When looking back at the biggest events and celebrations in Mets history, it’s the details that stand out.
The members of the 1986 Mets coming through the stands at Shea Stadium during their 20th anniversary celebration. The reenactment of the fan parachuting onto the field. Tom Seaver throwing out the first pitch to Mike Piazza before the opening of Citi Field. The family of Seaver sitting in the front row as his statue was unveiled.
Few fanbases revel in nostalgia like Mets fans, hanging on to every milestone, good, bad, controversial or comical. The person behind all of those events, longtime Mets executive Lorraine Hamilton, has never wanted any credit, preferring to let the legends on the field be the center of attention, but she’ll finally be recognized Sunday night when she’s inducted into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame, along with the late Tommie Agee and Bobby Ojeda.
It’s a recognition of 34 years of service with the Mets and acknowledgment of the lasting legacy she leaves as she retires.
“There’s really something special about Lorraine, just as a human,” Sarah Seaver Zaske told the Daily News. “I’m sure you’ve been told time and time again how great she is at her job. But honestly, she is so much more than that.”
Hamilton, the executive director of broadcasting and special events, has been an unsung hero of sorts since the 1980s. She’s been behind the scenes coordinating some of the most memorable moments in team history and she was a trailblazer as one of few women to hold an executive role with a Major League Baseball team early in her career.
The list of hats she has worn and roles she has played is endless: Hamilton coordinated live broadcasts, handling everything from the production trucks, to the broadcast booth space, to the camera positions. She scheduled national broadcasts. She told the SNY team of Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling what to promote on air and when.
“We all have people that we come across in business that are a little bit understated, but their presence is so strongly felt because they take care of so many things without a lot of fanfare,” said Gregg Picker, the senior coordinating producer of Mets’ broadcasts on SNY. “Lorraine has always been one of those people. taking care of stuff for our announcers, for our producers, for our crew. You can rely on her to get things done.”
The professionalism has endeared her to some of the more outsized personalities that exist in the Mets’ realm. She has had to navigate fractured relationships between the club and their former players and deftly manage the politics that naturally exist in professional sports.
“She has no ego,” Picker said. Because of her experience, she’s able to work with people of all different personalities. Whether they’re loud and bombastic or reserved and shy she finds a way to make everybody feel comfortable.”
When looking at the body of work, it becomes apparent that Hamilton has been influential in bridging past generations of Mets greats to the current generation of fans.
She has been influential in bridging past generations of Mets greats to the current generation of fans. She has had to navigate fractured relationships between the Mets and their former players.
“There’s just nobody better,” Piazza told The News through his agent, Alan Nero. “It’s going to be an unbelievable loss, not just to the Mets but to all those who had the pleasure and the luxury of dealing with her. It was a privilege.”
Hamilton grew up in Oceanside on Long Island and was hired by the Mets in 1980 as a public relations assistant to Jay Horwitz, another longtime figure with the club. She left in 1984 to do PR and events in Manhattan, but she returned to the Mets in 1994 with a desire to raise her son in Flushing. Like so many women, Hamilton wanted a balance between motherhood and career and the Mets offered that for her.
That balance can be difficult to find. The double standards that exist for women in high-level positions were challenging for Hamilton to navigate. If you’re friendly, no one takes you seriously. Too forceful? Then, well, you’re just too angry and emotional.
“There was a fine line,” Hamilton said. “You couldn’t be too fun. You had to make it very clear that you were representing the club. And that what you were saying was not a suggestion, but was what needed to happen.”
Never was this more true than with her first conversation with Seaver. She was assigned to act as a handler of sorts for the Hall of Famer and found his larger-than-life persona to be intimidating. But Hamilton had to get the message across that they would be working together closely and he would have to follow the guidelines laid out for him.
“I kind of handed him a schedule and told him what I was expecting,” Hamilton said. “And he just kind of looked at me like I had three heads.”
What she didn’t know at the time was that he was joking. Seaver was testing her to see how she could handle his humor. The two became close friends as Hamilton accompanied Seaver to various alumni and charity events. Along the way, Hamilton became part of the Seaver family and remains close to his widow, Nancy, and his daughters Sarah and Anne.
It’s no secret that Seaver and the Mets had a fraught relationship at times. This was true of many players who took issue with the way the organization treated its former players. Hamilton was able to help Seaver and his family repair those tensions.
“I can’t speak for all of the other players and instances, but dad definitely had a rocky relationship at different points with the Mets. And through that all, I really think that Lorraine was monumental in getting him sort of back into the fold,” Seaver Zaske said. “He trusted Lorraine implicitly and he would always be up and willing to do whatever she asked him to do.”
Hamilton pushed for years for the Mets to honor Seaver. She finally saw those efforts come to life with the street renaming ceremony. She later worked with the family and William Behrends, the sculptor who created his statue, even traveling with Seaver Zaske to North Carolina to meet with Behrends to see his studio and the progress of the bronze depiction.
“It gave us a really wonderful chance to kind of talk about that and process that a little bit and kind of mourn him, which we weren’t able to do during COVID,” Seaver Zaske said. “She’s just full of amazing stories and interactions with dad and all the players that she was so close to, or is so close to still.”
Hamilton’s legacy with former players will be the personal elements she was able to capture and implement. She’s so well-known and so well-liked in broadcast circles that mention of her name elicits admiration and respect.
But now the respect comes from Hamilton to the other women in the industry carrying on yet another one of her legacies. The industry has transformed over the past two decades and there are women at several levels of sports and media. They’re on the sidelines, in the TV trucks and front offices. The industry is in a better place than when she entered.
“I would say it’s been very gradual. I do think that women do gravitate to the event side, more so than other areas of the sport,” Hamilton said. “But when I started, there were not literally none. I would say probably around 2000 is when it started to get a little more of an even playing field. But it’s been very gradual. It’s been a slow evolution.”
Hamilton credits women like Bernadette McDonald, MLB’s senior vice president of broadcasting and the woman she calls her “north star,” and Marla Miller, the league’s senior vice president of special events for helping her forge a path in baseball.
When Hamilton is inducted Sunday night in Ballston Lake, she’ll join former Mets media relations official Shannon Forde, who was inducted posthumously in 2021 and became the first-ever woman to be selected. Forde passed away in 2016 at the age of 44 after a battle with breast cancer.
“She was really a tremendous role model,” Hamilton said. “I feel very proud to be following in her footsteps going into the New York State Hall of Fame. She was a tremendous employee and person.”
As for what’s next, Hamilton is unsure. For someone who has spent nearly three decades programming baseball presentations, she isn’t quite sure how to program the next phase of her life just yet. Her son Timothy is now 35 and she’s planning on spending more time with him. After years of missing holidays and family gatherings, she’s looking forward to finally being present for them.
But for now, she’s going to enjoy her Hall of Fame honor. Hamilton, who memorialized so many historic Mets moments, will now become a part of Mets history herself.