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'Mr. Met' Ends Reserve Duty at Guantanamo Bay

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2002 – "Mr. Met," the orb-headed icon of the New York Mets baseball team, used to be none other than an Army Reserve officer engaged in the global war against terrorism.

Maj. Lee Reynolds just finished six months duty at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the only U.S. naval base in a communist country. Operation Enduring Freedom cost him the entire 2002 baseball season.

Even though the Mets didn't make it to post-season play this year, Reynolds had mixed feelings about missing the season as Mr. Met. "I love the job a lot," said Reynolds, who worked with Joint Task Force 160, the multiservice outfit responsible for detention operations at "Gitmo."

"I love baseball and was looking forward to being Mr. Met for a fourth year. But, in light of what has happened in the world, I felt I wanted to do something to contribute as an American, especially as a New Yorker. So I did what I really want to do. I was where I think I should have been."

When called to active duty, he was in Chicago stage- managing the national tour of the musical "Freedom Train," the story of former slave Harriett Tubman and the Underground Railroad. "I'd been on tour for 10 weeks all over the country," said Reynolds, who flew home to Long Island, N.Y., and then on to Guantanamo.

Noting that he wanted to contribute to the global war on terrorism, he said, "As a reservist on active duty, I think that was a great way to contribute. All of my adult life I've been in the military, and for a lot of reasons, I love being a soldier. I love my country. I think patriotism has a lot to do with it. After 9-11, I just wanted to do something, contribute and that was a great way to do it."

The actor, writer, director and Army Reserve public affairs officer has appeared in motion pictures, television and theater. He has directed theater, videos and industrial films. He also wrote the play, "The Box With a Green Bow," a one-act Christmas story. And he wrote and produced "Spook Tacular 2000," the story of Halloween, for his own theater company. He produced "Cinderella" last year for a community theater in New Jersey.

His military career started when he joined the Army Reserve shortly after graduating from high school. He served as a military policeman for three years while attending college and participating in the ROTC program at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

A political science and history major, Reynolds was a distinguished military graduate in 1987. Commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army, he spent 12 years on active duty in various positions in South Korea and Hawaii. He was an artilleryman and served in a number of battery- and battalion-level posts.

He left active duty in March 1999 to pursue an acting career, but kept his Army affiliation by becoming an Army Reserve public affairs officer.

"It's something I've always been interested in," said Reynolds, who dabbled in journalism in high school and wrote articles during his active duty career. "I consider myself a writer in my personal life. It's a mixture of what I do as a civilian, as an actor, writer and director. It complements what I do as a public affairs officer."

After active duty he started taking private acting lessons and quested for acting jobs. His first job was with the Pepsi party patrol, a group that goes around Shea Stadium entertaining the fans between innings.

"They liked my personality and I had the right body size for the Mr. Met costume, so they asked me and another guy to be a backup for Mr. Met," Reynolds said. When the regular Mr. Met left midway through the season, Reynolds was promoted.

That was in 1999.

That summer, he appeared in his first movie, a cable TV feature entitled "The Hunley," a true story about a Confederate submarine that sank a Union warship during the Civil War. Reynolds also had a speaking role as a military adviser in this year's film "We Were Soldiers," the Mel Gibson Vietnam War film.

But he said even though he wants acting and writing to be his life's work, being Mr. Met was a "real ball." "It's probably one of the most exciting, thrilling and physically challenging jobs I've ever had," the major said. "The costume is big, bulky and not balanced well -- the head is a huge baseball. It's very hot inside. Your visibility is limited.

"You don't see out of there very well at all," he said. "That takes a bit of getting used to. You're constantly on the move, constantly running around and goofing around and overheating. It's uncomfortable, but when you're 'in the zone,' you don't think about that, you're just doing it. But when you go away from where the fans are, you start overheating quickly. You've got to get that head off and start drinking some water."

Reynolds recalls the fun he always had when former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani came to a Mets game. "He's a great baseball fan, tremendous Yankee fan and I've always admired Mayor Giuliani," he said. "So whenever he came to the stadium, I'd have fun with him. Sometimes I'd take his Yankee hat off his head, like I do with other fans, and pretend to blow my nose into his hat, crumple it up and give it back to him. He was always a great sport about it."

He said the team asked him to remain as Mr. Met. However, he told them he'd rather pursue acting jobs in television and film.

As his reserve tour ended, Reynolds was preparing for his role in a new Tom Cruise movie, "The Last Samurai."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Reserve Maj. Lee Reynolds holds a picture of himself as Mr. Met, the orb-headed icon of the New York Mets baseball team. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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