While the Cyclones maintained a 1-0 lead, Jose Reyes, 33, was pulled out of the game after the sixth inning and made available for the media, his first presser since signing with the Mets on Saturday.
In his first game with the Cyclones, he finished 0-for-3 from the plate with a strikeout. On the defensive side of the ball, he recorded two put outs and one assist.
No one with sense will outright excuse the four time All-Star for the domestic violence black eye on his societal record, but Reyes openly discussed the matter with a swarm of media members in his return to New York City.
“I’ve done all the steps that MLB told me to do and I’m going to continue to be a better man, a better person,” a somber Reyes said. “If I have to do it all year, I’m going to be able to do it all year. I’m just happy to continue my career.”
An apologetic Reyes continued at the 6 p.m. presser while shaking his head, reflecting on what he called a terrible mistake.
“I’m sorry for what happened, I’m a human being, people make mistakes,” he said regretfully. “I apologized to my wife, my family, and all the fans who follow me. It’s been a couple of tough months for me, I’m looking to put it behind me and continue my career.
“I never broke up with my family,” he continued. “They were together with me during what I’ve been through. We never broke up, she came today with the kids, enjoyed the game, and we’ve been together man. We’re just trying to be a happy family again.”
Before the game, the jubilation in Reyes was evident as fans gathered around the former batting champion who signed one autographe after another. Many fans donned the classic “7” jersey, once a staple in New York sports.
The overwhelming support, which he likely wouldn’t have received elsewhere, transformed a regular Sunday matinee into a fiesta, and Reyes, at the center of it all, says it was amazing to be back.
“I was a little bit nervous there. I didn’t know what to expect, but I feel like the people still love me,” he said, flashing a smile for the first time in the presser. “I know some people out there are going to be hard on me and I respect that. I understand, I put myself in that situation.
“When I get out there to stretch before the game, I see people calling my name, that was a good feeling,” he added. “People still like me, they know this is the first time that I get in this kind of trouble. All those years that I played here in New York I was just a happy kid that loves to play the game. We’re human beings, we make mistakes, and I feel like I needed a second chance.”
While serving his 52-game suspension earlier this year, the future of Reyes’ career and life seemed to be in question, but coincidentally, the Mets have holes to fill and injuries to heal, which opened a spot up for the Dominican-born speedster.
“The Mets are always going to have the first choice for me,” Reyes said. “This is the organization that gave me the opportunity to play professional baseball. I signed with the team when I was 16 years old. They know me as a man, they’ve seen me grow up through the years. My first choice was always coming home.”
With a severe injury to Mets long time captain and third baseman David Wright, who still leads the Mets with three, yes, three stolen bases, Reyes is being developed to fill a void left by his former teammate and friend. The longtime Mets shortstop says regardless of where he plays, he’ll be ready as long as he’s a Met.
“When you’re coming home, right, there’s no matter in what room you sleep, because you’re going to feel comfortable because you’re home,” he said. “So it doesn’t matter what position that I play here, I’m going to feel comfortable.”
As pointed out by Reyes, last July’s Troy Tulowitzki/Reyes deal, which sent the temporary Cyclone from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Mile High City, was a rough adjustment for Reyes, who was in the middle of a playoff chase while the Rockies were a National League bottom feeder.
Reyes confirmed what many already knew: he did not like playing in Colorado, where he hit .259, his lowest since 2004, and slugged three homers while batting in 19 runs in 47 games.
“I wasn’t happy there to be honest with you guys,” he said bluntly. “It’s hard to perform when you’re not happy.”
Reyes, seemingly with a chip on his shoulder, reaffirmed his belief that he could still play, using the numbers, which includes hitting at least .273 in all but his second season (2004) to back him up.
“It’s funny when I see people saying ‘he can’t play anymore.’ Okay, whoever hit .275 in the big leagues, they have to go out?” Reyes asked rhetorically. “They’re not allowed to play anymore? In Toronto before I got traded I was hitting .285.”
In 13 Major League Baseball seasons, Reyes is a career .290 hitter, which includes a .292 average over nine seasons as a Met (2003-2011). A former National League MVP candidate, Reyes has also stolen 479 career bases, including three consecutive seasons where he led as a Met.
While he acknowledges that it would be difficult to get back to his old self on the baseball diamond, he promises to do everything that he can to get better on and off the field, which served as the recurring theme of his comments.
“Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m going to be open to doing it,” he said. “I’m home, I’m happy. Thank you to Jeff [Wilpon] again for the opportunity to bring me here, and Sandy [Alderson] too. I appreciate that a lot.
“Again, I’m sorry to everybody about what happened,” he added. “Whoever knows me from the bottom of my heart, they know what kind of man that I am. I’m going to continue my counseling and be a better person.”
Follow Bryan Fonseca on Twitter @BryanFonsecaNY.