Mets clubhouse boss Scott Keltner is real team MVP

Lefty-swinging Giant Brandon Crawford sent a scorcher toward the first base bag at Citi Field. If the ball gets past Mets All-Star Pete Alonso, it has double written all over it.

Luckily, the ball hooks foul, but the “Polar Bear” can’t take the chance and dives head first like he’s going after a loose C-Note on a Willets Point sidewalk. He winds up accelerating into foul territory as if on a wild backyard Slip ‘N Slide.

Scott Keltner sees the play and can’t wait to get his hands on Alonso’s jersey. He isn’t some memorabilia collector waiting to purchase a game-worn uniform. Keltner is the coordinator of clubhouse operations for the Mets.

His job, along with his staff of 13, is to keep both clubhouses up and running before, during and after the game and Keltner has the most important task.

He keeps the Mets’ uniforms sparkling clean.

“See,” Keltner points to Alonso’s jersey laying on a table in the Mets’ laundry room after the team’s 4-1 win over the Giants last Saturday. “Here’s the grass stain.”

Mets clubhouse coordinator Scott Keltner seen cleaning uniforms after the Mets beat the San Francisco Giants.

The smudge was barely visible on his No. 20, but Keltner knew it would be there.

To say Keltner loves his job is an understatement.

“For a seven o’clock game, I come in at one,” says the Kansas City, Mo., graduate of Minnesota State University. “We’re leaving between 1:30 and 2 [AM] depending on how the game ends.

“For a four o’clock game … get here at 10:30 and get out, 10-ish.”

Must be love and the love is returned.

“They’re the unsung heroes,” declares Mets outfielder Mark Canha who did not play on Saturday but homered Sunday. “Those [clubhouse] guys do everything for us. The other day one of them filled up my tank of gas. I’m 40 miles left before I’m on empty and they go and do that for me. They’ll do whatever you ask.”

The skipper knows their worth also.

“I’ve always appreciated and respected [what they do],” declares manager Buck Showalter, “and the players do to. They know they’re an integral part of the presentation.”

For all the influx of analytics and the pitch clock (more later), you can’t play major league baseball in dirty uniforms and that’s where the bearded, bespectacled Scott Keltner shines. When you talk dirty uniforms and cleaning them, the twinkle in his eyes becomes contagious.

He has to clean uniforms that are covered in everything you can imagine.

“You’ve got the combo of grass and dirt and blood and pine tar,” states Showalter.

There’s no need to fear, for Keltner and his power washer are here.

In the Mets’ laundry room off the clubhouse after the game he lays all the dirty uniforms on a table to be sorted. The dirty ones get special treatment. Keltner puts on his black rubber gloves and gets to work pre-treating and power washing.

Mets clubhouse boss Scott Keltner and his team use three massive washing machines to get the uniforms clean after games.

“I always wear rubber gloves,” he states, adding, “I love these guys, but I don’t love them that much.”

He starts spraying, and the dirt disappears.

But wait, there’s more!

He holds up the pants of starting catcher Francisco Alvarez with two stains on the back and from the power washer’s strength, like magic, they’re gone.

Is this cleaning fluid something that parents can buy for their kids’ Little League uniforms?

“It’s a product called Destainex, but it’s 100 dollars a gallon,” he laments.

The uniforms go in three huge washers then two equally large dryers.

“We put all the shirts and underwear and socks in one washer,” explains Keltner. “The jerseys in the middle washer and the pants in the last washer that aren’t super dirty.

“Counting towels, we do 12 to 15 loads of laundry after the game.”

When the Mets are back home after a road game, the clubhouse folk aren’t done by a longshot.

“Sometimes when we’re on the road we get home super late,” reveals Canha. “They’re going to come to the stadium at two in the morning. Day or night they’re there unpacking the trucks, getting our gear off the bus.

“They work they’re butts off. They’re the backbone of the organization.”

And when it’s a getaway day?

“We don’t have time to wait for the laundry,” Keltner announces. “It just gets packed up and sent to the next city. The visiting clubhouse guys get it.”


Howie Rose, the longtime Mets broadcaster, and recent inductee into the Mets Hall of Fame, has seen a lot of dirty uniforms on various Mets regardless of if he was a young fan or behind a mike.

“If you go back to the very early years, Ron Hunt was always getting dirty,” remembers Rose. “With the group that wound up winning in ‘86, you think of Lenny Dykstra and Wally Backman. Those guys always had dirty uniforms. More recently, Jose Reyes.”

Rose also noticed the players’ uniforms got dirtier as the players’ tactics changed.

“Back then most guys who stole bases, did it feet first,” he recalls. “It wasn’t until we got into the late ‘70s and ‘80s, and certainly Pete Rose popularized it to a certain extent, that most guys started to dive head first and that made for a really dirty uniform. The [1986] team got its uniforms dirty most nights.”

And that dirt can leave a mark on Mets fans.

“A dirty uniform catches the eyes of the fans,” acknowledges Rose. “Fans really appreciate that kind of player.”

This Mets team is struggling, but the hustle and dirt are still there.

“There’s a lot of [dirty uniforms] so that’s a good sign,” says Showalter about his club. While he feels Brandon Nimmo may be a candidate for Mets Hustling Pigpen Award, Canha disagrees.

“Maybe Pete,” he declares about the team’s slugging first baseman. “He seems like a kind of dust bunny. He’s always rolling around in the infield.”

Scott Keltner says Mets slugger Pete Alonso is up there with the players who end up with the dirtiest uniforms.

Keltner thinks Alonso is up there, but his nominee is former Met and current Red Sox Justin Turner.

“His [uniform] was always caked in pine tar,” says Keltner with a laugh. “The pine tar remover can only do so much.”

Even though Keltner is only 31, he is a baseball lifer.

“This is my 16th year in baseball,” he reveals. Keltner worked six years in the Cardinals visitors clubhouse. “It took eight seasons in the minor leagues to get to the majors. Took another six years working in the majors to get a full-time job. It’s not a lucrative job. It’s been fun.”

He’s part of the family even in sad times due to the nature of the business.

“It’s tough when we traded [Eduardo] Escobar,” he stated. “He’s one of my good friends from the two years that I’ve been here. I texted him the other day when he became a citizen.

“I said congratulations. He says, ‘Thank you’ back and follows it up with a ‘I miss you’ text with a crying emoji.”

So how does one get a job like Keltner’s?

“Find a job to work in baseball where it’s not cool,” he advises and he’s serious. “Go work for the Long Island Ducks, the Brooklyn Cyclones. Go get experience somewhere where it’s not a major league team. That’s what’s going to separate you.

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“We get 500 plus people apply for any opening,” he says. “I’ve worked in Low-A and Triple-A baseball. I hired people who have worked in baseball before. It’s something I’ve always looked for. The hours are long.

“This is a really cool job, so I want to have somebody who’s done these hours and done this job when it’s not cool.”

With the Mets win over the Giants, the game took a speedy two hours and ten minutes.

“We’re all big fans of the pitch clock,” states Keltner with a chuckle. “That’s been the best development. Speeding the game up is the clubhouse guy’s …”

His voice tails off a bit while his smile widens.

“We did a spring training game, and it was two hours and twelve minutes,” he recalls as that twinkle returns to his eyes. “We’re never going back.”

Maybe Keltner and his crew can go back to the future, clean the uniforms and leave Citi Field around 9-ish.

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