It's the same, but different every year at Mets camp. Same uniforms. Same fields. Same drills. Same sun, fans and heat. However, protocol and the general vibe in camp often changes from year to year.
For instance, under Willie Randolph, camp was very serious, disciplined and focused on business and professionalism. The Terry Collins years were more upbeat, peppy and chatty.
Last year, which was Mickey Callaway's first spring ever running his own camp, things were a bit sporadic, with his looking more like a player getting to know people than a manager leading a team.
The Brodie Show
Mickey has a similar strut this season, still quiet, more observational than in any one's face. He can be that way, though, because all eyes are not on him. Instead, it very much feels like the Brodie Van Wagenen Show...
Granted, Van Wagenen is meeting most people here for the first time, so it's impossible to miss his presence between every inch of fencing.
In the Hollywood, agent-flare you'd expect, he always stands upright, walks shoulders back, sun bouncing off his Ray Bans, hair styled, smile bright. He does the standard GM thing, hanging top step of the backstop, chatting up coaches and swapping notes with his staff. But, he also drifts back, greets fans and reporters, while interrupted to be introduced to special guests riding shotgun in Fred Wilpon's shaded golf cart.
The most notable difference is the music, which, from what I could infer from head shakes and half smiles, is a direct result of Van Wagenen and Callaway, who wanted to liven things up in camp. Unlike years past, when the air only provided the sound of cracking bats and mitts popping, the mid-field speaker system broadcast songs that I think may be everyone's walk-up music this season. It ranged from Aerosmith to Bruno Mars to country to Reggaeton. I liked it, it was nice change of pace...
Noah Syndergaard is in Jacob deGrom's pocket, which is probably where he belongs. I don't recall them being this close in years past. Instead, it was only deGrom and Steven Matz, with Syndergaard palling around with Robert Gsellman. So far, though, it's Jake and Noah, Noah and Jake.
Speaking of deGrom, the team's young pitchers are clearly now in awe of him. They laugh at everything he says and literally look nervous when standing by his side. This was not the case as recently as one year ago.
I mean, Jake has always been popular and talented, but he's in a different stratosphere now coming off a Cy Young Award and on the verge of a nine-figure contract. He's what every one of these pitchers aspire to be, including Syndergaard and Matz. Also, he looks relaxed. There's no longer anything awkward about deGrom. He's just, well, Jake, the best pitcher in baseball and you know it, I know it, and, I think, he knows it...
Robinson Cano will be the leader of this team, if he isn't already filling that role. In the way deGrom is front and center when the pitching staff is on field, Cano is the man when position players take the stage.
He's a dynamic force, too. He's laid back, free and easy in his movements. This is clearly not his first rodeo. And, while he can smile and light up the room and put his teammates at easy, he can also quickly shift in to focus mode, peer over his shoulder and indicate to everyone in his circle that it's time to get to work.
Amed Rosario is more on his own this spring than in previous camps, which is how it should be these days. Jose Reyes is gone, Rosario is entering his second full season and it's time for him to turn the professional corner of his career.
That said, whereas Reyes made for a familiar, inspirational life coach and someone that had known Amed since he was a teenager, Cano is just a boss with a reputation, a ring and 11 postseason series to show for it. He can tell Amed (and anyone else within ear shot) his business in a way that I don't think could fly when talking to Reyes or, frankly, anyone else to wear a Mets uniform in the past decade.
This, as much as anything else, is why I think Van Wagenen pushed to bring him in to camp.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!