The former players applauded and shook his hand as he joined them for a group photo on Old Timers’ Day.
The crowd behind the third-base dugout roared and later chanted, “Thank you, Steve,” on different occasions.
Steve Cohen was treated like a hero, as the Mets welcomed back some of their best players in franchise history for an event they last hosted in 1994.
“It’s their day, it’s not my day, OK,” Cohen said on Saturday before the Mets’ 3-0 win over the Rockies. “I’m just happy I could bring them together. It’s better late than never. We have such great history with the Mets, it’s important to celebrate it.”
It’s just one of many changes under Cohen’s watch around the Mets. From their high payroll near the top of the game to his interactions with fans on Twitter to the Tom Seaver statue that was finished and displayed in May, so much about the Mets has changed with new ownership.
The current team sits atop the NL East 35 games over .500, with its best record at this point in the season since the World Series champion 1986 team.
“He’s brought a sense of hope, that’s probably the best way to put it,” former Met and current YES and ESPN analyst David Cone said. “The whole fan base has a sense of hope now that this is sustainable. Year in and year out, that whatever it takes, it’s going to be done. That’s just a great feeling as a fan. He seems to understand the modern way of doing things and what the fan base responds to.”
A Mets fan growing up, Cohen said he didn’t find it strange the Mets didn’t have an Old Timer’s Day every year like the rival Yankees. But once he took over from the Wilpons, and the idea was suggested, he was all for it. Current manager Buck Showalter praised Cohen for being willing to spend the money necessary to put on such an impressive event.
“Believe me, it doesn’t go unnoticed,” Showalter said. “I told him, ‘Thank you.’ He didn’t want to hear it.”
Cohen was thrilled about the turnout and the opportunity to hear so many stories from former players he grew up watching, sitting in the locker room with players from every era of Mets baseball. Those players in turn raved about him and his passion for the Mets.
“He’s definitely changing things,” Gooden said. “He knows, he gets it. … Nothing against the Wilpons, they were great, too, but he’s taking it to a whole ’nother level. What I mean by that, getting alumni back involved, putting the fans first and the organization, putting a competitive team back on the field.”
Both Cone and Gooden believe the Mets can be a consistent winner, as they were in the 1980s. There is excitement about the team, for this season and beyond. There is also a sense of pride in the Mets’ history under Cohen.
Saturday’s Old Timer’s Day was memorable, drawing the likes of Pedro Martinez, Cleon Jones, Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, Mike Piazza, and Jose Reyes, and so many others. Before the actual game began, the Mets retired Willie Mays’ No. 24.
“These are simple things. I think the fans just want to know you care, and want to know that ownership is listening. That’s all I’m trying to do,” Cohen said. “I’m doing this for the fans, and so I’m listening to what they have to say. I don’t always have to agree, right, but it’s important to me to know what they’re thinking and it’s important to me that they know that I care.”