Jason Bay signed a four-year, $66 million deal with the New York Mets during the offseason. He left Boston for the Big Apple, and moved his family from their home in Seattle to Westchester County. On Monday, Bay is set to open his eighth major league season, but his first playing left field for the Mets. The day before his debut, the Canadian-born outfielder chatted with ESPNNewYork.com about six things he's already learned about life in Flushing.
1. The clubhouse isn't as foreign as he thought. The first day Bay walked into the Mets' clubhouse in spring training, he immediately was greeted by old friends. "It was actually kind of calming when I got there," Bay says while sitting in front of his Citi Field locker. "The first person I see is Alex Cora, who I played with up in Boston. And I had played against David Wright and Jeff Francoeur, so I knew them a little bit. I played with Mike Jacobs in the minor leagues, Nelson Figueroa, Josh Fogg, I saw all these guys I didn't really realize I knew so well. It kind of made me feel that I had been there a lot longer than I had. And because of that, I instantly had a sense of ease, like, 'Man, I know a lot more people than I thought.'"
2. The media isn't all that different in New York than Boston. When Bay was traded to the Red Sox for Manny Ramirez at the 2008 trading deadline, he went from small-town Pittsburgh to a Boston crush. So far, Bay hasn't noticed much difference between the spotlight in Boston and New York. But he was warned. "A lot of people just say, 'Use your words carefully,'" Bay says. "Because sometimes something comes up not in the context you meant it. In Boston, everyone is a Red Sox fan. In New York, the sports teams are a big deal, don't get me wrong, but at the end of the day, there's other stuff going on in the city of New York too that can get a front page [of a tabloid]."
3. The team chefs are the best. One of the first differences Bay noticed was the food. And he wasn't alone. "The clubhouse food is by far the best I've ever had in spring training," he says. "I wasn't the only one: It was mentioned by numerous major league veterans. The variety of the food that was put out and the quality of the food made it the best. You've got 60 guys and coaches [to feed] and they went above and beyond. It's the first thing everyone noticed. I've been in a lot of clubhouses, and this was by far the best food. They make the best oatmeal in the world. It's from scratch, with some cinnamon and nutmeg. It's phenomenal."
4. It's hard to remember all the names. Everyone here knows Bay's name, but it's been very hard for him to feel entirely comfortable because he hasn't learned all the others yet. "I hate when people say, 'Hey Jason, how you doing?' and I'm like, 'Hey, buddy, how's it going? There you are.' I pride myself on knowing people's names; you switch teams and you've got front office, clubhouse, all these people -- it drives me nuts not knowing people's names. Somebody said so-and-so has my keys -- well, who is that?"
5. He's got the lingo down, but the roads aren't easy to navigate. Right after Bay signed his deal, he and his wife Kristen spent a day house-shopping in Westchester, about 30 minutes north of the city. They looked at 10 houses and decided on one and two weeks later were homeowners. They wanted enough space for their two daughters; otherwise Bay would have lived in Manhattan. But navigating his way in and out of the city hasn't been as easy, even if he's already learned that it's the Hutchinson Parkway he needs to take back. "I missed it on the way home [Saturday] night -- I got lost," he says. "I finally swallowed my pride, pulled over, and put my address in the navigation. I drove around long enough saying, 'I can do this, I got this.' The roads are horrendous, I'll give you that. The roads are real bad. I need to get an EZ-Pass because the cash lane lineup for tolls is a pain."
6. He had to become a Met to get a personally autographed curling jersey. A native of British Columbia, Bay played hockey, of course, but he also curled. When Francoeur's father was on business in Edmonton a week after the Olympics ended, he went to Kevin Martin's curling complex. Martin is a superstar in Canada, and had just won the gold medal. The clerk at the counter, an Atlanta native, recognized Francoeur's last name, and the next day, Jeff's dad had a gift for his son's newest teammate. "I was the resident curling expert during spring training," Bay says. "I was getting bombarded with questions, just like in '06, it ends up being everyone's favorite thing to watch. So I ended up being the curling analyst. And then two days after it was over, Francoeur said, 'Take a look at this,' and I was like, 'How would you even go about getting that?' It was like a week after the Olympics. It's very true that no teammate had done anything like that for me before."