Jose Reyes sounds all the right notes, but cheers for him hit wrong one

NEW YORK – Half an hour before he took the field as the newest member of the Brooklyn Cyclones, Jose Reyes was announced as the short-season team’s leadoff man and third baseman, the first step in his journey back to Queens and the majors with the Mets.A Sunday afternoon crowd that was still filing into the ballpark at Coney Island offered a quiet reaction, mostly for a lack of attention to the lineup being read. Those who did make noise offered warm applause for the player who was beloved in New York from the time he debuted with the Mets a day before his 20th birthday in 2003 until he won the National League batting title in 2011. Reyes decided to leave for Miami following 2011 as a free agent, with the cash-strapped Mets never making an offer. MORE: Ranking baseball's 50 best playersIf that was the whole story, and Reyes was just a player whose career had gone off track since his free agent departure, applauding his return would be perfectly understandable and a non-story. It’s not that, of course, because the entire reason that Reyes is here is that following his arrest on a domestic violence charge in October and two-month suspension from Major League Baseball, the Rockies decided they wanted nothing to do with Reyes and designated him for assignment. The Mets, desperate for help at third base with David Wright injured, signed Reyes pretty much the minute he cleared waivers and they could get him for the minimum, with Colorado responsible for the bulk of what is left on Reyes’ ill-fated six-year, $106 million contract. When the Cyclones’ lineup was announced again just before the game started, Reyes got hearty cheers, while nobody else’s name drew any reaction whatsoever.It’s fine for Reyes to get this second chance at his career. He served his suspension, after all. The Mets, who signed Reyes as a 16-year-old and nurtured him through young adulthood, probably are the best fit for him to get his professional life back on track.MORE: Reyes unlikely to help the Met offenseAs for his personal life, you have to wonder about the man whose reintroduction to New York went on to include just short of a standing ovation for his first at-bat, complete with a spontaneous “Jose! Jose! Jose!” chant before he struck out. Reyes does seem to be handling it as well as he can, while knowing that there will be many who never forgive him.“I’m a human being,” Reyes said after going 0-for-3 while playing six solid innings of third base. “I made one mistake, and I respect that people may not like me anymore. I respect that I put myself in that situation. But people need a second chance. I have to thank Sandy (Alderson) and Jeff (Wilpon) for giving me that chance, to bring me back. … I’m sorry to everybody for what happened. Whoever knows me, from the bottom of my heart, they know what kind of man I am. … I made a huge mi

stake. I’m here answering those questions. I’ve said it before, and I’m going to say I’m sorry again. I mean, what else can I do? I’m going to continue to do my counseling and stuff, and try to be a better person.”Another way to put it is that it was icky. The only reason that Reyes is here is because he was arrested in October for grabbing his wife by the throat and slamming her into a sliding glass door in their Hawaii hotel room. The charges were dropped when Reyes’ wife stopped cooperating with investigators, something that happens all too often with victims of domestic violence, for understandable reasons. And while Mets ownership may have fond feelings for Reyes, this reunion is happening because the team is desperate for help at third base and saw the opportunity to add a former All-Star infielder, still only 33 years old, for the prorated major league minimum.It’s reasonable to assert that those likely to cheer Reyes would be more likely to pay for Cyclones tickets on Sunday than those who would want to boo him, but the fact remains that he was cheered, and in a ballpark heavily populated by children, it’s fair to ask what kind of message they got from the idolatry. The answer is simple, and one that has been pounded home all too often in America: if you’re good at sports, your personal conduct is secondary despite any and all counterfactual lip service provided. Just ask NHL most valuable player Patrick Kane.MORE: 's ugliest fightsThe reaction to Reyes is not on Reyes. It’s on the thousands cheering him, so many of those adulators standing right next to their own children and perpetuating the culture that excuses violence against women on to the next generation. What Reyes can do – what he should do – is be a bulwark against that, by communicating to young men that it is not excusable. He has a roomful of minor league teammates to start with.“I’ve been doing that in Colorado (in spring training and during nine games with Triple-A Albuquerque before being designated for assignment),” Reyes said. “I’ve been talking to some guys. I’m going to be open to it. A lot of the young kids, they’ve been following my career for a long time. I’m going to be open. Whatever they need, I’m going to be open to it.”In addition to the counseling mandated by Major League Baseball as a result of Reyes entering the domestic violence program, Reyes has been going to couples counseling with his wife. The running themes of his press conference on Sunday were acknowledgement of a “huge mistake,” repeated apologies and focusing on being a better man going forward.It all sounds good. It’s still very uncomfortable to hear Reyes being cheered so thoroughly upon his return.

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