PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- There is a paved walkway beyond the right-field fence of Field 7 at the Mets' Spring Training complex, where fans can meander from the main practice area to the parking lot.
When Lucas Duda takes batting practice, it is a dangerous place to be.
"We have a set of lawyers that are scattered through the crowd," manager Terry Collins quipped after Duda turned heads Monday with yet another impressive performance in batting practice.
During the early days of camp, no one has rocketed more noteworthy home runs over that fence than Duda, the Mets' 26-year-old starting right fielder. So quiet and reserved throughout his nascent days with the team, Duda has appeared noticeably more comfortable both on the field and in the clubhouse this spring.
"Of all the things that happened last year, one of the brightest things is Lucas Duda saying, 'I can play here and I belong here,'" Collins said. "You watch him in his workouts, he's much more relaxed. He's much more easygoing. He's much more vocal."
Collins rallies troops before Mets' first workout
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As planned, the Mets' first full-squad workout began Monday with a speech from manager Terry Collins, who conducted an hour-long meeting in a conference room adjacent to the clubhouse. The message was a familiar one: The Mets can be better than most people think.
"I spoke from the heart," Collins said. "I always do."
General manager Sandy Alderson also spoke, and COO Jeff Wilpon printed up bright orange T-shirts with the "Underdog" cartoon logo on it, as a reminder of the public perception surrounding the team.
But the meeting's main event was Collins, who listed some of the Mets' 2011 accomplishments off a stat sheet before proclaiming that none of them were "good enough."
"There's not a phase of this game we can take for granted," Collins said. "We've got to improve in all phases."
Most encouraging, Collins said, was that the 54 players in camp seemed to buy into his message as he roamed around the room making his speech. With ownership, Alderson and his complete staff of coaches in attendance, Collins implored the Mets to do better.
"You could just tell that he's got a passion for what he does," third baseman David Wright said. "He believes in this team and he believes in the individuals here, and I think that he expressed that during the meeting. He's fired up."
The first day of workouts lasted about three hours, with both pitchers and hitters participating in fielding drills and live batting-practice sessions. The Mets have a full week of workouts planned before their first Grapefruit League game against the Nationals on March 5.
Mets 'very optimistic' about 2013 All-Star Game
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets are still "very optimistic" about hosting the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field, principal owner Fred Wilpon said Monday, though an announcement does not appear imminent.
Wilpon indicated that the team's outstanding $25 million emergency loan from Major League Baseball will not affect its ability to host the game.
"The loan has nothing to do with it," Wilpon said. "I think the holdup on the All-Star Game is conditions have changed for New York City and their finances, and what they can do and their negotiations. We're not part of those negotiations."
The Mets also hold a $40 million bridge loan from Bank of America, but expect to close soon on up to $240 million worth of minority ownership stakes. Wilpon and partner Saul Katz are scheduled to go to trial on March 19 against the trustee seeking to recover funds from Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, with as much as $386 million at stake. A federal judge will decide on March 5 whether to proceed with the trial or throw out the case.
Word of the Mets hosting the 2013 All-Star Game first leaked in 2010, before resurfacing early last year. Though an announcement is usually made more than two years in advance, Major League Baseball has yet to make anything official for 2013.
The Royals will host the 2012 All-Star Game at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City.
The Mets last hosted the All-Star Game in 1964, their first season at Shea Stadium. New York City has hosted the game eight times: once at Shea, once at Ebbets Field, twice at the Polo Grounds and four times at the old Yankee Stadium, most recently in 2008.
After losing bet, Wright forced to rep Michigan
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The way David Wright jokingly tells it, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon coerced him into accepting an unfair bet last month, when his favored Virginia Tech Hokies played Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.
"You can't really say no to the owner," Wright said, explaining that Wilpon called him to propose a wager on the day of the game. "You could expect a phone call when they're three-, 3 1/2-point favorites."
As Las Vegas projected, Michigan won the game by three. And so Wright was forced to pay up Monday, wearing a No. 16 Michigan football jersey throughout the Mets' first full-squad workout.
Though Wright did not attend Virginia Tech -- the Mets drafted him out of high school -- two of his brothers did, and Wright has adopted the university's sports teams as his own. Wilpon's father, Fred, is a Michigan alumnus and ardent supporter of its athletic programs.
"I thought they forgot about it," Wright said of the bet, "and then during the meeting, they broke out the jersey. Hopefully they get a rematch next year."