Bay ready to play

The headaches are gone but now his shoulders are carrying the weight of expectations.

After an abrupt end to tough first season in New York, Bay is healthy and eager for spring training

The headaches are gone but now his shoulders are carrying the weight of expectations.

Such is the life for Jason Bay and he’s fine with it.

The Trail native is gearing up for his annual migration to Florida for the start of baseball’s spring training. And this year even more eyes will be focused on Bay.

Last spring he was heralded as the New York Mets big free agent signing. However, Bay will be the first to admit the season didn’t go as planned where he recorded, by far, the lowest numbers in his stellar eight-year Major League career.

Derailing any chance of rebounding in the latter half of the campaign was a collision with the outfield fence in Los Angeles in July. Bay suffered a concussion and his first year in New York came to an abrupt end.

It has been a long road back but Bay, who is in Seattle until he reports to the Mets training facility in Port St. Lucie on Feb. 20, told the Trail Times, in an email interview, he’s eager to get started.

“Once I was cleared in September, I decided to start working out and getting physically ready for this season,” said Bay. “I am anxious to get things started.”

All signs point to Bay being clear of any post-concussion symptoms.

“Now I am working out as I normally do this time of year. I have increased my workouts to include hitting and throwing and feel great. I will be good to go when spring training starts.”

Unlike other injuries like broken bones and pulled muscles, concussions remain an unknown quantity in the world of sports. And Bay said he’s learned more about concussions than he ever wanted to.

“It was a scary thing that I hope never to repeat. It was frustrating to have simple things like watching TV bother me. When it’s something you’ve never dealt with before, the unknowns are frustrating too.”

Another thing Bay never really dealt with before was hearing boos from the fans and criticism in the press for his sub-par performance.

“I’ve struggled before and it’s always humbling. It just makes you realize that baseball is a hard game and no matter how well you’ve done in the past, you need to keep moving forward.

“I understand that there are many opinions out there about me and everyone else and there’s no chance all those opinion are favourable. But I’m comfortable in the person and the player that I am.”

Part of what is keeping him so well grounded is his home life. Daughters Addison and Evelyn had the rare opportunity of having Dad at home fulltime during the last months of summer.

“My wife explained to them that I had a, ‘head boo boo,’ and it was really cute to hear them explain to other people why I was home,” he recalled.

“They were really good about not trying to wrestle or do our normal rough play. Then after awhile they just got used to me being around.”

Even their community of Larchmont, just outside of New York, has provided a quiet respite from the media spotlight once the initial curiosity of a Major League player next door subsided.

“I think we just became another family on the block after a while,” said Bay.

“Most people are respectful of our family time.

“It’s a great spot for our kids. They have a bunch of friends on the block and they don’t really care what my job is. I’m just Addison and Evelyn’s daddy.”

However, there are millions of Mets fans eager to see Bay and their team back on track once the regular season opens April 1 in Florida. The Mets made several front office changes in the off-season including hiring new field manager Terry Collins.

Meanwhile, Bay is just one of several Mets looking to rebound this season. Other stars like Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran also struggled with injuries in 2010. The team will be without ace pitcher Johan Santana for the first half of the 2011 season and the future of troubled number-one reliever Francisco Rodriguez remains clouded.

Bay realizes there will be a lot of focus on how the Mets come out of the gate, individually and collectively, but he’s been through enough spring trainings to know the first month of the regular schedule doesn’t necessarily dictate an entire season.

“Getting off to a good start is always very helpful but not the end of the world.

There are going to be good streaks and bad ones, it’s just that the early ones are always more magnified.

“I always have to remember this game is a marathon not a sprint.”