When the phone rang, I didn’t think much of it at first.
I was in the batting cages taking a few hacks at the time.
I just heard it ring and picked up.
I was told to head into the manager’s office. I knew why.
When I got in there, Terry put me on the phone with Sandy, our GM, and he didn’t mince words. He got straight to the point. He let me know I’d been dealt to Tampa Bay and thanked me for being a Met.
I thanked them both and made it clear how appreciative I was for how they had both treated me during my time in New York. And that was that.
Walking out of there, my mind immediately shifted to thinking about what it was going to be like to tell the guys. But I didn’t have much time to focus on that. A few moments later, I had Curtis Granderson hanging on my leg and I was dragging him across the clubhouse floor….
And, for whatever reason, I found myself wondering about what was going to happen to that stupid Instagram account that he ran. (More on @WeFollowLuasDuda later.)
Then I just kind of walked out the door and started a new chapter in my career.
While walking out, I thought back to the day I had walked in through that same exact door for the very first time.
It was right after I had gotten called up in 2010.
I was really still just a kid at the time, and I was in awe of the players I saw. To look around that room and see guys like David Wright and Johan Santana, it was unreal. Carlos Beltran! These were some of the biggest superstars in the game.
They left an impression on me and I can say for certain that what I saw those guys do early in my career is part of what makes me who I am today. So I’m forever grateful.
Then when Curtis came over, that just made everything even better.
Curtis and the other guys really helped me to grow up.
You guys know what type of person he is. I don’t have to tell you. We joke around a lot, and I don’t want to give him too big of a head here, but he’s special. And he’s exactly the type of person that you hope your own son would become someday.
I owe so much to Curtis and the other guys because they really helped me to grow up.
When I first got to New York, I can honestly say that I was intimidated by the city — just how hectic and nonstop and BIG everything is. I’m from California, so, you know, I didn’t really understand the place at first. It was just so in-your-face.
It wasn’t like I was scared, but it was just a little difficult for me to feel totally comfortable. And if I’m being honest, I would say that it probably affected my play a little bit. I mean, don’t even get me started on the outfield experiment. (I swear I did my best, you guys. But I’m a bigger, slower kind of cat. I still thank my lucky stars that I didn’t ruin Johan’s no-hitter in 2012.)
But thanks to my teammates, and, really, to the support and encouragement of Mets fans, I came around. Eventually, I just sort of blended in. I started to really explore the city and take in the culture and check out the parks and meet new people. And, oh my God, the food….
I dove in.
All of a sudden, Dumpling Man, in the Village, became my spot. And since everything was open late, living in New York was perfect for after games. Sushi Seki, uptown, was my go-to most nights. But I’d also hit up the random bodegas and pizza places.
I’d say somewhere around 2011 I had kind of become a New Yorker without really even knowing it.
Once that transformation took place, once I became a converted New Yorker, I appreciated the passion and dedication and energy of our fans even more.
What can I say? The Mets fans….
I love them.
Those fans just kind of get me.
But I should probably clarify things here for a second.
I’m not talking about the fair-weather fans. I’m talking the real, hard-core Mets fans, the fans who bleed blue and orange. The 7 Line Army crew!
I’d do anything for them. Signatures? Sure. Bats? Yeah, O.K., take this bat. Whatever I could do. I felt like I really needed to reciprocate the love that was being directed my way.
Mets fans just kind of get me. I’m talking the real, hard-core Mets fans, the fans who bleed blue and orange. The 7 Line Army crew!
During our 2015 run we just really fed off the energy of our fans. Mets fans had suffered right there with us during those bad seasons, and so there was just this amazing buzz in the city that year.
And when we made it all the way to the World Series — more than anything, I was happy for those fans. They deserved that level of excitement and happiness.
Now, of course, the other side to all this is that, even though I’m sad in some ways about leaving a team, and some truly wonderful people that I’ve grown close to, there’s a genuine level of excitement that eventually arrives when you think about the new opportunity at hand.
For me, once I got over to the Rays clubhouse, it really kind of felt like when I got called up to the big leagues for the first time. Everything is just so fresh right now.
What’s probably most exciting is the opportunity to potentially play in the playoffs in a few months. Once you’ve experienced that level of competition, you want so badly to get back. And for me personally, after what happened in 2015, I have a lot to prove to myself. I want nothing more than to get that shot.
So that’s what I’m looking to do in Tampa Bay.
Oh, and I almost forgot. About that Instagram account….
My dream would be to shut that thing down. Just shut it down.
But now it looks like that account is in the hands of someone with the Rays. So I might be out of luck.
I’m no social media superstar.
I just want to play baseball and maybe find a decent dumpling place in Tampa.
That’s basically it.