Mets slugger Cespedes draw all eyes and ears at spring camp
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) From the minute Yoenis Cespedes pulled into the players' parking lot at Tradition Field in his custom Ford F-250 on Sunday morning, he was the center of attention.
Be it 20 minutes of batting practice with hitting coach Kevin Long or a quick group interview, all eyes and ears followed the New York Mets slugger.
''He deserves it,'' manager Terry Collins said. ''Those chants he heard late in the year? Had he been with our ballclub all year long, he certainly would have been talked about as an MVP.''
''The job he did for us the last couple of months certainly got us over the top. I think it's cool for him. He's a great player. People follow great players around. I think it's cool. It's part of what you get when you get to the World Series,'' he said.
Cespedes, who will play center field for the Mets in 2016, keyed the Mets' pennant chase last season when he hit .287 with 17 home runs and 44 RBIs in 57 games after being acquired from Detroit at the July 31 trade deadline.
Despite having more lucrative deals from other clubs this offseason, Cespedes signed a three-year, $75 million contract with the Mets. Cespedes can opt of his Mets deal after this season.
''It was a mix of everything,'' Cespedes said through a translator. ''The fans, front office, coaches, teammates - everything was positive. I don't think any other team was going to offer me that same positive atmosphere.''
''Just in a few short months I got along and they embraced me right away,'' he said.
Mets position players are not due to report until Wednesday, two days before the first full-squad workout. Cespedes said it was important to arrive early.
''It's meeting some of the new guys, creating that bond, getting in there early - that's one of the things that was important to me,'' Cespedes said. ''That's why I'm here early.''
''After the trades, everybody came together and the chemistry was just natural and everybody worked together. That's why we had the positive season we had at the end of the year next year.''
Cespedes is a career .271 hitter who averaged 30 home runs and 103 RBIs during his first four seasons, numbers considerably lower than what he did during his time in New York last August and September.
Still, Collins isn't sure that Cespedes can't repeat what he did last season.
''In my years in Pittsburgh they kept saying the same thing about Barry Bonds. He can't do that again next year.' No, he just did better,'' Collins said. ''We'll just have to wait and see how (Cespedes) does.''