THE 7 TRAIN — On a steamy platform in the matrix that is the busiest subway station in New York City, Mark Canha looks like a regular — because he is. He had just taken the 1 train to Times Square, a necessary evil, and now was switching to the 7, which he would take to his place of work, Citi Field. With a smoothie in hand and sunglasses hanging from his shirt, he barely had to think when an out-of-town family asked in which direction to go for the Statue of Liberty. The train rolled up, the doors opened and he got on. The AC was working. That was fortunate.
This is Canha’s commute — not for every home game, but a lot of them — in his first year with the Mets. A Bay Area native and former Oakland Athletic, Canha wanted a real New York experience for him and his family this year. That means embedding themselves in the culture by living on the Upper West Side and taking the subway — including to the Subway Series on Tuesday.
“It’s practical, it’s cheap, it’s pretty reliable,” Canha said as he let Newsday tag along for his ride to the ballpark before playing the Yankees. “It drops me off right at the stadium. Why not? It’s New York. I feel like that’s what you do.”
Canha and his wife, Marci, are city people, he said, and they want their 4-year-old and 2-year-old daughters to be city people, too. So when he signed with the Mets last offseason, living in the five boroughs was a huge draw. He floated the idea of Brooklyn — “I think we would vibe with Brooklyn,” he said — but they decided on Manhattan because, well, it’s Manhattan. You can get any kind of food delivered to your door at about any time of day, there is a pharmacy on every block and, hey, the kids’ favorite Central Park playground is just a walk away.
The Canhas have liked it so much that they stuck around for the All-Star break, using the downtime to go to a Broadway show and get to a couple of restaurants they’d been meaning to try.
“When you have New York City and Manhattan at your disposal, you gotta be in the epicenter of it, be in the noise, have your kids experience that,” Canha said. “We like to be in a busy city. It’s been great. We were laughing the other day because my oldest, we’re saying she’s going to be an architect like her mom was because she’s already pointing at buildings. We’re crossing the bridge and she’s in awe of how big the buildings are.”
These first months of New York City life have yielded some strong conclusions.
Most frequented non-commute subway stop? Columbus Circle, which is near a lot of good eateries and has an elevator, which is helpful when carrying a diaper bag and a stroller.
Older daughter’s favorite locale? Times Square, because Peppa Pig, in a book, also visited once.
Go-to bagel place? Bagel & Co. at 79th and Amsterdam. Once you find the one, you don’t need to keep looking.
“I really don’t. Next year, if we live somewhere else, I’m gonna be like, we need to go to the Upper West Side to get bagels,” Canha said. “I want that same thing but for pizza. I want my pizza place where I’m like, oh, this is the one. That ah-ha moment that I haven’t had yet.”
Canha’s 7 train got more crowded at each stop Tuesday, but nobody seemed to notice that the Mets’ leftfielder was among them. He said he gets recognized around his neighborhood sometimes, almost never on the subway, which is almost downright leisurely a lot of days.
“I like a longer commute, actually, because there’s that separation of your home life and your work life,” Canha said. “The long commute gives me time to pause and think and plan out my day, or maybe just turn my brain off for a little bit and relax for a little bit before I get to the ballpark and get focused.”
When the train pulled up to Mets-Willets Point and Citi Field came into view, that was his cue. He walked down the steps, past the Tom Seaver statue, by the posters of franchise greats and through the stadium entrance named after new Hall of Famer Gil Hodges.
“It’s a nice reminder of what you’re playing for,” Canha said. “You’re playing for an organization that has a lot of rich history. A lot of people care about this and have a passion for all of this stuff. They take the subway and come in to watch me play. I don’t take that lightly. I realize that you have a certain obligation when you put on a uniform, whoever you’re playing for, to the fans to play inspired baseball."