Reyes NY Times Article
- From: mrbrklyn <spam-killer@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 7 Dec 2007 18:59:09 -0800 (PST)
December 6, 2007
Reyes Is Back Home, and Not Going Anywhere
By BEN SHPIGEL
PALMAR ARRIBA, Dominican Republic, Dec. 4 -- Drive along the dusty,
pothole-filled road, careful not to strike the roosters or stray dogs,
until it dead-ends beside a stone staircase. Run up the steps, climb
over the aqua-colored fence -- or, for the less adventurous, slip
through an open gate -- and behold a field littered with avocado-size
rocks and teeming with about 60 boys of all ages, many holding balls
The youngsters have gathered on this sizzling Tuesday morning to play
baseball, naturally, but really they are here because of the young man
standing over there, the one dressed in sunglasses-to-sneakers black
and doubled over in laughter.
There is nowhere else José Reyes, the Mets' shortstop, would rather be
than on this crude ball field nestled in the Cordillera Septentrional
foothills, his passions for family and friends, baseball and his
country, intersecting. This is where he learned to play. This is where
he grew up dreaming of the major leagues. And this is where, as one of
baseball's most electrifying players, he still goes every weekday
morning, arriving by 9 a.m. after a brief stop at his parents' house,
to begin his daily workouts.
Catching his breath, Reyes surveyed all that was in front of him,
pointing out cousins and childhood friends and the man who hits him
ground balls. "I told him that if I win a Gold Glove next year, I'm
buying him a car," Reyes said.
Maybe 40 feet beyond the right-center-field fence, a few women sat in
front of a house painted sea green. Nodding in that direction, Reyes
said: "Last year, I hit one guy on the head. Not good. Not good,
Reyes returned to this rural village about 20 minutes north of
Santiago, the country's second-largest city, in mid-November after
spending the previous six weeks resting at his in-season home in
Manhasset, N.Y. He was more than a little tired, physically and
mentally, after a turbulent year that, on one hand, included a career-
high 78 stolen bases, but that will most likely be defined by his
being yanked from a game for not running out a ground ball and a
miserable September that culminated in his being booed as the Mets
completed their collapse.
Despite the turbulence, despite the recent suggestions from fans and
columnists that the Mets consider dealing Reyes for Minnesota's Johan
Santana, the 24-year-old shortstop with the engaging smile and the
overexuberant celebrations on the field is not going anywhere, except
to spring training with the Mets.
Just last week, General Manager Omar Minaya reiterated that he would
not trade Reyes. Minaya had personally assured Reyes of that. In an
indication of the organization's long-term commitment to him, Minaya
and Manager Willie Randolph both intend to visit Reyes here before
"I'll show them around real good," Reyes said.
That tour could begin at Reyes's new house in Santiago, where he lives
with his girlfriend, Katherine, and their daughters, Katerine and
Ashley. It is a place, he says, where he goes only to sleep. The rest
of the time he spends at the home of his parents, José Manuel and
Rosa, where he grew up and where visitors see a different side of
In this setting, he still flashes the perpetually upbeat and
caffeinated aspects of his personality, but around his family,
particularly his parents, Reyes is also unflinchingly polite and
deferential. Even as he marched up an outdoor staircase to show off
his trophies, bobblehead dolls and framed jerseys, Reyes talked
proudly of how happy he could make his parents. He praised his
mother's cooking, particularly her chicken and rice, and, though
hungry, would not eat lunch until a few visitors had departed.
"We've taught him to be professional and to always present your best
side to everyone," his father said through an interpreter.
On this particular day, Reyes's weight room, in the rear of his
parents' house, doubled as a gathering spot. Waves of friends and
family came through, shaking hands with everyone. Arismendy Toribio, a
childhood friend, has known Reyes since they were 6, and he said at
that age, Reyes was not even the fastest boy in town.
"No chance," Reyes, his brows furrowed, said in Spanish. "Who were
"They were older," Toribio said, laughing. "They're not faster than
you now," he added as Reyes laughed, too.
"There's a difference when Jose's here," José Manuel said. "When José
comes, people get animated, they get cheered up because of his
charisma. There are always a lot of people around when he's home."
José Manuel turned to his right where, sitting on deck chairs, no
fewer than 10 boys watched Reyes put himself through a punishing
series of leg exercises. Reyes adheres to the off-season workout
regimen supplied by the Mets' training staff, but to prevent the
hamstring injuries that once hampered him, he has incorporated a few
In one, he set up a small wooden bench and boosted himself up with one
leg, 10 times in all, before switching to the opposite leg. Taking a
quick water break, Reyes then stretched out on the floor so he could
catch an eight-pound medicine ball thrown by Toribio, his trainer,
while completing a sit-up.
"Diablo," said Reyes, calling Toribio the Spanish word for devil.
Hard work is Reyes's tonic. It helps him forget about his September
vanishing act and the team's disappointing finish. In the final week
of last season, when the Mets lost six of seven at home against
Washington, St. Louis and Florida, Reyes batted .156 (5 for 32). Here,
at home, he acknowledged that he could have benefited from a few more
days off in a season in which he played almost every day for the third
straight year. His bat speed slowed, he said, and his legs felt the
effects of stealing 78 bases -- but none after Sept. 15.
"I'm going to take a couple days off because of how the season ended,"
Reyes said, looking ahead to 2008. "If I feel a little tired, I'm
going to talk to Willie about it. I learned my lesson."
Later, in what seemed to be a reference to instances in which he did
not run hard out of the batter's box, he added: "I know I have to put
my mind more into it. Sometimes I felt tired and I still played, but I
didn't perform. I feel strong in my mind. I think this is going to be
a good year for me."
Reyes's parents live with him during the season, and they, too, viewed
their son's 2007 struggles as a slump, nothing more.
"At the end of the season, I know he was tired, and I know he was
upset about his play, but he's strong and knows that these things
sometimes happen in baseball," José Manuel said.
"Yes, it is true," Rosa said.
Meanwhile, Reyes is trying to make life easier for everyone close to
him. He has purchased land for his close friends and family around
this village and in neighboring Villa González. His father owns four
properties within a 15-minute drive, growing sweet potatoes, plantains
and yucca to be sold at Colmado Reyes, the family bodega beside their
home. Standing on the roof of the original house -- the second floor
was added a few years ago -- Reyes gazed past the soaring palm trees,
past the tin roofs and colored streamers marking the holiday season,
and toward the ball field of his youth.
That field served its purpose, but Reyes this season will start
donating money for a new diamond nearby. This one will have a smooth
infield and a wall that will not crumble when heavy rains fall, so
that his cousins and everyone else who dreams of becoming the second
major leaguer to hail from here may improve his odds.
As it so happened, the Mets were holding a tryout here Tuesday
morning. With Reyes watching, a scout clocked players running to first
base, and a lanky boy wearing blue pinstriped pants and a white Reyes
No. 7 jersey grabbed his attention. It was his 15-year-old cousin,
Reyes explained, and a pretty good player.
"I know he's skinny," Reyes added. "But I used to look like that
Paul Bertoni contributed reporting.
- Prev by Date: Mets Prospects Article in the NY Times
- Next by Date: Re: Benitez begging to return to Mets
- Previous by thread: Mets Prospects Article in the NY Times
- Next by thread: Weird Stuff