The Mets may not be sitting on top of many statistical categories at the moment, but their clubhouse manager, Kevin Kierst, leads the major leagues in one area: eclectic collections.
From his days in the minors, he keeps what he calls “a library of broken bats.” There are the 561 bobbleheads in his Citi Field office, including one of himself in a hockey referee’s uniform that was gifted to him by friends for his 50th birthday. In a drawer, he stores an extra head wrapped in plastic, just in case.
There is also a horde of Minions, the yellow, goggled stars of the “Despicable Me” franchise. Behind his desk, Kierst has three packs of Minions Tic Tacs next to a Minions Pez dispenser. A Minions stress ball stands beside a Minions picture frame, a Minions tissue box and a Minions mug with six Minions pens in it.
“Maybe I should break out my Jack Daniel’s collection, too,” he said.
But his most prized collectibles hang on the walls. They are baseball movie posters, such as “Kill the Umpire” (1950), “It Happened in Flatbush” (1942) and “Major League” (1989). He likes the lithographs from the 1950s the most, and is sensitive to how light might fade the colors. Preserving posters can be just as challenging as procuring them.
“I wanted a collection when I got to the majors,” he said. “I had no idea there were as many as I ultimately found out about.”
CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times
In all, over the past two decades, Kierst has acquired 80 baseball movie posters, which are displayed in his offices in Queens and at the Mets’ spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Each one is cataloged in an Excel file with the price he paid, the year he got it and the poster’s size. The cheapest was $9.99. The most expensive: $550.
He estimates there are 25 baseball posters that have eluded him, and he scours eBay and visits shops to see if they have become available. Room for expansion has been tight of late.
“If I had the space to put them all up, I would,” Kierst, 54, said. “I’m hoping I might be able to hang more of them eventually.”
Spare time, too, can be hard to come by because of Kierst’s wide-ranging responsibilities as clubhouse manager. When first baseman Pete Alonso wanted a pair of sneakers converted into spikes recently, he went to Kierst, who sent them out to get it done. When reliever Drew Gagnon needed a tool to restitch a glove, he, too, stopped by Kierst’s office. Over the decades, the 6-foot-4 Kierst has painted outfield fence signs, served one season as a groundskeeper and managed clubhouses in the minors and majors for 34 years. He used to moonlight as a professional hockey referee in the off-season. He did that for 18 winters.
He acts as a movie critic, too, though he doesn’t consider himself a cinephile.
“I liked ‘Eight Men Out,’” he said. “Good, accurate representation of that event. I liked ‘Major League’ just because I thought it was funny. ‘Field of Dreams’ is what it is. ‘The Natural’ was O.K.”
Just because he has the poster does not mean he has seen the movie. One March morning during spring training, he looked at a poster for “Rhubarb,” a 1951 screwball comedy (not the baseball kind of screwball) about an eccentric millionaire who bequeaths his baseball team to his cat. The poster’s billing — “The Laughing-est Picture in Nine Lifetimes” — has not yet moved him to watch the film.
“Never saw it,” Kierst said. “I have no idea what it’s about.”
He has discovered the movie poster market can be tricky. For years, Kierst kept an eye out for a poster of “Safe at Home!” a film that featured Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and premiered in 1962. The cheapest he had ever seen it available for was around $1,000 on eBay, but then he happened upon one for $550. It took a month for it to ship from the German owner to Kierst.
The long delay made him think he might be getting ripped off. “I finally got it,” he said, “and then I found another one for $350 soon after. So actually I have two of them now. Because you never know.”
He now considers “For Love of the Game” to be his favorite baseball movie, and it still surprises him. When Dave Eiland, who was fired as pitching coach last month, joined the Mets before last season, he figured someone with the Mets was a movie buff because of the posters’ prominence in spring training. What Kierst did not learn until this February, though, was that Eiland had acted as the body double for Kevin Costner during pitching scenes at Yankee Stadium in “For Love of the Game.”
“I thought it was actually Costner,” Kierst said. “It was probably wear and tear for him.”
Kierst is protective of his posters. When he leaves Florida each spring, he turns off the lights and locks the door to his office knowing no one will enter it again until he returns in the fall. At Citi Field, the lights automatically turn off when he is out of the room for 10 minutes to ensure the posters’ colors don’t dull.
“Some have holes or dents in the middle of them, and that’s fine. I’m O.K. with that,” he said. “I just really don’t like them to fade.”
Bedrooms double as showrooms in his house, as well. When his son, Kyle, was still sleeping in a crib, his wall was decorated with posters from “Rookie of the Year,” “Angels in the Outfield” and “The Sandlot” — a clear ’90s theme. In his home office, he also has a poster from the 1969 film “A Boy Named Charlie Brown,” with Peanuts characters gathered on the field.
“Technically probably not a baseball movie,” he said, “but it’s a cute poster.”
Kierst can be as subjective as an umpire about which movies belong in the genre. To him, “Brewster’s Millions,” the 1985 movie starring Richard Pryor as a minor league pitcher, is not a baseball movie. But a poster of another Pryor film, “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings,” hangs on his office wall in Florida.
“There are some borderline ones,” he said. “For me, a baseball movie is a baseball movie.”
A holy grail exists. It is “The Pride of the Yankees,” the 1942 biopic that stars Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig. On eBay recently, he said, an original full-size movie poster was selling for $7,995.
“I’m not going to go that high,” Kierst said. “I would like to, but I’m not going to go that high. That’s crazy.”