March 03, 2010
It's a fact of baseball life: Players switch teams through trades and free agency all the time. For the most part, we pay the relocations no mind outside of a baseball context.
I've always found it a little more interesting than most, though. Because at the core, baseball players are performing a job with a new set of employers and a fresh set of co-workers. Take away the huge bump in salary and you're left with a normal situation we've all faced.
BLS: You were one of the bigger names to switch teams this offseason when you signed a new contract with the Mets. You've already moved once in your career when Pittsburgh traded you to Boston near the 2008 deadline. What are the challenges in coming to a new team?
Jason Bay: Once you've done it a couple of times, it's actually a lot easier. The first time is probably always a little harder, especially in the middle of the season. Baseball players are very routine oriented and you have to slowly integrate into your new place. You have to see how things play out and how things are run.
But the longer you play the game, the easier it gets. I came here (to the Mets) and I already know half a dozen guys from playing with them, playing against them or whatever it might be. When you're younger, it's a lot more overwhelming.
BLS: Do you prefer arriving in spring training and having time to get acclimated over being thrust into the middle of a hectic season?
Bay: I guess there are pros and cons to each. There's something to be said here for just easing into the season because then you go in the middle of the season from a small market to a big market, it's pretty eye-opening.
At the same time, there's nothing you can do and you get a crash course with your new team, whether you like it or not. It's a lot to take in, but having experienced (the Boston trade), I feel like it's set me up real well for this. In a perfect world, you'd like to come to spring training and ease in slowly instead of slapping the bright lights on over night. But nothing's ever perfect.
BLS: What about the dynamics of meeting and getting to know your new teammates?
Bay: Here it's a little easier. During the season, everyone is hanging out with their families and doing their own things. Here, some days you're done at 1 p.m. and you get to hang out with guys. You get to know people a lot more intimately, rather than just meeting baseball players at the baseball field like in the middle of the season. Spring training is where you develop those relationships.
BLS: Who have you been hanging out with down here?
Bay: David [Wright], a little bit. Francoeur, of course. He gets along with everybody. Alex Cora(notes) I know from Boston and is a great guy. Shawn Bowman is also Canadian and we have an instant bond. I played on the Canadian WBC team with him and given all the hockey that's transpired lately, we've been close.
BLS: Did you get to watch that gold medal game together?
Bay: We had 30, maybe 35 guys at Duffy's and Bowman and I were the only two Canadians. It got loud at times and it got really quiet at times, but it was amazing to see it turn out how it did.
BLS: One final question about all this moving: Is there any thing you do from a physical standpoint when you go from 81 home games in Fenway to 81 at Citi Field?
Bay: Nothing. A lot of people ask about the ballpark and about hitting and about playing defense. I prepare the same way all the time. I haven't jumped on the treadmill for x minutes longer because I'm worried about running in the outfield. You just do what you always do and then you get there and you adapt. As of right now, it's business as usual, no matter where I'm at.
BLS editor Kevin Kaduk is currently on a weeklong tour of spring training camps in Florida. To ride shotgun, follow him at @bigleaguestew.