|Mets first baseman Pete Alonso. Photo by Jason Schott.
The Mets held the first-ever Fan Fest at Citi Field on Saturday morning, with the hold team on hand greeting their dedicated fans.
The focus on this day - just a couple weeks before spring training commences - was on the Mets' new manager, Luis Rojas, who was introduced on Friday.
Rojas' hiring on Thursday capped a tumultuous ten days for the Mets, who had to deal with the fallout of then-manager Carlos Beltran being implicated as a ringleader of the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scheme in a Major League Baseball report on January 13.
Beltran was dismissed a few days after that report was released, and then Rojas, who was a candidate for the job in November and was the team's Quality Control Coach last season, was hired a week later.
On what this has been like to endure, pitcher Jacob deGrom said, "That's kind of a little bit different. I didn't have too many discussions about it with anybody, that's kind of out of our control - what happened is out of all of our control, and I think everybody stayed focused and knows what they need to get done to be ready to play baseball this year."
DeGrom said Beltran's firing was a "front office decision" and that he is "looking forward" to having Rojas as his manager.
"I had him in the minor leagues, great guy, great manager," the two-time reigning Cy Young Award winner said of Rojas. "Even last year, being up here (as Quality Control Coach in uniform in the dugout), fun to be around...Just knows the game of baseball really well."
Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, who won the Rookie of the Year last year, said of the past two weeks, "It's unfortunate all the events that have happened, but I'm so happy for Luis because I had him in 2017 and 2018 as a manager of the (Double-A Binghamton) Rumble Ponies, and just kind of seeing him manage a game, I mean, dude never loses his cool, never hits the panic button. He's always so prepared, and he doesn't just use his knowledge of the game, he uses, I think, his instincts very, very well. He's paid his dues managing in the minor leagues, he's paid his dues managing in the Dominican League. He's been in the playoffs in the minor leagues a ton, and he's won championships in the Dominican, and I think people don't realize how difficult that is.
"In the minor leagues, you have a shuffling of players going up, down, guys signing, guys getting released, it's a revolving door. Same thing in the Dominican Winter League, it's a revolving door of people coming in and out during the offseason, and in order to have success with a staff that's constantly coming in and out, new faces, it's tough to win, especially with new guys, the team dynamic changes a bit.
"Now, up here, we're going to have a solid corps of guys, we know where people are going to be, we know our identity, and I just think that's going to translate extremely well because, if he can win with the big shuffle going on, he can for sure win with guys that are going to be steady in their spots. He's a great guy, great manager, and I'm so pumped for him."
DeGrom, who played for Rojas as a member of the A-level Savannah Sand Gnats in 2012, said of what the new skipper brings to the table, "Knows the game very well, communicates really well with everyody, and you can ask everyone in there (the Mets locker room) that's been around him, just a great baseball guy and a really good person."
Shortstop Amed Rosario said that Rojas is "a right fit as manager" and that, "in tough times you need someone that will support you, and that's what he'll do."
Pitcher Steven Matz said he's spoken to Rojas, and that, "I know him really well. I played for him in 2013 (for Savannah), we actually won a South Atlantic League Championship that year, so we had a great season. I have great memories of him as my manager...
"He's very approachable, he will give you his honest opinion, which is what we need, and so, communication is huge, and I think he's going to do a great job with that, and he has shown that in the past, too.
"I don't really know how to describe his style of managing. He was really even-keeled, you know, he didn't get too high, didn't get too low, just kind of stayed the course, and he pulled for us and he was really easy to communicate with. I really enjoyed playing for him."