In 1980, Jay Horwitz accepted a job with the New York Mets organization and began his career working in professional baseball. Since his first day on the job, he has seen it all.
Horwitz currently serves as the vice president of media relations for the Mets, but he is known for the humorous stories he shares about the organization.
But before he became one of the known faces of the Mets franchise, Horwitz served as Fairleigh Dickinson University’s sports information director for the Rutherford and Teaneck campuses. He held that job from 1972 until he joined Major League Baseball.
“I was the sports information director (SID) for NYU,” Horwitz said. “A guy from The Record named Don Sherlock recommended me for the job. I would write stories for the guys from the local town and they placed a couple of stories in The Record. When the job became open they recommended me for the job.”
On Dec. 1, 1972, he began his journey at Fairleigh Dickinson University and quickly built a name for himself by finding original stories that caught the public’s interest. According to fduknights.com he was the first ever full-time SID for FDU.
Horwitz was able to grow the reputation of the University’s sports teams through media outlets such as newspapers, radio and television. He even said that some of their stories made it into the national spotlight, including publication in Sports Illustrated.
Horwitz said his philosophy was you didn’t have to be ranked in the top 20 to do sports. “I tried to look for the human interest angles in the players while I was there. It didn’t make a difference if they played at Fairleigh Dickinson, Notre Dame or Alabama; it was the story behind these athletes. I was lucky to have these kinds of human interest athletes who generated a lot of national attention for the school.”
Horwitz explained how some of the athletes who came through FDU had interesting stories behind them that needed to be shown to the public. The baseball team at FDU had a second baseman named Steve Dembowski who was hit by pitches an NCAA record 124 times during his career and 11 times in one double header.
Horwitz said that there was one point in his career where broadcast stations came to games at FDU and each time Dembowski was hit by a pitch. Dembowski eventually was drafted by the New York Yankees organization and a big reason was due to the media attention he received because of Horwitz.
Of course the athletics department had plenty of other great stories. Horwitz stated the soccer team had an Israeli and Iraqi goalie, a student athlete with one arm, and a 31-year-old with three children. He said that the club teams had some interesting stories as well. A priest played for club hockey and a 43-year-old was on the football team.
Horwitz said, “My experiences at FDU taught me how to look for stories.” He continued, “Everything wasn’t based on wins or losses, but a good story is a good story not matter what, whether you are in first place or not. We weren’t St. John’s, there was a lot of stuff to go up against and I just learned at Fairleigh that just because you’re not at a powerhouse doesn’t mean you can’t generate publicity. If you have an eye for what a story is it doesn’t make a difference where the person is from.”
Horwitz says the best athlete he probably worked with was Franklin Jacobs, who set the world record for high jump in the Millrose Games in 1978. He would have performed in the 1980 Olympics but the United States boycotted the games during that year. The coverage of Jacobs help Horwitz rise to fame and gave FDU media attention.
Horwitz brought so much media attention to FDU and was one of a kind at finding human interest stories. It was only a matter of time before he was called upon to join the professional ranks.
The struggling Mets organization was under new ownership in 1980 after a dismal few years and they had an opening in their media relations department. Horwitz had a hard time leaving the college scene, but he eventually took his talents to Queens, N.Y., to set up an office at Shea Stadium.
“I really got the job for the Mets because of the notoriety we got at Fairleigh because of some of these athletes,” Horwitz said. “In 1980 the Mets weren’t doing very well and they were looking for someone who was more involved in statistics and who could generate publicity not from wins and losses.”
“I was never looking to leave; I liked the relationships I had with the school. When I got the offer from the Mets I was really conflicted because I really liked the college life and thought it was a good opportunity. But I took the job and 34 years later I’m still here,” he said.
Since becoming a part of the Mets staff Horwitz has become one of the most beloved personalities in the clubhouse.
Horwitz now works under Fred and Jeff Wilpon and still loves showing up at Mets games. He has been honored with numerous awards in the past.
In 1998 he was voted by his peers to receive the Fishel Award, which is given to the top public relations person in baseball. Horwitz also has received a Thurman Munson Award for displaying excellence in media relations.
During a game against the Detroit Tigers in August, the Mets held a Jay Horwitz bobblehead day. Horwitz stated that he usually doesn’t like to be the center of attention but the bobblehead day supported a co-worker’s foundation that fights against breast cancer.
Horwitz was also inducted into the FDU Hall of Fame in 2007 because of the hard work he devoted to the school for eight years.
Horwitz said he was “very honored” that day. “The best part of that was I got to see a lot of people I worked with. A lot of the people I was close with came back and it was good to be recognized,” he said. “The eight years at Fairleigh were a really big part of my life and I developed a lot of good relationships there.”
Horwitz broke his ankle two years ago and he realized while sitting in the hospital that retirement isn’t for him. He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down or love lost for the game. He doesn’t plan on hanging up the cleats until the Mets organization tells him that his time is up.
“I’m 68 years old now,” Horwitz explained. “I’ve been here half my life with the Mets. I know there’s going to come a point where I’m not going to be able to do this anymore and I’m sure people here will tell me when that point is. I take it year by year and I don’t know when that will be. I’m not married, I married my job. This is what I do; I’m going to keep doing this for as long as I can do it.”