound. We helped the city heal.” That was really important. I’m really thankful to have been a small part of that.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: And Bobby Valentine had the players driving forklifts and getting supplies. I remember reading the papers at the time. It was quite amazing, and everyone pitched in.
JAY HORWITZ: Originally, the Shea Stadium area was supposed to be a morgue. They were supposed to drop off bodies there. But unfortunately, there were no bodies. It became a recovery area, and people would drop off trucks and other things. They would get supplies — from shoes to T-shirts, toothpaste and mouthwash. They would go down there. And a woman named Sue Lucchi worked with Bobby. She was the head of stadium operations. There were nights and days — 24 hours a day for a good two or three weeks — to get all the supplies to ground zero.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah, this was all volunteer work. This was all homegrown. No one told them that they had to do this.
JAY HORWITZ: None of the players said no. No one said “no” to anything.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: People think of ballplayers as phenomenally great athletes. But how are they as people? Eh. They only care about their paychecks or something. But I remember that during 9/11 — and after — the New York Mets showed how much they cared about the city and the people in it.
JAY HORWITZ: Yeah, that team rose up to meet the challenges of the time. It was led by John Franco — who was a New Yorker. Outliners were from New Jersey. Bobby V. is from Connecticut. All these guys took the attacks personally. The teammates picked up the slack. Mike’s home run was great. It unified the city. But what we did during 9/11 was much more important than Mike’s home run. It was a joint effort by everybody on the team to try to make people happy and put smiles on their faces again.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: For those who don’t know Mets history, when you mentioned Mike’s homerun, that was Mike Piazza. Can you give more context for people who were not born then or have no idea who Mike Piazza is? It changed so much. It was a turning point.
JAY HORWITZ: After the attacks, we played three games in Pittsburgh. And then, there was a big decision about when it would be time to play in New York again. It was decided that we would play against the Braves on September 21st. A lot of people felt that it wasn’t time. We didn’t know. Could the stadium be subject to an attack again? But it was decided by Mayor Giuliani and our ownership. It was time to play.
JAY HORWITZ: So, we played. The crowd was extremely quiet. It was the eighth inning. We were losing 2:1. Edgardo Alfonso had gotten off on some walks. Steve Karsay was pitching for the Braves. He’s from Queens. He went to high school here.
JAY HORWITZ: I’m sitting in the press box next to Shannon. And I said to her: “I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I just got the feeling that Mike is going to do something big.” I didn’t want to predict a home run. But sure enough, he hit a home run over the left field fence. For the first time in 10 days, people laughed. Firemen, policemen and kids were laughing. It was a homerun that helped unify the city. Mike had seen well over four homeruns. He values that home run. It’s probably the best home run he’s ever made.
JAY HORWITZ: That home run is on his Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown. So, that should tell you how important it was to him. It was a tremendous night. And Chipper Jones is quoted as saying [something to the effect of]: “We were destined to lose that game. And I hate to lose … we lose for the people of New York.” So, that was the 9/11 I remember. We lived that this weekend when we had the 20th anniversary of 9/11. We had 13 guys from the 2001 team here. And we had a great time.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah, just to fill people in about what it was like in New York — especially when you’re talking about the September 21st game where Mike Piazza hit that home run. The attack had just happened. It was 10 days later. I remember the smell. The smell in the city was one that you couldn’t forget. There was death. It was horrendous. It was smoldering. The World Trade Center site was smoldering for weeks. Every way you walked, there were signs — pictures of people. “Do you know where this person is?”
JAY HORWITZ: Three days after the attacks, it was nothing like you’d ever seen — or hoped you’d ever see again. There were buildings and flames. Firemen were sitting there with dirt all over their faces. They were dead tired, but they were committed to finding their friends. And unfortunately, none were found.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Ten days later, the city still smelled terrible. The stench of death was everywhere. You saw it almost everywhere. No matter where you walked, there were posters and signs that people made. They went to Staples and put a picture up. “Did you see so-and-so?”
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I remember going to Staples. I was buying an outdoor table for something. This was in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. There was a large fireman community. There must have been around 15 firemen there. And on Staples’ bulletin board were those firemen — and maybe 20 or 30 other people who came from Bay Ridge and were still missing. We didn’t know. No one knew if anyone had survived…
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I think it was a sell-out crowd. Were there more than 50,000 people?
JAY HORWITZ: It wasn’t. We had about 37,000 or 38,000 people.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Well, today, it would be a sell-out crowd in Citi Field. Back in the day, Shea Stadium was fifty-something-thousand, right?
JAY HORWITZ: Yeah.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: First of all, thinking about it was a nightmare. When someone asked: “Is anyone thinking about going to the game?” I said: “Why would you ever want to congregate in that area?”
JAY HORWITZ: There was a lot of discussion about whether or not it was too early to play.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It was too early to play. And that home run gave the city a reason — “OK, we’re out of mourning.” We weren’t forgetting. But it seemed like the city crossed a big chasm and said: “We can repair ourselves. We can get better.” You mentioned children who were in the stands and had lost their parents during 9/11.
JAY HORWITZ: There were firemen’s kids, policemen’s kids, court responder’s kids, EMS kids. So, it was a very historic night.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: And now, we’re at the 20th anniversary. It still brings back those memories. Hopefully, we will never, ever relive something like that.
JAY HORWITZ: I hope not, sir. I hope not.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It was not only sad, but it also was extremely depressing when you saw all these people. But the Mets came through — as an organization — in a lot of ways.
JAY HORWITZ: We were all proud to be part of that. I can tell you that.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah, and Mayor Giuliani was a big Yankees fan.
JAY HORWITZ: At that time, there were no Mets or Yankees fans. There were fans of New York.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I think he wore a Mets cap when he came. Was he wearing Mets cap?
JAY HORWITZ: I think so, yeah.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: That’s a big thing, folks. For someone who’s a Yankees fan, to wear a Mets cap is a big deal.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Throughout the years — after reading the book and speaking to people who know you — the thing that comes out over and over is how much you’re loved by so many players and peers. What magic do you have?
JAY HORWITZ: There’s no magic. It’s a simple equation. I just try to treat people like I would want to be treated. I never coddle up to the stars. I try to treat the 25th guy the same as the No. 1 guy.
JAY HORWITZ: I let these guys know that I cared about everybody. Hopefully, that might have gotten through. I still keep in contact — in my new job as an alumni director — with a lot of the guys I worked with. I think that they knew I cared about them as people — not just players. And I was there for them when they had a problem. I was there when I could help. And it wasn’t: “What can you do for Jay?” It was: “How can I help you?” I think that’s why I was able to exist in this market for so long.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: The New York press is a very difficult place — especially sportswriters. They can be vicious.
JAY HORWITZ: You’ve got to be honest with them. As long as you tell the truth — sometimes, you don’t have to tell all of the truth. Once a PR guy gets caught in a lie, his job is over.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It’s game over.
JAY HORWITZ: You need to respect the people you work with. It’s probably irredeemable.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: How did you deal with the PR change over the past few years — while you were still in that position — with social media and everything?
JAY HORWITZ: That was the biggest change. When I started in 1980, there was no tweeting. There was no TikTok or Instagram. And now, the players have to be on guard. We used to hold seminars in the spring. You have to be careful about who you walk and talk with, who you’re in the bar with and who you put your arm around.
JAY HORWITZ: When I first started, everything was done by press releases. Nobody does press releases anymore. The agents release stuff. The players tweet about their own injuries. Today’s player has to be so much more aware than when I started because there are no barriers. Everything is immediate. If you’re in a restaurant and seen with somebody you shouldn’t be with, it’ll be on social media right away. You have to be extremely careful about who you associate with.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: When you watch these young players come up — compared to 38 years ago — what differences do you see? Are they savvier? Are they smarter?
JAY HORWITZ: They’re more into social media. They can handle themselves socially. They have different interests. There’s so much more that today’s players have to contend with. It could be a disturbance. It could be a distraction. When I first started, there were no tweeters. There was nobody taking your picture in the elevator. Today, the guys have to be so much more aware of where they are.
JAY HORWITZ: I’m the director of alumni affairs now. For 38 years, I was the everyday PR guy. Now, I do a podcast and a newsletter. I did one for 9/11 this weekend. We did Jericho’s retirement jersey. We did the Hall of Fame with Ron Darling. And we got Alfonso and John Matlack. So, those are the kinds of things I’m involved in.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Back in the day, you got to the stadium at 5:00 a.m. and didn’t leave until midnight.
JAY HORWITZ: I didn’t sleep. I used to like to beat the traffic. I live in Jersey. I had to go over two bridges. So, I could get here, read some emails, read the papers and relax. If I got to the George Washington Bridge at a certain time, it was a 2.5-hour ride. I didn’t want to do that.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: And you never thought about moving?
JAY HORWITZ: Well, I have animals. I lived in New Jersey. And I like Clifton. It’s a small town — away from stuff. The commute was worth it to me.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Now, your job is a whole lot different. There’s not as much face time with the young players. How did these alumni — you knew many of them as they came up, right?
JAY HORWITZ: I knew most of these guys. I started in 1980, so I’ve worked with the majority of players from then on.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Right. So, you had Kranepool and Rusty Staub — and original Mets.
JAY HORWITZ: Yeah. I didn’t work with them because it was 1969. Kranepool, Jerry Koosman, Wayne Garrett and Cleon Jones are all good friends of mine now.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Wow. So, does this happen in every other ball club — where the alumni feel so connected to the team that they’re willing to go out of their way to help out and stay part of the organization?
JAY HORWITZ: That’s what I try to do. We weren’t that great before. But I’m trying to reach out to these guys and make them part of the Mets family. I wish them a happy birthday. I call to say hello and be there for them. I’ll send them tickets to the game in another part of the country. I do these little things to make it seem like we give a damn.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: That wasn’t being done before now?
JAY HORWITZ: It was — but not to the extent that we’re doing now.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Once some ball clubs are in the organization, they stay in it forever. I’m not going to name clubs because you probably know who they are. Why weren’t the Mets focused on that for so long?
JAY HORWITZ: I don’t know. Maybe we had other priorities. We did it to an extent, but I can’t give you an answer. When Jeff Wilpon — one of the previous owners — asked me if I wanted to switch jobs in 2018, he said: “We have to up our alumni connection.” And I said: “Jeff, I’ll give it a try.” At first, I was hesitant about doing it because I missed the day-to-day stuff with the media and players. But after I did it for a couple of months, I realized I could be a big help. And it was a good calling. I’m happy I made the switch.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, you have the alumni participate in a whole bunch of goodwill for the team, and they do a lot of good?
JAY HORWITZ: Since COVID-19, we do Zoom calls to assisted living places a couple times a month. We talk baseball with people who can’t get out. Doc Gooden, Bobby Valentine, Art Shamsky, Turk Wendell and Willie Randolph are on these calls. We’ve done over 40 calls, and we bring a little joy and happiness to people who can’t get out now.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Wow. And the players aren’t paid for this?
JAY HORWITZ: No, sir.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It’s purely volunteer?
JAY HORWITZ: It’s purely volunteer. We have about five club ambassadors who work for the team. You get paid appearances from Mike Piazza, Todd Zeile and Mookie Wilson — they’re ambassadors.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: But you call these guys up and say: “We’re doing this assisted living call on Zoom to make some seniors a lot happier.” COVID-19 was terrible on a lot of people. They were isolated from their families and friends for so long. It was very depressing. And they would make these calls. How were the seniors taking these calls? It must have been amazing.
JAY HORWITZ: It was great. We send them shirts from our community outreach department. They prepare and research the participants. Next month, we’re doing something with Craig Swan — who pitched for us in the 1980s — and Neil Allen — who was traded to the Cardinals with Keith Hernandez. So, they do research. They’re really good people, and they have a good time doing it. They get to talk baseball with a professional baseball player for an hour.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Wow. My mother would have loved that — that’s for sure. Her favorite player was Gil Hodges from the Brooklyn Dodgers.
JAY HORWITZ: [He’s a] good man. He should be in the Hall of Fame, too.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: He lived in Brooklyn — on Bedford Avenue. He died young! He was forty something.
JAY HORWITZ: He was 47, and he had a heart attack on a golf course.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah, I remember that day. It was terrible. What a depressing day. When I was a kid, he seemed so much older. But he was an amazing guy. So, when you plan these Zoom calls, are they your ideas?
JAY HORWITZ: I work in conjunction with the community outreach department. They get the centers and places, and I provide the players. So, we work together.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Looking back at your life, you had the greatest job possible. Baseball players have finite careers. You’ve had an extremely long career. Baseball players don’t have 40-year careers. You’ve been around the game. I think they voted you a share of the World Series…
JAY HORWITZ: In 1986, Keith Hernandez told me one day: “The players think a lot of what you’re doing — we voted your share. It was $93,000. At the time, it was a lot of money. I was very honored. I never did anything for money in my life. When I got the share, I didn’t even know what a share was, to be honest with you.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Really?
JAY HORWITZ: I was very fortunate to get it. And I accepted it with a lot of thanks and gratitude.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Wow. Looking back on your life — at all the good that you did with the Mets, having your ideal job and overcoming a disability — what was an accomplishment that made you say: “You know what? I think I did good.”
JAY HORWITZ: Go back to 9/11. The team was great and had great players. And we felt that we made a difference in the community. Being a part of that was probably more important to me than the ring I got in 1986. We felt that we made a difference. We impacted the city. To be a part of that team is something I’ll treasure.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Outstanding. Folks, that’s a big deal. The 1986 team was amazing. They won the World Series. For you to say that the 9/11 players — who did so much for the city and cared so much…
JAY HORWITZ: Just to be part of that was great.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Wow, great. All right. I’m going to give you the last word, Jay. As my grandmother would say: “You’re a mensch.” You’re a good human being.
JAY HORWITZ: That’s a great compliment. Thank you.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It really is. You’ve done so much good. One thing I liked about what you’ve done is that it was never about you.
JAY HORWITZ: I try to never make it about me. With my position, I want to be in the background. I’m here to help and try to do some good.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah, and I think you’ve done tremendous good. I’m going to give you the last word. I want you to make my listeners feel great.
JAY HORWITZ: I’ve had a great life. I’ve been fortunate enough to have never considered what I do as work. I’ve met a lot of great people. I went on a lot of great trips. I think we did some good along the way. I was blessed to have great people to work with — like Shannon Ford — for a number of years. I was very fortunate.
JAY HORWITZ: Growing up, I was a sports fan. I didn’t have the ability to play. I was fortunate to carve out a life for myself in sports for over 40 years. And I was very fortunate that that happened to me. I’m really happy with the life I’ve lived. And hopefully, I’ve got a couple more years to do what I’m doing. And hopefully, the Mets can get a World Championship pretty soon.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah, I hope it’s this year — especially with how they’ve been playing. And the new ownership is a really big deal. How long did the Wilpon family own the Mets?
JAY HORWITZ: It was from 1980 to last year.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Wow, so it was 40 something years. It’s crazy. And then, Steve Cohen — now a hedge fund manager — took over the team. I’m not going to ask you to say anything about your boss. But did you see a change?
JAY HORWITZ: The Wilpons were committed to winning, and Steve is committed to winning. I think we’re on the right track.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Everything looks great. Wow, fantastic. And what’s the name of your podcast?
JAY HORWITZ: It’s called The Amazin’ Mets Alumni podcast.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: How often do you put out episodes?
JAY HORWITZ: Once every two weeks.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: How’s that going for you?
JAY HORWITZ: I think it’s going well. I enjoy speaking to old friends, so it’s I think it’s good. People enjoy it.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, you and a Met alumnus sit down and shoot the breeze?
JAY HORWITZ: We’re just shooting the breeze.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Who have you had on the show so far?
JAY HORWITZ: Oh, everybody. Piazza, Mookie, Darrel, Bobby Valentine, Terry Collins, Howard Johnson, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling — almost every name in history.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: But who’s going to say no to you, right? You can get any guest you want from the Mets. That’s unbelievable. The name of the book is, Mr. Met: How a Sports-Mad Kid from Jersey Became Like Family to Generations of Big Leaguers. I want to tell you: Even if you’re not a Mets fan or from New York, definitely get the book.
JAY HORWITZ: I appreciate it. Thank you.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It’s a quick read. It’s a couple hundred pages. It not only goes through Mets history, but Jay carves out a piece of the media in a town. And I think it’s a good business book per se. You kept coming up with angles in a marketplace that was definitely not a Mets marketplace.
JAY HORWITZ: I appreciate your kind words.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: They’re well deserved. Jay Horowitz, thank you so much. I greatly appreciate it.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Thanks for listening to this episode of The Charles Mizrahi Show. If you’re a new listener, welcome! If you’ve been listening for a while, we’re glad to have you back. Either way, we’d love to know what you think of the show. Please leave a review if you listen on Apple Podcasts. Reviews make it easier for others to find the show. You can also see the video of the interview on The Charles Mizrahi Show channel on YouTube.
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