Collins' speech a big hit with players

Terry Collins passionately told the Mets that they Terry Collins passionately told the Mets that they have a chance to prove everyone wrong this year. (Feb. 19, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The conference room inside Digital Domain Park has a relatively sterile atmosphere, aside from posters of baseball films such as "The Rookie" and "Major League." But with the entire spring training roster squeezed into that space, Terry Collins tried to use that room as an inspirational springboard for the 2011 season, telling his Mets - forcefully - that they can prove people wrong.

"You stand up in that room this morning and you got 56 or 58 of the best players in the world sitting in front of you," Collins said of his state-of-the-team address Monday. "You know they belong to you. They're your team. It's something I've been wanting to do my whole life - to try to get them better and try to get them to the ultimate game."

With Collins, it wasn't so much the words he used but the manner in which he said them. The Mets hired Collins to be the anti-Jerry Manuel, and he didn't waste any time emphasizing those differences.

"You can see that he's intense and he has that fire about him," Mike Pelfrey said. "Like he said, 'It takes no physical ability to play hard.' That's something we can all go out there and do . . . I think the expectations outside aren't very good. But in here, what we expect for ourselves, the front office, coaches, everybody else, we expect to win."

Sometimes a team needs a wake-up call, and Collins served as the Mets' alarm clock before the first full-squad workout. General manager Sandy Alderson gave the opening remarks for the meeting, which began at 9 a.m., and Collins followed with a speech that apparently got its point across - more because of the messenger than the message itself.

"If you trust the person saying it, I think it does matter," R.A. Dickey said. "All 29 other teams are having the same meeting, talking about the same things. I think what it really comes down to is do you trust it, or is it just hollow words?

"This is my 16th camp. I've heard a similar speech every year . . . but what makes this believable is that I trust that Terry means what he says . . . It can make a difference as far as setting us in a direction, and that's all a good manager can do."

Jose Reyes never openly feuded with Manuel, but he did take exception to some of his spring training ideas, such as the short-lived experiment of hitting him No. 3. Reyes sees sort of a kindred spirit in Collins, with his boundless energy and passion for the game.

"His intensity is good," Reyes said. "I love that. He just told me to play my game and enjoy it. Now I can see what he's all about."

The Mets breezed through numerous drills on the first day, from taking infield to live batting practice to shuttle runs. Collins was satisfied with the opening performance - "Outstanding," he said - but the lasting impression was the one he left from earlier that morning.

"He wins for being probably the most red in the face," David Wright said. "It's like a snowball. He starts out kind of at a normal voice, it picks up a few decibels and then a few more. By the end of it, he's yelling and screaming and sweating and red in the face, so it makes it fun. Those are the type of guys you want to go out there and run through a wall for."

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