Last year was a tough year for me. My father passed away [in August], so that affected me a little bit, but I had to pick up my game. I just put 100 percent effort and was trying to get through that, and I did it real well. I was playing unbelievably good and was just letting it happen. I was really affected, but I was just praying to God I could play my game and do as good as I can.
I'm sorry to hear that. Was it a long illness?
Yes. I had to fly from Trenton to Puerto Rico [for the funeral]. He was pretty sick, and I think he's in a good place now. He's not suffering anymore. He was diabetic, so he was going on hard times.
What are your thoughts on the season coming up?
I'm working as hard as I can. This year is going to be a crucial year for me, because I think I have to prove myself. We've got a lot of guys up there to fight for a position, so I'm going to have to really put into it. And I'm willing to do it, just working as hard as I can and getting the most ready I can so I can have another good season. Maybe they can call me up in September or even before. That's my plan.
Did you find there was an adjustment to be made between Double-A and Triple-A?
It's not really an adjustment. The only adjustments I had to do was adjust to the guys that are older. There's a different attitude, but baseball-wise, I think it's the same thing. I think the older guys just have more experience, and they're smarter people. I just tried to play my game, and the little time before [in 2004] that I played in Norfolk helped me out because I knew what was coming. I was anticipating what I was going to face.
Do you feel you're a better player now than you were in Double-A, and if so, why?
No doubt, man. I had a lot of veteran guys help me out last year, and they made me a smarter player - a little more mature. A few years ago, I wasn't immature, but I had a lot to learn. Those guys [in Triple-A] picked up my game because they've got the experience up there. They helped me out every day.
Which veterans in particular helped you out?
We had Benito Santiago, Wil Cordero, Gerald Williams was there. HoJo [Howard Johnson] has been with me for a lot of years and helped me so much. All of those guys helped me out and have made me a better player.
Do you feel like the mental game can get overlooked when people talk about players making the jump from the minors to the majors?
Yeah. It's all about that stuff, because we've already got the talent. We've got to work on the mental game, because that's a huge part of this game. If you can't work on your mental game, you're never going to succeed in this game. That's the main part of the game I feel I need to work on, because I feel like I have much more to improve.
Aside from the mental game, what are you pinpointing to work on for 2006?
I think I have to work on everything, but most of all I need to work on my baserunning. I think I can really help the big team with that. I know I can play outfield, but baserunning-wise, I've got to improve more so I can go up there and be a pinch-runner.
So are you coming into camp thinking you might be a fourth outfielder, a guy off the bench, with the Mets?
That's what I'm trying to accomplish. I'm going to fight with those other outfielders to try and win the position, and I'm pretty sure I can do it. I might not have the experience, but I think I can help them out.