I don’t let any of [the media attention] get to me at all. [New York] is an exciting place to play. Other than that it is another team and another big-league organization. —Brandon Lyon, New York Mets
WASHINGTON — Salt Lake native Brandon Lyon has been playing Major League Baseball since 2001, and the right-handed pitcher has been around the block.
The Taylorsville High grad has played in another country (with Toronto, twice), has played in a state that borders his native Utah (with Arizona), has played in front of Red Sox Nation in Boston and has toed the rubber in the National League for Houston, now in the American League.
But until this season, Lyon, 33, a veteran reliever who had made 535 appearances as this year began, had never played for a team based in New York City.
Now he is with the Mets and is one of the veteran hurlers for manager Terry Collins.
So what is it like to play in one of the major media markets in the country, where the New York tabloids have a field day with catchy headlines for sports on the back page?
“I don’t read the papers. It is not a big deal for me,” said Lyon with a laugh, sitting in front of his locker during a recent road trip to Washington to face the Nationals.
“I don’t let any of that get to me at all. It is an exciting place to play,” said Lyon, who added that he has gotten more requests from friends for tickets now that he is in New York. “Other than that it is another team and another big-league organization.”
Lyon said he is embracing New York City. His wife and three children, now that school is over in Utah, have joined him and they are living in Manhattan.
“If we are going to experience New York, let’s do it right,” he said.
Many players with the Mets decide to live closer to Citi Field in Queens and sometimes on Long Island, but Lyon wanted his family to experience the Big Apple.
In games through June 10, Lyon had pitched in 28 games out of the bullpen and was 2-2 with an ERA of 3.24 and no saves, though he had finished five games.
Lyon had thrown 25 innings and allowed 26 hits and five walks with 19 strikeouts.
“I feel like I am getting better. I am starting to feel better with everything right now,” said Lyon, after he threw a scoreless inning on June 4 against the Nationals. “We have had some struggles with our pitching staff.
“Right now it is a matter of people throwing well and things working out,” he added. “Right now it is a matter of getting the matchup right and having our starters go deeper in the games. When the phone rings, I am ready to go. That is how I feel right now.”
The Salt Lake native was high school teammates at Taylorsville with John Buck, in his first season as the catcher for the Mets.
“It is obviously exciting. We are on the same wavelength,” Lyon said. The two formed a battery even before high school while playing youth baseball on All-Star teams.
Lyon made his major league debut with Toronto in 2001 and also pitched for the Blue Jays the next season. He pitched for Boston in 2003, then saw time in the big leagues with Arizona from 2005-08 before he played for Detroit in 2009. Lyon was with Houston from 2010-12 before he was traded to the Blue Jays in July of last season.
The right-hander, who was a starter early in his career, had a career-high 26 saves for Arizona in 2008 and had 20 saves for Houston in 2010. But in recent years he has been used earlier in games by the Astros, Blue Jays and now Mets.
While on the road trip to Washington, Lyon and many of his teammates visited wounded American soldiers at a facility in suburban Maryland.
“It kind of puts things in perspective into what we do,” he said. “These guys are going overseas and fighting for our freedom. They are positive and upbeat. It obviously puts everything into perspective for us.”
David Driver is a freelance writer in Maryland and can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com