Never mind stamps or coins. St. Lucie Mets General Manager Traer Van Allen’s colorful collection of 850 bobbleheads will make your head, er, shake in amazement.
A glass cabinet with figurines with large heads mounted on a spring so that it bobs up and down takes an entire wall in the main hallway of the staff offices at Clover Park.
“Our maintenance manager, Jeff Montpetit, did a tremendous job,” said Van Allen, taking a quick break from spring-training preparations to show off his passion for all things bobbleheads. “He has a real artistic eye, let alone a skilled maintenance guy. He saw the space and he and I talked about it and he said, ‘Let me come up with a couple of ideas here.’ He put a pen-to-paper kind of thing together and built what we currently have.’’
The locked cabinet was completed in 2020. The collection, though, started back in 2001, soon after Van Allen joined the Single-A Florida State League team as director of sales.
“New in the industry, I was an excited, young and eager guy, happy to collect stuff,” Van Allen said. “And, no, it never intended to turn into what it is now. It could have gone the path of collecting mini-bats or lapel pins or whatever. It just happened to be bobbleheads was the direction it went and I’m glad it did. It’s become a nice showcase here at the facility.”
And has the cabinet reached full capacity?
“We’re up to 850 now, so we’ll see how much we can push that,” said Van Allen, who was promoted to general manager in 2013. “I’d love to see it get to 1,000. We’ll have to then assess it and maybe move it out to another area.’’
Van Allen says about 80% of the bobbleheads are baseball-related, “with a handful of football, basketball and some nonathletes mixed in.’’
Surprisingly, Van Allen’s first bobblehead was one of Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers. The native Californian obtained it at a trade show more than 22 years ago. That’s the reason it’s placed on a pedestal inside the showcase.
Not surprisingly, about half of the collection is Met-related. And those bobbleheads can be found in the middle as a centerpiece.
Does he have a favorite?
“I mean, it’s hard to go against ‘The Captain,’ David Wright. But, I will say even ones like of Marylou Kolodziejczak, whom we refer to her as our All-Star, she literally does or has done everything at the complex, and Jay Horwitz [the Mets’ longtime media relations executive] because of how special those people are. They’ll always be personal favorites.’’
Among the nonathletes in the collection is one from television fame.
“I love the little Seinfeld subgroup that I have there,’’ Van Allen said. “I think I’m up to about a dozen Seinfeld-themed bobbleheads, most of which have come from one of our minor league clubs, the Brooklyn Cyclones. They do a very popular Seinfeld-themed night every year.’’
His latest acquisition is that of Mets ace right-hander Max Scherzer. He secured it as part of a stash of bobbleheads given out last year at Citi Field.
How many bobblehead promotions will the Mets have this season?
“Not enough as far as I’m concerned,” he said laughing. “It seems like four or five. I always keep my eyes peeled for when they make those announcements.’’
And, as for the St. Lucie Mets, they’re haven’t yet announced dates of their own bobblehead promotions.
However, Van Allen says there is one slated for the Cardinals-Mets spring training game on Saturday, March 25; game time is 6:10 p.m. A Florida ‘Mr. Met,’ decked out in his Floridian garb, will be given away, compliments of longtime sponsor Solomon Urology.’’
Count on Van Allen having the urge to add it to his collection soon afterward.
Feb. 21, 2023