Mookie Wilson’s appearance at Mets fantasy camp this month in Port St. Lucie, Fla., was a different experience for him than in past years.
Not only was the popular former outfielder a familiar face who evoked memories of the franchise’s last World Series winner in 1986, more importantly he ensured everybody got fed.
Meet Mookie Wilson of Legacy Catering, a business founded this year by Wilson and his family.
Wilson, 66, considers it the perfect fit for himself, three brothers and son-in-law. In addition, Wilson’s stepson Preston — a former Mets outfielder (he was traded to the Marlins in the deal that brought Mike Piazza to Queens) — serves as the CEO. The mobile catering business travels the East Coast for various events.
“My brothers were getting ready to retire from their normal jobs and I’m semi-retired, so we tried to find something we could do together to keep us moving,” Wilson said. “All of us, we love to cook. It’s a family thing. We’ve been cooking for years for churches and organizations. We wanted to do something different. We didn’t want a restaurant. I wanted to move around, so we decided to try something mobile.”
The “Legacy” name is a tribute to Wilson’s mother, whose recipes are used. Wilson said specialties include Southern cuisine, macaroni and cheese, rice dishes and candy yams.
Growing up in a large family, Wilson said he and his brothers had little choice but to familiarize themselves with the kitchen.
“When you have a family of 12, half go to church and the other half stay home and cook,” said Wilson, a Bamberg, S.C., native. “That’s the way it was, because the car couldn’t carry all of us. Somebody had to stay home. When I was playing in the minor leagues and in the big leagues in spring training, during my off time that’s what I did, I just experimented with certain dishes.”
Legacy’s first big event was a tailgate before a Hudson Valley Renegades game in September. Wilson’s traveling kitchen is an open-air trailer that was designed by the family and has 11,000 square inches of cooking space. A tent can be placed over the top if there is bad weather. Ovens, smokers and fryers are all onboard.
The Mets fantasy camp presented a unique challenge for Wilson and his family in that it involved serving four meals over as many days. Food was cooked on the trailer outside the facility and walked inside to serve 170-220 people on a given day. Dwight Gooden, Ed Lynch, Endy Chavez, Lenny Harris and Glendon Rusch were among the former Mets who indulged. The final meal was a Thanksgiving spread that included smoked turkey.
“My family totally enjoyed it because we’re used to cooking for people that we know,” Wilson said. “This was the first time they really experienced people they didn’t know, but people from my world, and it was just so much fun. The one thing we enjoyed truly was watching people enjoy the food, and those people can eat. They ate a lot. When they came around for the second and third helpings, that was really the good test. That was a good sign.”
Legacy already has several events in the works for next spring and summer, according Wilson, including a potential stop at the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse. Wilson is hoping he can eventually display his cooking talents in the parking lot at Citi Field.
Still a Mets ambassador who occasionally appears at the ballpark, Wilson is enamored with the direction in which the team is headed.
“The club really exceeded what I thought they would do last year,” Wilson said. “But it was good to see the growth of the young players, and that’s what you have to look for. I think we’re in real good shape for years to come.”
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Beltran and the ballot
Carlos Beltran’s career numbers compare strongly to those of Hall of Famer Andre Dawson and Beltran’s postseason resume is among the strongest of any player in his generation, only adding to his case for a plaque in Cooperstown.
You just wonder how long the former Mets outfielder — who now is appearing on his first Hall of Fame ballot — will have to wait for the honor because of his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme.
Timing is everything, and Beltran has the misfortune of appearing on the ballot so soon after the Astros’ shenanigans. By the time players such as Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa retire and become eligible for the Hall of Fame, memories will have faded.
Former Mets closer Billy Wagner received 51 percent of the vote last year, continuing his steady climb toward election. Candidates need 75 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. If Wagner can reach 60 percent this year, it would place him on solid footing for his final two years of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot.
Hot coaching commodity
Mets assistant hitting coach Jeremy Barnes is said to be a hot commodity this offseason, and team officials are considering a change in job title that might keep him from leaving. Last offseason, the Mets hired Eric Chavez as the hitting coach and Barnes, respected for his analytical approach, moved from player development into the No. 2 hitting coach role. It is unclear whether the Mets are considering elevating Barnes to the top spot and reassigning Chavez, but the coaching staff is still in flux.
Beltran was recently contacted to gauge his potential interest in a coaching job, but indicated he was not interested in serving in that role.
A dinner worth trumpeting
After a two-year absence, the New York chapter Baseball Writers’ dinner is returning to the Hilton in midtown Manhattan on Jan. 28.
The Mets will be represented by Buck Showalter (who will be presented with his National League Manager of the Year award) and Edwin Diaz, who was selected as the “Good Guy” award winner for his interactions with the media.
Mets radio voice Howie Rose and Post columnist Mike Vaccaro are among the honorees. Though this is a Mets newsletter, we’ll also mention that Aaron Judge will be presented with his American League MVP award.
Ticket information is available at NYBBWAA.com.