For a decade, Carlo Cerilli has been telling every Mets employee he encountered that the team ought to mark the spot in the parking lot where Cleon Jones caught the final out of the 1969 World Series at Shea Stadium. He had all but given up hope that anyone was listening.
That was, until he had an encounter on Twitter with Steven Cohen, the new owner of the team.
“I like that one,” Cohen wrote in a reply to Cerilli on Cohen’s newly verified Twitter account. After recovering from the shock that Cohen had actually replied to him, Cerilli thought to himself, “Finally, someone gets it.”
A chef from Dover, N.J., and a Mets season-ticket holder since 1993, Cerilli is not the only one to receive a personal response from Cohen. The new owner, whose purchase of the team was completed earlier this month, has engaged with dozens of fans in the last week or so.
I like that one
— Steven Cohen (@StevenACohen2) November 1, 2020
It all stems from a post Cohen left on Nov. 1, when he wrote, “I would love to hear your ideas to make YOUR Mets experience better.”
Cohen addressed many of the topics that Mets fans have argued about for years. One fan wanted Cohen to pay off the millions of dollars the team owes Bobby Bonilla, the former player, in deferred payments that are due every July 1. The fan, Pete Dembroski, said it is too embarrassing for Mets fans to have to endure every year.
Cohen’s response: “Can I make it July 2?”
An account labeled #FireAdamGase congratulated Cohen on receiving account verification from Twitter.
“I guess I’m really me,” Cohen wrote.
On Thursday, Cohen responded to a fan with the screen name Patrick D who identified himself as an attendant at the O Lot at Citi Field and claimed he would be waving Cohen into the lot on game days.
“Patrick, I hope you let me in,” Cohen replied.
These exchanges are a dramatic departure from the previous ownership group led by Fred Wilpon, his son Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz, each of whom shied away from engaging with fans in any public venues, probably to avoid being bombarded with laundry lists of grievances over perceived mismanagement of the team.
Cohen, on the other hand, is seen as a knight in shining armor, galloping in to save the franchise from oblivion with an arsenal of cash, a reputation as a savvy business manager, and now as a likable new figurehead.
Almost overnight, a man who seemed to operate best underneath the radar is poised to emerge as the most communicative owner in baseball, competing with the likes of Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks for the title as the most approachable owner in sports. Cohen has a new toy, and in a refreshing way, he seems to love playing with it.
Thanks to Twitter, we now know that Cohen’s favorite movie is “The Godfather,” he takes his hot dogs with mustard and sauerkraut and Tom Seaver was his favorite Met. Bold choices.
In an era of social media managers, it is fair to wonder if it is actually Cohen behind the keyboard. But the responses feel genuine and are littered with just enough typos to lend credence to the idea that they were hammered out by a person between meetings, rather than an employee who would be risking their job by making the boss look bad.
Either way, the account marks a departure from Cohen’s previous reputation as a cryptic billionaire hedge fund owner. For years, he vigorously guarded his privacy and rarely did interviews unless they were off the record. He hated to be photographed, often buying the rights to photos of himself to limit their distribution. It was hard for the general public to get the measure of his personality.
That changed on Nov. 10. During a live Zoom conference call with reporters, Cohen projected a relaxed, engaging and knowledgeable demeanor as the new leader of the Mets. It was the polar opposite of the Wilpons, whose news conferences often felt awkward and scripted.
But Cohen’s best comedic chops, and most playful side, have emerged on Twitter.
Returning to the Bonilla issue, Cohen wrote on Friday: “Let’s take a vote. How about we have a Bobby Bonilla day every year. Hand him an oversized check and drive a lap around the stadium. Could be fun.”
One fan asked if Cohen, a renowned art collector, would rip a Picasso painting in half for a World Series ring. It was a big ask, but make no mistake: Virtually all Mets fans would be there on Cohen’s front lawn, cheering him on if he’d give it a shot.
Cohen’s playful response: “Can it be an inexpensive one?”
That answer seemed to clear up any question about the authenticity of the account. Only a billionaire of Cohen’s stature could consider a Picasso — any Picasso — inexpensive.
“He’s got a great sense of humor,” Cerilli, the chef, said. “Of course, he’s got a lot of money, so obviously people are going to laugh along. But I think it’s been great.”
Some of his gags deserve a drum roll and cymbal crash — if not an eye roll — like when a fan with the screen name Swole Nate wrote, “Can I be the new GM?”
“How about being a Ford?” Cohen answered.
Admittedly, it took one particularly thick reporter a few moments to get that one.
Following up the same line of questioning, a fan named Ryan Novak declared he would be the general manager of the Mets in 15 years, and asked if Cohen approved.
“I need to talk to myself 15 years from now,” Cohen wrote. “I’ll be right back.”
A query about the account was placed to the Mets, but the team said Cohen was not doing interviews for the moment. The team representative offered that anyone could dive in with a question on the account. So we asked, “Are you having as much fun with this as the fans are?” while sneaking in a plug for an official Fake Mustache Day.
No reply yet. Perhaps it would have been better to suggest he give Bonilla half of the torn Picasso.