Russ Gompers is a lifelong Mets fan. He’s seen the highs, the lows and the mediocrity in between. He was there when the team reached baseball’s peak in 1969, then again in 1986. He was also there when the Mets closed Shea Stadium with a collapse in the standings in 2008.
But beyond the usual fandom stories that roll off the tongue of many Queens residents wearing orange and blue glasses, Gompers has a special connection with New York’s National League team. One might say that he’s been on the field with them for the last 18 years.
Owner of Stitches in Whitestone, Gompers does all of the official stitching for the New York Mets. And recently, he was given a very special assignment.
After Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter passed away, Mets officials declared that all team jerseys in 2012 would feature a commemorative patch honoring the player known as “The Kid.” And on February 28, Gompers received the delivery — all of the Mets players’ jerseys, along with the Carter patch, a black home plate reading “KID 8.”
“I remember watching Monday Night Football and they announced the Mets got Carter. I said at the time that he was the final piece,” said Gompers. “Everyone should play the game as he played it — as the Kid had fun and played hard all the time.”
Gompers has no problem relating to that nickname himself, as his office resembles the fantasy of every young sports fan: wall-to-wall memorabilia, much of it personalized. A signed picture of Dwight Gooden sits on one end of the cramped space, right across from one of Mike Piazza. And right above a Mets recliner hangs a framed and signed Bobby Valentine jersey featuring three September 11 patches designed by Gompers.
His office above the Stitches warehouse is more than a shrine to his favorite teams — which inexplicably includes the Miami Dolphins — the office is also a tangible memory bank, a place where Gompers recalls standout moments in a sporting life.
It was October 1986. His father had passed away weeks prior and Gompers found himself at game six of the World Series with the Mets about to be eliminated by the Boston Red Sox. With two outs and Gary Carter at the plate, Gompers looked to the heavens and said, “Me and you dad. One more time.” With that, Carter got the hit that kept the inning alive and started one of the most famous comebacks in baseball history.
To find himself now overseeing the placement of these patches on his favorite team’s jersey is almost too much for Gompers to believe.
“It’s really amazing,” he said. “To end up doing work for the teams I grew up rooting for — it’s a dream come true.”
Besides the Mets, Stitches also does work for the New York Islanders, New York Knicks and a host of Little League, high school and college teams. Much of the enjoyment Gompers gets from his job is seeing the faces of young players when they see their jerseys for the first time.
“I tell coaches when they come in — I make them look good, but you have to make them play good,” he said. “But when they’re dressed like pros, it adds a little pep in their step.”
And it adds more recollections — high, low or mediocre — to the sports memory bank of this Bayside man living his dream.
To find out more about Stitches, visit www.stitchesny.com or call Russ Gompers at 718-747-6444.