Jay Horwitz will tell you that his Little League career was one for the record books—though not in the way you might think. A perennial bunter, he did once hit a screaming line drive, but tripped coming out of the batter's box and got thrown out at first base. By age 10, he was cut from the local team. So how did Horwitz (Steinhardt '67, GSAS '71) wind up spending 43 years (and counting) in the major leagues, and find himself standing on the Citi Field pitcher's mound one night last April—at age 76?
Practice, practice, practice—of a non-athletic kind. Horwitz was an astute researcher and writer, and hoped to become a press secretary like Pierre Salinger, who served under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. But sports was always his first love, and he found his way onto the field by working as a student manager for four different high school teams, and then for the NYU basketball team as an undergraduate. When he finished his master’s at NYU in 1971, he became the university’s sports information director, and then held the same role at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
In 1980, the New York Mets were searching for a new head of public relations. And despite growing up cheering for Willie Mays and New York Giants baseball, Howritz did not hesitate when the team from Flushing reached out. A Mets fan ever since, he was VP of Media Relations for the team until 2018, steering their publicity through on and off field challenges and triumphs—including the unforgettable 1986 World Series—and forming lasting bonds with players like Tom Seaver, Gary Carter, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, John Franco, and David Wright. Horwitz has been the target of many, many practical jokes pulled by players, and his good humor—and willingness to play a unique role in locker room culture—has made him a beloved figure among team personnel and Mets fans for decades.
“I never wanted to be a front office guy,” Horwitz says. “I wanted to be one of the guys, to be able to laugh at myself, and be the butt of jokes. John Franco once said to me, ‘If the guys don’t like you, they won’t screw with you.’ The locker room is a tough place and you need a thick skin to survive down here, and that’s what I tried to do.”
As the current VP of Alumni Relations and Club Historian for the Mets, he has been instrumental in strengthening the Mets “family,” creating a network for former players to stay connected.
“The Mets players from the past want to belong to something," says Horwitz. “We didn’t always do a good job of reaching out to people, and now it’s my job to let them know that the organization cares about them.” This includes sending out birthday cards to former players, alerting them of personal team news, and creating events that might include their participation. He has also been successful in recently lobbying for Gil Hodges’s admission into the Hall of Fame, and reviving the Mets’ Old-Timer’s Day game in 2022. And as the host of the team podcast Amazing Conversations with Jay Horwitz, he interviews Mets alumni and figures from across the world of sports.
Noting that the New York Yankees have won 27 total world championships while the Mets have won 2, Horwitz explains that the team’s struggles and stories attract those who tend to root for a particular kind of underdog. “A Met fan is a unique fan, a loyal person,” he says. “I think the average New Yorker likes to identify with the working class, and we’re the working class team in this city.”
The honors have been piling up for Horwitz, who penned the book Mr. Met: How a Sports-Mad Kid from Jersey Became Like Family to Generations of Big Leaguers—with an introduction from All-Star pitcher Jacob deGrom—in 2020. In 1998, he received the Fishel Award for Public Relations Excellence in Major League Baseball. In 2006, he received the Thurmon Munson Award for his dedication and excellence in media relations. In April 2022, the Mets unveiled a plaque in their press box, officially naming it for the team’s PR legend and having him throw out the game’s first pitch. Among those attending the dedication were close friend John Franco, current Mets owner Steve Cohen, and former owner Fred Wilpon.
After finding out he would receive the team’s Hall of Fame Achievement Award in 2023, Horwitz wrote on the Mets Insider Blog last May: “It’s realistic to say that I never thought my name ever would be connected to anything that says Hall of Fame. I just wish my parents Milton and Gertrude Horwitz could be there with me. Who would have thought?”