NEW YORK (AP) — Posing for pictures, shooting T-shirts into the seats and high-fiving fans young and old, the ever-smiling Mr. Met mascot is back in the lineup at Citi Field. Cooler heads prevailed, apparently.
A day after the person inside the funny-looking costume was caught on video making an obscene gesture to a fan, the team said someone else was doing Mr. Met duty at Thursday's game against Milwaukee.
No one seemed too upset, either.
"I love you, Mr. Met!" a couple kids called out as the popular mascot bounded to his pregame perch beyond the distant outfield seats. He got more cheers in the sixth inning, when he launched souvenirs along the first base side.
Mr. Met has been around for more than five decades, long popular with New York fans for his oversized baseball head.
They seemed to be in a forgiving mood.
"I thought he was trying to mimic Bryce Harper and get himself suspended," kidded Tim Rothman, moments after his 4-year-old son met the mascot.
"Mr. Met was just upset, he got mad. It was a New York thing," Rothman said.
Harper was suspended this week by Major League Baseball, the Nationals slugger punished for getting into a fistfight with Giants reliever Hunter Strickland after being hit by a pitch.
MLB didn't seem inclined to suspend a mascot, rather letting this be handled as a club matter.
Video of the mascot flipping his finger during a 7-1 loss to the Brewers on Wednesday night went viral.
The Mets apologized after the incident, saying the offending employee won't work in the costume again. The team didn't identify the person — a couple people usually fill the role during the season.
For the record, whoever is inside the outfit never comments.
Mets reliever Jerry Blevins said he'd seen a lot during his long career, but never any mascot mayhem like this.
"Not on social media," he said.
Blevins didn't want to say much more — "I've been around a long time, I know when to tread lightly," he said.
But he mentioned he had joined fellow pitcher Josh Smoker and the Mr. Met mascot for an appearance Wednesday morning at a school in Long Island for those with severe physical disabilities.
"He couldn't have done a better job," Blevins said. "He did great."
Thousands of kids were at Citi Field early for Zoo Day, and they all eagerly greeted Mr. Met when he wandered past them.
Mr. Met drew smiles as he walked the hall from his dressing room, past the Milwaukee clubhouse and toward his pregame post. A security guard laughed when noting that Mr. Met couldn't have flipped his middle finger because the costume only has four fingers.
"And I'm pleading the Fifth!" called out one of the mascot's handlers.
Around baseball, reactions were equally playful.
The general manager of the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s, the Mets' top minor league affiliate, tweeted that "unfortunately" their mascot "Cosmo is not eligible for a call-up to New York."
The mascot for the San Francisco Giants, Lou Seal, posted a picture with his New York counterpart's significant other, Mrs. Met, saying: "Calm down #MrMet... it was just one kiss."
Of course, this all would've never happened with the first mascot for the Mets, back when they were an expansion team in 1962. That was Homer the Beagle, a real hound who was trained to run around the bases when one of Casey Stengel's players hit a home run at the old Polo Grounds.
All the practice sessions with Homer went well inside an empty ballpark. But the first time he tried it in a game, with fans going crazy, he became a true beagle and just ran all over the field.
That ended his career, long before the dog days of summer.