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Q&A: Bruce talks return to NY, bond with Dusty

April 17, 2018

In a recent sit-down with at Citi Field, Mets outfielder Jay Bruce answered 20 questions on subjects ranging from new Mets manager Mickey Callaway to the club's fast start. How good is it to be back in New York?Jay Bruce: It's great to be back. No. 1, I

In a recent sit-down with at Citi Field, Mets outfielder Jay Bruce answered 20 questions on subjects ranging from new Mets manager Mickey Callaway to the club's fast start. How good is it to be back in New York?
Jay Bruce: It's great to be back. No. 1, I love the city. I had a great time on the team when I was here. The only negative about the whole thing [last year] was not winning. And I think we have the ability to win this year, so I'm excited about that. How surprised are you by the team's fast start?
Bruce: I'm not surprised. You never expect to win nine in a row. But I feel we have a very good, talented, deep team. So winning doesn't surprise me by any means. What's the difference between the Mets now and your first tenure in New York?
Bruce: I think we added some pieces in Adrian Gonzalez, Todd Frazier. I think we are healthy. When you first came to New York, you acknowledged it took time to adjust.
Bruce: I never admitted anything. [The media] made a big deal about me adjusting to the city, but that was all just other people creating a narrative that I completely disagreed with the whole time. I was bad at baseball for a month. It was a situation where I just had to continue to play. That's how the game goes. What adjustments did you make to play well on the field?
Bruce: I kept working. Last year definitely was along the lines of what I've been doing over my career. People go through rough patches. It was one of those situations where I had to keep playing and keep working and preparing -- just making myself available to have success, which is continue to work and be ready. Who do you credit for your success last year?
Bruce: Not to sound selfish, but I credit myself for it mostly. But when I got over here, I think Kevin Long and Pat Roessler were a big part of me figuring out what I needed to do to become a better player overall, even when I came here from Cincinnati. I think you are a better player now. I say that because you are hitting to the opposite field. I think you are striking out less often.
Bruce: That had a lot to do with trying to evolve as a player. When I got here -- when Kevin Long was here and [Roessler], our hitting coach now -- they helped me with some little things that I believe have carried over and allowed me to have more success. What are the little things you are talking about?
Bruce: Just different drills and thought processes -- drills that let me use the whole field, a little cleaner, more efficient swing. Using my legs better, stuff like that. What made you decide to go back to the Mets?
Bruce: Getting to know Mickey Callaway in Cleveland helped a lot. I knew the team that we had. We had a good team here. Because of some injuries last year, we were not able to do what we needed to do. It was a situation where I knew we had the pieces. I wanted to finish what we started. What do you like about Mickey Callaway as a manager?
Bruce: He has been an easy guy to play for so far. He is a guy who is prepared. He doesn't want to micromanage. He wants you to be yourself, the best player you can be. He wants to put you in a position to be successful. It's been a lot of fun so far. Callaway has this team off to a great start. What has he done to make this team believe they can win?
Bruce: He just lets us be ourselves. I think that is a huge deal. He said, "Listen you guys, we have a really solid team here. We have a great team full of very talented individuals. I'm going to do what I can to put you in the position to have success." I think he has done a great job of that. Do the Mets think they can win the NL East title?
Bruce: We thought since we stepped into the clubhouse in Spring Training that we had the ability to win the division. When I think of Jay Bruce, I think of Beaumont, Texas. You raised over $400,000 after Hurricane Harvey hit that town. Could you tell me what that town means to you?

Bruce: Beaumont means everything to me. It's a huge part of what has made me who I am as a human being and as a baseball player. Right now, I have six of my friends from Beaumont, my best friends from high school. I met my wife there. My family still lives there. I started raising my family there. It's a place with a great sense of community. It has been so supportive of me, on and off the field. I just hope I can give back much more than I already have. You were a free agent this past offseason. Were there any thoughts in your mind about playing in Texas?
Bruce: Absolutely. There was a lot of interest in playing in Houston. There was some talks with the Astros. There was a bit of traction, but it just never materialized. What would it have meant to play in Texas?
Bruce: It would have meant a lot. But I understand it's a business. The business side of the game kind of dictates where you go. It would have been nice, but New York is great. I'm comfortable here. My family loves it. It's a cool switch up from my hometown. It's the greatest city in the world. I'm going to mention one thing. Tell me what comes to mind. Let's start with Cleveland.

Bruce: One of the best times I ever had playing baseball. Cincinnati.
Bruce: My first home as a Major League Baseball player. It's where I grew up. It will always hold a special place in my heart. I still keep in touch with some of the guys I played with. Probably my best memories as a player have come from there. Dusty Baker.
Bruce: My mentor. He is someone who took a keen interest in me. He really raised me as a player. He cares about me as a human being. I still talk to him often. May I ask you why?
Bruce: He is such a great man, on and off the field. He is someone I really respect. He is such a jack-of-all-trades. He is so multifaceted as a human being. It's awesome. Is he a Hall of Famer?
Bruce: I believe so, yes.

Bill Ladson has been a reporter for since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.