By Laura Amato
Russ Gompers was sitting in a house in Cooperstown a few weeks ago, ignoring his phone.
The Flushing native had other things on his mind—like watching the Mets try to take down the Yankees in the Subway Series – and he didn’t notice when his phone practically exploded with notifications.
Once he did finally realize what was going on, Gompers was a bit overwhelmed.
The owner of Stitches, an embroidery and screen printing company in Whitestone, Gompers has been the jersey supplier for the Mets for over 20 years. But while the job has long been a source of pride for Gompers, it isn’t every day that his work is discussed on television.
“Jay Bruce is up and they go to the segment and start talking about how they just got him,” Gompers said. “They get all his information together and then take a 10-minute drive to a place called Stitches in Whitestone that sews the shirt.”
The TV moment came just a few days after a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame where Gompers saw his own jersey work featured in a 9/11 exhibit.
Gompers’ path to the Mets began decades ago, and included stints running his father’s trucking business and operating a sporting goods store across from Flushing High School. He wasn’t a fan of either of those endeavors and eventually decided to go into the logo business.
That’s where, 23 years ago, one phone message changed Gompers’ life.
He called a number that had been left for him, not realizing he was calling Shea Stadium. The Mets had called a player up from the minors and the usual store couldn’t do the embrodery work for his jersey.
“It’s 8 o’clock on a Saturday night,” Gompers said. “And I hear [former Mets clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels] in the background yelling, ‘If you take care of me on this, I’ll give you all my work!’ I’m a Met fan, so I’m like ‘Oh my God.’”
Gompers made Doug Saunders’ jersey that night, calling in one of his sewers to help get the shirt finished on time. Saunders played just 28 games in the pros, but he might be Gompers’ favorite player of all time.
Gompers has worked with the Mets ever since.
In the years since, Gompers added the Islanders and the Yankees to his clientele, picking up the Bombers last year ahead of the squad’s wild-card matchup against the Astros.
“I have to tell you, even as a Met fan, walking out of that office, knowing I’m doing work for the Yankees I kind of had this feeling come over me,” Gompers said. “Like this is the Yankees. The Yankees are like the epitome of sports. That was really cool.”
For the kid who grew up a Mets fan, who still tears up when talking about asking his late father to help the team win the series in ‘86, Gompers occasionally has to pinch himself that this is his life.
The professional squads aren’t the bread and butter of his business, but they’re a badge of honor—one he wears with pride.
“It’s not a money thing,” he said. “And it’s cool. I really like that I’m able to say that.”