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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Rookie Hazing Continued

Never mind the wacky getups they were mandated to wear on Sunday. The Red Sox order and the Fenway sky presented the real rites of rookie passage into the big league fraternity Tuesday night. Alay Soler and Lastings Milledge came out of that game shaking like paddled freshmen. Of course, few of the Mets played like seasoned veterans. The 3-2 curveball Lester threw Wright? The last man to draw a swing like that from an overmatched batter was Charles Schulz.

But back to the dresses. What is that anyway? Seriously. Every year, usually in September so as to capture more kids, the vets make the rooks put on outrageous costumes, often something slinky and/or hoey. Everybody has a good laugh. Everybody but Jeff Kent who famously refused a pimp's outfit at Olympic Stadium in late 1992 and, as recounted in The Worst Team Money Could Buy, was rewarded for his stance by teammates who hounded him with “Hey, Clark, where're your clothes?”

Kent…Clark…get it? Ballplayer humor.

Milledge and Soler put on their silly outfits and went from Rogers Centre to the airport through customs (Montreal…Toronto…that's why they try to pull this stunt in Canada) onto the plane and to the hotel in Boston with reportedly good humor. Their older if not necessarily more mature teammates ribbed them and now they're certified as OK. Dress like girls, be two of the boys.

But seriously. What is that? Maybe it didn't used to get mentioned, but before Kent cried foul — remember we got him in August and he claimed he'd already done his dressup as a Blue Jay rookie earlier in the season — I'd never heard of this particular prank being an annual ritual. In Worst Team, Kent's crankiness was put in a particularly bad light when compared to Gregg Jefferies' acquiescence a few years earlier. All right, so the Mets were doing this in the late '80s? Did they do it to Doc and Straw? Did Lou Brock lay it on Keith Hernandez? Did Don Cardwell snatch Tom Seaver's trousers out of his locker, shove a miniskirt in his mitts and order him to “put it on, rook”?

David Wright's take on Lastings Milledge's costume — “I'm getting worried about Lastings, he's liking it too much” — was at once mildly amusing and, I dunno, a little disturbing. David Wright wouldn't knowingly offend a flea. He'd offer two minutes of sincere appreciation for fleas and how they helped him prepare mentally for line drives to his left before saying something hurtful about them. But Wright's and everybody's “hey, he sure likes dressing up like a she,” as all-in-good-fun as it is, seems overly retro and not in that pleasant Camden Yards way.

During one of the commercial breaks on SNY in which they show off how well they covered sports in the last week, there was a clip of a retired football player, Esera Tuaolo, promoting his book Alone in the Trenches: My Life as a Gay Man in the NFL on Daily News Live and explaining how miserable it was being a closeted homosexual in his chosen profession. He said something to the effect of nobody in a locker room ever made a remotely non-negative remark about the concept being gay. Not the friendliest of atmospheres for a guy like that.

A long PC stretch from one lineman's private hell to our first-place Mets having a little time-honored fun with everybody, including the jokees, in on the joke? Maybe. My playing career peaked with a stint as catcher in a teeball league, so I'll freely admit I don't know what life is really like in a Major League clubhouse. I probably don't wanna know. My idea of a well-executed workplace prank was to craft a carefully worded memo that made the new hire think he or she had to use the pay phone across the street for all business calls. If I got a single “is this real?” in 15 years, I considered it a success. (Trade magazine offices were never really hotbeds of rookie hazing.)

Maybe what Milledge and Soler were subjected to was harmless and without implication for the republic's well being. But if Alay says through an interpreter, “I couldn't get loose because my right shoulder stiffened up after they gave me too tight a bra,” then there should be hell to pay.

11 comments to Rookie Hazing Continued

  • Anonymous

    “David Wright wouldn't knowingly offend a flea. He'd offer two minutes of sincere appreciation for fleas and how they helped him prepare mentally for line drives to his left before saying something hurtful about them.”

  • Anonymous

    I dunno, much as I love these guys, they're pro athletes, not generally a group that indulges a rich tapestry of alternate lifestyles. When it comes to tranvestism (transvestitism?) cross-dressing, “live and let live” may be as good as it gets.
    If I can address where I thought you were going, I've come around on Lastings — he's got brass balls. The Mets keep hazing him, and he shows he gets it but then one-ups the joke. Giving me the silent treatment after a home run? No biggie — watch me high-five the air. Dress Up the Rookies? I'll proclaim I'm beautiful and jump in a teammate's arms — a Hall of Famer's, in fact. Pretty impressive, and it won't even get the Steve Klines of the world all worked up.
    All he needs to do is get to the clubhouse on time. Because he's definitely no shrinking violet once he walks in.

  • Anonymous

    “The rose goes in the front, Big Guy.”

  • Anonymous

    It's true. You should've seen how highly he talked of Derek Jeter when that infernal Casey Stern compared the two of them on “Next Stop: Shea.” D-Wright can talk-up anyone.

  • Anonymous

    I still play weekend warrior softball in Central Park at 40, and every once in a while a guy on my team will make your standard “fag” comment. I usually try to gently remind them that they “don't know who might be on the team,” but most of the time, I shine it on.
    I've always been both a very open-minded/accepting person AND an athlete, and the strain between the two always sends me back to remember from my experiences with high school sports (and high school athletes) that most jocks are…total d**ks…and just because they are in the pros doesn't mean their attitudes have changed at all. I find it more unusual when an athlete makes an accepting (or corrective) comment, as opposed to the usual crap that gets spewed.
    It becomes an unconscious thing, I think. In that environment, who would stand up and say “That's wrong.” That person would then risk ostracism…I've heard the comment “What; are you a fag, then?” or variants thereof when I've very, very gently suggested that calling someone a f**king faggot might not be strictly kosher…I doubt it'd be different in pro sports.

  • Anonymous

    I'm assuming Lastings has always been The Big Man on his team, so I had no doubt to the material out which his Rawlingses are constructed. He'll be the one leaving the high heels in the next rookie's locker before long.

  • Anonymous

    I heap all kinds of foul invective at guys on other teams that I would never use in polite company. Of course I do it through the TV screen. I probably don't mean it just like the guys in the park don't mean it. But we say it.

  • Anonymous

    You probably don't mean it?
    Not when your invective is directed at Clemens? Or Jeter? Or Larry?
    You actually think they're swell guys?
    I think you mean it at least sometimes, Greg.

  • Anonymous

    The sentiment, sure. The actual suggestions as phrased are another matter.

  • Anonymous

    When I yell at my T.V. “Eat shit and die Clemens you fat fuck” well, I really hope he does just that.
    To each his own, I suppose.

  • Anonymous

    Hope? Natch. Expect? That's hard.