PHOENIX — Long a favorite for Mets fans — for his walk-up song, for his walk-off habit, for his midgame tears that one time — Wilmer Flores misses the Mets and New York, he said, but is happy with his new life in Arizona with the Diamondbacks.
Sure, living in the desert makes it harder to get whatever kind of food he wants at 3 a.m., a luxury to which he became accustomed in the Big Apple. But traffic isn’t nearly as bad and, let’s be honest, rent is far more reasonable.
“I’m getting a bigger house for what I was paying,” Flores said, laughing. “A much bigger house.”
Lifestyle perks aside, Flores also is employed by a team that wants him. The Mets nontendered Flores, their longtime utility infielder/pinch hitter, in November, thus making him a free agent one year ahead of schedule.
The Mets’ decision didn’t really surprise Flores, he said. He had an OK season at the plate — .267/.319/.417 — but struggled defensively and dealt with a couple of injuries. Plus, Brodie Van Wagenen was hired as general manager, and with front-office turnover comes lessened loyalty to the previous regime’s players.
“I was kind of expecting it,” Flores said. “Because of the new GM, you never know what’s going to happen.”
In January, Flores signed a one-year, $4.25-million deal with the Diamondbacks. He likes it here.
“It’s been great. I love this city, I love the team,” Flores said. “This is a really good group of guys. I love the manager [Torey Lovullo]. I couldn’t be in a better place.”
Flores left with plenty of memories from his six seasons in Queens. He became known for stepping to the plate to The Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There for You,” best known as the “Friends” theme song. That tradition has continued at Chase Field, where fans clap along just as their Citi Field counterparts did.
“They picked it up right away,” Flores said. “They like it, they clap. It’s nice.”
Flores also holds the Mets record for walk-off RBIs (10) and forever will be remembered for crying on the field when he thought he was being traded to the Brewers on July 29, 2015. The deal was supposed to be Flores and Zack Wheeler for Carlos Gomez.
Coincidentally, Flores is the only one of those players not playing at Chase this weekend. Wheeler started for the Mets Friday, and Gomez has been their starter in center most days lately, plus had a go-ahead double Friday.
Flores is missing what would have been his first series against his former team because of a fractured right foot. Before that, he was slashing .281/.326/.398 while sharing time at second base with Ketel Marte.
But Flores can still catch up with his old mates. On Friday, during a delay after plate umpire Jim Wolf (foul tip to the mask) left the game, Michael Conforto walked from third base to the Arizona dugout to chat with Flores. Flores playfully grabbed Conforto’s jersey and they laughed. Flores still keeps in touch with many Mets, he said, especially Juan Lagares.
“I was looking forward to playing those guys,” Flores said. “But everything happens for a reason. I look forward to facing them in September.”
Yes, Flores already has that series on his mental calendar. His Diamondbacks visit Citi Field Sept. 9-12.
Maybe that week he’ll order various foods in middle of the night. Even though the culinary scene is only part of what he misses about New York.
“Mostly I miss my teammates,” Flores said. “I think that’s what gets you the most when you go to a different place.”