Obviously, I dreamt about it when I was a kid. I think it went by the wayside a little bit by time I went to high school. I went to [Midland] High School in West Texas, and as you know, football is everything there. I guess I really started thinking about it in junior college [South Western Community], the first few times I had scouts come and talk to me. I can't say one particular time stands out. It's always been a dream of mine to play in the Major Leagues – it's just that along the way, the dream changed a little bit.
Was there one particular team you wanted to play for?
Obviously, growing up in Texas and mostly in the Houston area, the Astros were a team I watched quite a bit. I knew the players, watched the players, and Nolan Ryan was my idol. I wanted to wear those ugly bumblebee uniforms (Stanton laughs).
Did the Astros scout you at all?
Yes and no. Scouting systems aren't regional, and they've got guys everywhere. To tell you the truth, I never really spoke to an Astros scout. The first scout I talked to was the scout I wound up signing with, which was Red Murff with the Braves.
So there was a point in your life where you thought you'd be playing college football?
Oh, yes. My senior year, I actually got hurt twice during football season, and that changed things. I hurt a knee and had a hip pointer, which is where the muscles cramp up and you can't really move. If I'd got through my senior year without getting hurt, I know I probably would have been playing at the University of Arkansas.
Is that something you ever regret?
No, not really. I mean, things have worked out pretty well. Sometimes, things work out, and sometimes things don't. But at the time, football was the dream.
Having played for both teams in this city, what are some of the best things about working in New York?
I think the things that are the best things about playing in New York are also the worst things. The media coverage and the sheer quantity of fans are something that, whether things are going good or going bad, you've got to embrace. You've got to have the right mindset, and not have as many ups and downs as you could. You've got to block out the stuff that comes up when you're playing in New York, both on and off of the field.
Having played in other markets, what are the biggest differences that an outsider might find in New York?
It's really not that big of a difference as far as what's happening [in the clubhouse]. It's just the sheer quantity of things that's the difference. Not too many cities have 24 hour talk shows, and that's something you have to put up with.
I've always said that not everybody's made for New York. Some guys just react well, and there are definitely certain guys who are very good players [and] when they come through New York, they're just not the same player they were. If you could put your finger on it, you could fix all of the distractions that come with playing in New York. But if you can't separate them, you're going to have a tough time.
What has helped you survive and thrive in New York?
I think I've taken the approach that the media is a necessary evil. There's never going to be baseball without media. It's coming to realize that you guys are just trying to do a job, and sometimes tough questions will need to be asked.
You can't take it personally. With that approach, you know that questions are going to come, and you're not getting offended when you have to answer them.
There were plenty of tough questions last season. What was the experience of your first year with the Mets like?
Last year was tough. It was the first time I'd been hurt since 1990 (Stanton missed over a month with an inflamed left knee) and it was a tough year. But you know what, you just go day to day and try to get back on the field, and once you do, just let your abilities take over. I wasn't on the field as much as I'd have liked to last year, but that's just one of those things you don't have any control over.
It must have been especially difficult to go from a winning Yankees club to a losing Mets club, but you guys seem to be headed in the right direction.
We're playing pretty good baseball this year. We could be a little better, but who couldn't? What was tougher was sitting back [last year] and having to watch because of an injury.  wasn't the first year I'd been on a club that didn't contend.
Was it a shock? I think we were all surprised. But sometimes those things happen. That's last year: now we have to worry about '04 and staying around the pennant race and hopefully making the playoffs.