There are a lot of things I’m going to miss about playing in New York City, but one of the biggest is definitely Club Grandy.
To give you the full story of New York’s hottest club, I need to start all the way at the beginning and go back to 2014, when I came over to the Mets from the Yankees.
Two things in particular stand out for me from that spring. First, I remember how thoughtful and generous David Wright was with his time, in terms of making my transition as smooth as possible. He spent hours with me, just kind of giving me the lay of the land and helping me blend in with the guys.
The other thing I remember, though, is Lucas Duda hitting bombs.
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Duda was in my group for my first batting practice down in Port St. Lucie that year. I didn’t know much about him back then, beyond the fact that he was just really big.
Anyway, everyone’s just kind of loose and relaxed around the cage, cracking jokes, getting some cuts in … but basically having fun the first time out. Then Duda steps into the box and it’s just long homer after long homer. I’m immediately like, Who is thiiiiis guy?
But the whole time he’s not saying anything — no jokes, no smiles, nothing. It was just this monster of a player smashing the ball over the fence and not saying a word.
I was kind of fascinated by the guy.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, when we got all set up at Citi Field that first year, Duda’s locker ends up being right next to mine. So he’s sort of forced to talk to me.
Pretty early on, we discovered that we had some musical interests in common. And that we both love food.
That’s a lot to work with.
So we just hit it off, and before long, we decided to become co-founders of a little something called … you guessed it … Club Grandy.
Duda and I were in the corner of the locker room at Citi, along with Juan Lagares and Travis d’Arnaud. So I’d always DJ in that corner, and I’d check in with Duda before I got going.
Like, Duda, what do you want to hear today?
Now, know this: Duda’s a big Drake guy. Very big. Like, to an extreme. So I’d always get on his case because every song he wanted to hear would be Drake. But what surprised me at first was that Duda can go back. People don’t realize. He loves The Brothers Johnson, James Brown — like funk and Motown stuff. So if it wasn’t Drake, it’d be older jams … or he’d throw in a request for some Cypress Hill out of the blue. I mean, Duda will surprise you sometimes.
Anyway, after a while we had the whole setup down. I’d DJ and Duda would serve as my bodyguard during those sets. He wouldn’t let anyone get to me, and if any of the guys wanted to make a song request, they’d have to go to Duda first and get his approval before it even got to me.
It was awesome.
Everyone talks about the Instagram account, but Club Grandy was really where it was at.
Club Grandy was totally underrated.
Mr. Met is another thing — person? character? — that I’m really going to miss.
And I’m not just saying that. I’m a big mascot guy.
When I was with the Tigers we had one, but the Yankees don’t have a mascot. So coming over to Citi Field and being able to have fun with Mr. Met was something I really enjoyed right off the bat. (Shout out to Mr. Met. I’ll never forget you!)
But beyond mascots and music, there’s just a ton of other experiences from my time in New York that I’ll always hold dear.
My first ever visit to the city was during the summer of 2002. I was playing in the New York-Penn League for the Oneonta Tigers at the time, so we had some road trips to Brooklyn and Staten Island.
This was less than a year after 9/11, and a teammate and I decided to take the ferry over to Manhattan to visit Ground Zero. What I remember most about it was just how quiet it was there. It was almost completely silent. You couldn’t help but notice, and be touched by, this deeply emotional and spiritual presence that seemed to be in the air there. I remember thinking about all the people whose lives were lost and torn apart on that day, but also about the heroes who risked their lives to help. It really had a profound impact on me.
Having that be my first experience in Manhattan was a good way to begin to understand what makes New York, and its people, special.
After our time at Ground Zero, we just kind of winged it — which, in my view, is another good way to discover what New York is all about. We hopped on the subway and traveled all around the city checking things out — the parks, the shops, the restaurants … the people. We didn’t really know where we were going, and the subway system was totally confusing to me at the time, but it was just so much fun.
After I made it to the majors with the Tigers, whenever we’d come into New York for games I’d explore the city a bit more. So I began to get a real sense of the place, and to love all that New York has to offer.
It wasn’t just the big things, either. It was the little things, too.
I love to eat. And I love eating at all different times, so just being in a place that was full of 24-hour diners and markets that were open all night? That was like paradise for me.
I was a Tiger through and through when I played in Detroit, but it was tough not to think about how cool it would be to live in a city where places never shut down and you can get French fries at three in the morning if you want them.
When I came to the Yankees in 2010, my first game was at Fenway.
Talk about jumping right into the fire.
During spring training that year I hadn’t hit a single home run, and people were kind of wondering what my deal was.
Wasn’t this guy supposed to have some pop? Didn’t we trade for a power hitter? What is going on here?
So that was kind of the vibe for me going into Boston to start the season.
But not only was the no-home-runs thing in my head, I was also just really nervous about playing at Fenway for the first time as a Yankee.
I had heard all about the Red Sox fans, and the anti-Yankees chants, and the fights that would sometimes happen. Then, before we got up there, Derek Jeter told me this story about how he ordered a pizza to his hotel room in Boston one time a few years back, and the pizza place spelled out “Go, Pedro” with the pepperoni.
“You’ve never seen anything like this rivalry,” he said. “You’ll understand soon enough.”
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With the Yankees, I got to play alongside some of the best people I’ve ever met.
So I’m thinking I can’t walk the streets in Boston, and I just hole up in the hotel until it’s game time.
Then I’m up to bat for the first time as a Yankee, and, after an entire spring of no home runs, I catch one on the barrel and get it out of the ballpark.
With that, all the nerves and fear went away, and everything about playing in New York became so much fun.
Off the field, the city embraced my Grand Kids Foundation right from the start. So we were able to get kids from different parts of New York out to the ballpark for the very first time, and do baseball camps and clinics in Harlem and other neighborhoods. And, on the field, we made the playoffs three of the four years I was on the team.
I got to play alongside some of the best people I’ve ever met — Derek, CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and so many others. And I got to see firsthand the passion and pride that Yankees fans bring to every single game.
When I became a Met, I got to know another amazing fan base.
The thing that has always struck me about Mets fans is that they just have so much heart. I always loved how they would give massive ovations to guys like Tim Teufel and Mookie Wilson from that ’86 team. Or how they got behind Bartolo Colon in such a cool way. There’s a real, genuine love for that team and those players they’ve rooted so hard for over the years. And they are loyal.
Something I love about college sports, and about international sports, is seeing fan bases doing things collectively together, and the Mets have something like that going with the 7 Line Army. The fact that the 7 Line is able to take over entire stadium sections, both at Citi Field and on the road, is something that stood out to me right away. And those are the types of things that get you extra wins over the course of the season.
But it’s really the mix of all Mets fans that makes that fan base so special. And it’s been my absolute privilege to meet and get to know so many of those fans over the past few years.
One of the things that always touched me was that Mets fans would give me gifts. I’d get fans making me bracelets out of rubber bands in Mets colors. Or little kids would make drawings of me and give them to me before games. I even received a crayon with my name on it. I used to love coloring as a kid, but even though I haven’t done it in a while, getting a crayon with my name on it was really cool. Also, one little guy, I’ll never forget it, he gave me his autograph on a baseball card.
I loved that, and I kept that card. Like how New York is that? Here, you take my autograph Mr. Baseball Player.
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It has been my absolute privilege to meet and get to know so many Mets fans over the past few years.
My second season in Queens, 2015, was especially awesome, and so much of it had to do with the energy and passion that Mets fans brought to Citi Field from Day One.
I remember we won 15 of our first 20 games that year, and for a while there it just seemed like we couldn’t lose. So, from pretty early on, there was a buzz, and as the summer went on the stadium just got louder and louder each night. It was like we were all on a mission together.
By the time we got into August, I think we were all kind of feeling it.
Even though the season didn’t end up the way we hoped, I feel like that team and our fans had the ride of our lives. And by that time it had become clear to me that Mets fans aren’t just thoughtful. They’re also loud.
In fact, one of the very first things guys said to me when I came over to the Dodgers after the trade had to do with Mets fans.
This is what I heard, from player after player:
It was really loud at Citi Field when we played you guys in that playoff series two years ago. Like, crazy loud.
I’d just kind of smile and be like, That’s New York, man. They don’t mess around in New York.
But guys were sort of looking at me like maybe I had some secret, or like I was going to tell them that the stadium turned up the speakers and blasted crowd noise or something.
There’s no secret to it, though.
New York City just has great fans. Period.
So, yeah, it wasn’t easy leaving. That’s for sure.
I have been extremely fortunate to play baseball in New York for the past eight years. It has been my honor, and a privilege, to go out on the field every day and give it my all for the wonderful people of a city that will always be special to me. I’ve had the time of my life.
But at the same time I’m super excited about this opportunity in L.A. — and making a run at winning it all.
Not surprisingly, one of the first things that happened to me after I was traded to the Dodgers involved a New York City connection.
Former Met Justin Turner got in touch with me right after the trade went down. He got my information from David Wright and was tremendously kind in reaching out just to say hello and welcome me to the team.
Keith Srakocic/AP Images
Even just a few games in, it has already been so much fun, and it’s not hard to see why this team has won so many games.
I’m not taking anything for granted, though. I promise you that. I’ve been around this game long enough to know that nothing is guaranteed.
At the same time, I’m only human. So it’s tough not to dream of what might be. After making it to the World Series twice, and coming up short both times, I can’t help but think maybe this might be my time.
And if it is — if I’m fortunate enough to be part of a team that wins it all — I can say for certain that all the people who supported me and showed me love in New York City over the years will be a big reason why I finally reached my ultimate goal.
My heartfelt thanks goes out to each and every one you.