When Bud Harrelson's playing days were over in 1980, the Texas Rangers offered him a chance to stay in baseball as a coach or minor league instructor.
Harrelson, a defensive wiz at shortstop who had helped the Mets win their first World Series in 1969, turned down the offer. He wanted to return to Long Island, his adopted home during 13 seasons with the Mets. "I said, 'I'm honored,' " Harrelson, 71, said, recalling the Rangers' offer. " 'But I want to go back to New York.' "
Harrelson, a Hauppauge resident and co-owner of the Long Island Ducks, is one of a number of former Mets players who have remained on the Island and continue to work in baseball.
Some are Long Island natives. Others, like Harrelson, who grew up in northern California, discovered Long Island during their years with the Mets.
All of them could have chosen to live someplace else after big-league careers that took them to cities all over North America, but they chose to stay on Long Island.
"I like New York," said Keith Hernandez, the star first baseman of the Mets' 1986 world championship club, who grew up near San Francisco and now lives in Sag Harbor.
"There weren't too many other places I wanted to move to," Hernandez, 62, said Tuesday from Kansas City, where he is doing pregame and postgame commentary for SNY.
Hernandez said he moved to Long Island from Manhattan in 2000, when he was working Mets games 20 times a year. The long commute to Flushing is worth it, he said.
Ducks manager and Brooklyn native Kevin Baez, 48, mentioned the easy access to New York City, Fire Island and the Hamptons, and spacious lawns where his two young children play at their Oakdale home.
"I miss Brooklyn," said Baez, who played shortstop for the Mets during three seasons in the early 1990s. "But the kids can get a big backyard. In Brooklyn, we didn't have that."
Frank Catalanotto, a Smithtown native who batted .291 during a 14-year career, had offers to play or coach for other big-league organizations when the Mets released him in 2010, his only season with the team. But he chose to retire so that he could watch his four daughters grow up at the family's St. James home.
These days, Catalanotto, 41, sells real estate, owns a business that sells nutritional supplements and is chief hitting instructor at Baseball Heaven in Yaphank.
"I definitely wanted to stay on Long Island. This is where I grew up, and this is where my family is," he said.
Catalanotto said he misses the camaraderie of his teammates, but he loves teaching young ballplayers "the mental part of hitting."
Bill Pulsipher, who grew up in northern Virginia and pitched for the Mets for parts of three seasons before retiring in 2005, settled on Long Island after marrying his wife, Michelle, who was raised in West Babylon.
He works in road construction and is a part-time pitching instructor at All Pro Sports Academy in Bellport, owned by another former Mets pitcher, Paul Gibson. Among All Pro's alumni: Mets starter Steven Matz of Stony Brook.
Pulsipher, called "Pulse" in his playing days, said he loves hanging out with friends and running his two sons, ages 15 and 12, to baseball and soccer practices, just like parents who never played in the pros.
"I love Long Island. It's my home now," said Pulsipher, 42, of East Moriches. "I love the people, the attitudes, the camaraderie. It's its own little place. It's got its own style of life."
Harrelson, who made his big-league debut with the Mets in September 1965, said teammate Jack Fisher was the first to tell him he should live in New York year-round, rather than spend offseasons in California. Harrelson recalled quizzical looks from neighbors when he moved to East Northport.
"I didn't move out to Long Island until 1969, and people said, 'Why did you move all the way out here? You play for the Mets!' I said, 'I hit .236,' " Harrelson said. "I said, 'If I had hit .250, I would have lived in Nassau County. And if I hit .300, I would have been in Connecticut with [Tom] Seaver.' "
Harrelson said he loves that he settled in Suffolk, home to five of his grandchildren.
"I'm glad I'm out there."