Mr. Met, the baseball-domed mascot for the New York Mets, and the subject of a new book by former Mr. Met AJ Mass, was informed by the Secret Service in 1997 at a baseball game attended by President Bill Clinton that if he approached the president, “we go for the kill shot.”
It was April 15, 1997, the 50th anniversary of the day that Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier with his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Secret Service agents approached Mass before the game and warned him to stay away from the president.
“We have snipers all around the stadium, just in case something were to happen. Like I said, do whatever it is you normally do. But approach the President, and we go for the kill shot. Are we clear?”
That’s how Mass related the encounter in his new book, Yes, It’s Hot in Here: Adventures in the Weird, Woolly World of Sports Mascots.
Some have doubted the veracity of the report online, but I can speak from experience … yeah. My experience came with Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, in the White House. It was the summer of 2002, and a local little league team from Waynesboro was playing an exhibition baseball game on the South Lawn.
I was part of a local media contingent that cleared security and got to watch the game from a vantagepoint down the left field line.
We’re nowhere near the president or other dignitaries at the game. But we had our own security. Another reporter pointed out to me that he noticed a bush in a wooded area behind us moving, and we watched together as it moved again a minute later.
Then a Secret Service agent came over to me. I’m wearing a suit and tie, in the face of the reality that it was August, and maybe 95 degrees outside that day. Hey, it’s the White House! You wear a suit and tie, amirite?
Problem was, the grounds pass hanging down around my neck kept falling behind my tie.
“If they can’t see your pass,” the Secret Service agent said to me, pointing to the roof of the White House, where a group of sharpshooters with assault rifles were patrolling the premises, “then they don’t know that you’re supposed to be here. Am I clear on that?”
Crystal. I held the pass in front of me most of the rest of the day.
Doubtful that they would have shot either me or Mr. Met. But when a Secret Service agent raises the possibility, you don’t take any chances.