For Mookie Wilson, he will always find comfort in the confines of Shea Stadium. For 10 years, Wilson was a fixture in center field, tracking down balls far and wide to the delight of the New York Mets faithful. It is no surprise that despite spending time as a coach for the Mets in their new digs at Citi Field, he remains loyal to its predecessor.
“It’s interesting that you use the word home because that’s what Shea was. To me, Shea was home. Don’t get me wrong, Citi Field is a beautiful ballpark; I think that it is fan friendly. I would have loved played at Citi Field, but you can’t replace Shea. That was home for us,” said Wilson while making an appearance Tuesday afternoon as part of the Mets Citi Tuesdays promotion at Citibank in Lower Manhattan. “It was old, [and] yes it needed repairs, but it was home and we loved and enjoyed playing there. I don’t think you can compare the two. Shea has its history and Citi Field is in the process of making its own history and it’s going to take time.”
The 56-year-old Wilson, while no longer part of the coaching staff, remains on the books as an ambassador for the club, a position he enjoys.
“I think my role basically is to greet Mets fans, mainly to let them know that the Mets are still part of the community and that the Mets have partnered with Citibank and have some great promotional things going on. I do encourage everyone to take advantage of the discounts are provided through this. It’s an effort by the Mets to show that their fans come first and they want to provide for them the best they possibly can.”
Mets fans were deeply saddened when the charismatic Wilson was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in the middle of the 1989 season. He figured that he would have finished his playing career in a Mets uniform.
“I was shocked. I think that most players think initially that they’re going to remain with the team that they start [with]. New York’s my home. I enjoyed it and the fans embraced me and welcomed me into the city and claimed me as a New Yorker; one of their own. … Although I had yelled about it before about being traded, I think nobody wants to be traded. When it was actually happening, I was actually shocked because I didn’t think I would ever leave New York, but as the business goes, sometimes things happen.”
Leaving New York provided Wilson the opportunity to compete in the postseason two more times, as the Blue Jays lost to the Minnesota Twins in the 1989 ALCS and the Oakland Athletics in the 1991 ALCS. Even though the Blue Jays did not pick up his option for their 1992 World Series Championship run, Wilson felt that he had some small part in its development.
“I thought that in ‘89, ‘90, [and] ‘91, we should have won it. That team [was] a very good team. We had everything, pitching, power, [and] speed; everything was in place and we fell short. We lost to two great teams, Minnesota [Twins] and the Oakland A’s. There’s no complaining about that. It was right around the corner. I was supportive of the championship club and I think I was part of putting those players on the right track.”
While Mets fans might see Wilson on the back fields of spring training giving advice to younger players as a part-time instructor, he is optimistic that he will return to full-time coaching in the near future.
“I do hope to get back into coaching at some point. I think that once baseball is in you, in your blood, and you spend most of your life in baseball, it’s very hard to just put it on the side and retire from it. I don’t think I’ll ever will.”