The Mets' clubhouse, though more than a few long home runs from midtown, is nonetheless within the limits of the city that traditionally has embraced the Democratic Party. It is, however, a Republican stronghold. Most clubhouses in major league baseball are.
Months after the interleague play portions of their schedules were completed, the American and National Leagues again operate under one banner. They are the Bush Leagues.
Political persuasion may not be evident this week while the Mets, Yankees and the Republican National Convention are in town, occupying the city's three largest sports arenas. Players rarely wear their political allegiance on their sleeves.
"But I'd be surprised if it isn't 4 or 5 to 1 Republican in the game," Mets catcher Vance Wilson said last week. "Not everyone is involved or up to date on what's going on, but of the ones who are, I'm sure it's heavy Republican."
The Grand Old Party appeals to those in the grand old game, if only because of their affluence. The average salary of a major league player, $2,549,363, connects more with Republican ways and the have-lots of the world.
The Mets clearly lean to the right. Pitcher Al Leiter has ties to Mayor Bloomberg and, along with teammates Tom Glavine and Todd Zeile, has been invited to attend the GOP convention Thursday night when President Bush is to speak. Leiter occasionally has tossed his support, though never his cap, into to political arena. Delegates from the convention have been invited to take batting practice with Piazza, Leiter and Zeile today at Shea Stadium.
And Mike Piazza, the highest profile Mets player, smiled broadly Sunday when he announced to the clubhouse "the GOP has invaded the island." In the past, Piazza has acknowledged having the seeds of political aspirations.
The Yankees, also a veteran team, but a more guarded one, don't readily reveal their affiliations_if they have any at all.
Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina, like Piazza a native of Pennsylvania, says he pays little attention to other game in town.
"Nope. Never have," say Mussina, a Stanford graduate. "I don't have any interest in politics." "I'm not from here," Yankees catcher Jorge Posada says. "I don't know what a Democrat is a Republican. I don't know what's good for or what isn't good for me. Out of the 25 guys in here, I'd say 10 vote. Ten could be pushing it.
"When November comes, I'm in Puerto Rico. Where I am, I don't have a television. November, December, January, I don't know what's going on. That's the best way."
Not to Tony Clark, Posada's teammate, a Met last season and one of the two Players Association representatives. "I watch CNN on a regular basis and that's how I keep up to date on what's going on with the race," Clark says. "I don't follow politics regularly but when it comes close to the election it becomes more newsworthy and I see
what's going on. I am a registered Democrat but I don't strong feelings on either candidate."
Glavine was the National League player representative for years. He is a bright, well-read man, reared in Massachusetts Kennedy country, who had more than passing interest in politics. But he hadn't voted in a presidential election until 2000 and was a tad embarrassed when he had to register at age 34.
"My parents are Democrats, but I was brought up in a conservative household," Glavine says. "But I didn't pay as much attention as I probably should have.
"I'm intrigued now, more than I participate. hen you're married and have children, you take on more responsibility and need to pay attention. It's a natural progression. I didn't pay attention when I was 18. Logically, probably, you should wait till you're 28 to vote."
Glavine once toyed with the idea of running for local office, where he now lives in Alpharetta, Ga. "There might have been a day when I could have won the job. I'm not so sure anymore [since he left the Braves]. And
I'm not sure people think athletes deal in reality."
The other Mets have different levels of interest. Mike Stanton says his participation is "financial" and that is fueled by his perception that "the other side [the Democrats] always screws it up." Leiter has become a C-Span addict, charting attendance at Senate roll calls. "My wife thinks I'm pathetic," he says. He watches "The O'Reilly Factor" to get his nightly fix of conservatism, he has campaigned for Bloomberg and Hall of Fame
pitcher/senator Jim Bunning.
And he already knows how to fence-sit.
"I don't absolutely agree with the president. But the Republican platform is more suitable for me than the other one," he says.
Wilson says he is a "free-thinking Republican" from John McCain's great state of Arizona; Steve Trachsel, an Orange County native, says "I'm still a Republican, but both sides make me sick" and wonders whether "smart Democrat" is an oxymoron; rookie Danny Garcia has grown 'tired of all the bashing" since his fiancé made him more politically
Zeile keeps his politics private, but he was delighted by his 30-minute political dialogue with rookie David Wright last week.
Wright, 21, says "Politics, it's exciting. I've voted in every, minute election we've had at home." He lives as Yankees reliever Tom Gordon believes we all should.
"[Politics is] something that a lot of Americans should care about," Gordon says. "I do have my views, but I like to keep them personal. But I do feel that it's important for all Americans to play a role in what's going on and to make sure it's a fair election."