NEW YORK -- The uniform was waiting in Jose Reyes' locker when he arrived at Citi Field on Tuesday: No. 7, same as always. Reyes planned to offer Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud a gift for giving it up; d'Arnaud, a longtime Peyton Manning fan, chose No. 18 as his immediate consolation prize.
As Reyes' first day back at Citi Field progressed, that interaction became just one of many. Reyes spoke to David Wright, who last week applauded the Mets' decision to re-sign his longtime teammate. Reyes spoke to manager Terry Collins, who penned him in as his leadoff hitter. He shared laughs with teammates who were not here the last time he was a Met, ingraining himself quickly in clubhouse culture. Then, speaking in his second language, Reyes apologized again for violating Major League Baseball's domestic-abuse policy, which resulted in a 51-game suspension and ultimately led to his rebirth with the Mets.
"I'm sorry for what happened," Reyes said before the Mets' 5-2 loss to the Marlins. "Every human being makes a mistake. People deserve a second chance in life. I want to say right now that I'm sorry. I apologize to a lot of people -- to everybody who follows me, to my wife, my dad and mom back in the Dominican, to all my family, to all the fans who follow me, even the people who don't follow me. I know there are going to be some people who are going to hate me. I understand that. I put myself in that situation, like I said before. But people who know me from the bottom of my heart, they know that I'm not that kind of person."
Reyes' second chance officially began Tuesday, a day after Mets general manager Sandy Alderson walked into the Citi Field manager's office to tell Terry Collins that Reyes was en route. The veteran's brief tuneup at two Minor League stops complete, Reyes went 0-for-4 in his first game back at Citi Field, receiving his only defensive chance on a stolen-base attempt in the eighth.
Regardless, Reyes immediately became the center of attention in Flushing, where he played from 2003-11. When Reyes jogged out to the field to stretch about 15 minutes prior to Tuesday's game, fans applauded him. When he came to the plate for his first at-bat, Reyes received a prolonged standing ovation, pausing in the batter's box to doff his helmet to the crowd.
"It felt like it was my first game in the big leagues," Reyes said. "It was good to see the reaction of the fans. ... They showed me a lot of love."
Now 33 years old, Reyes cautioned not to expect the same type of production that defined his last decade, when he stole 202 bases over one three-year span. But Reyes does feel he can be a more productive player than the one he was in Toronto and Colorado, when he posted a .709 OPS over the past two seasons. And the Mets feel he fits well within their defensive scheme, capable of playing second and third base, shortstop and center field. Reyes' arrival will not confine regular third baseman Wilmer Flores to the bench, but instead give the Mets opportunities to move both players around the diamond.
The results of this experiment will unfold in time. Tuesday was simply the start for Reyes, who, despite knowing few members of the Mets' current roster, became the subject of "ribbing and jabs ... just as soon as he stepped into the door," according to Collins.
"He'll be very comfortable," Collins said. "He's a good addition. The smile and the energy, he'll be an addition in there."
"I can't even explain it," Reyes said. "As soon as I got in the parking lot, it was a different feeling in my body like, 'Wow, I'm here again.' I'm very happy to be here one more time."