Darryl Strawberry on Jose Reyes: Stay

NEW YORK -- Darryl Strawberry once found himself in the same spot as Jose Reyes, a homegrown talent with the New York Mets who had to choose between leaving the franchise in free agency and staying with the team.

Ultimately, Strawberry chose to depart the Mets, heading across the country to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1991. It's a career move he wishes he could have back and one he hopes Reyes can learn from with his impending free agency.

"It looks good on the other side, but it's not always as good as the place that you're used to," Strawberry said about leaving the Mets in free agency. "When you're young you don't realize that, and for me, I was young and didn't realize what New York meant to me.

"Tell Jose I said New York is a great place. A great place no matter what, it's a great place to play. No matter what you have to go through, how difficult it gets, this is the place that you want to play."

The former Mets outfielder shared his experiences with leaving a team in free agency and his hope for Reyes to remain with the Mets as he promoted his new All-Stars for Charities Fruit Snacks before the Mets took on the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday at Citi Field. The fruit snacks sales help the Darryl Strawberry Foundation's Fight for Autism.

"Being a homegrown player ... you would hope that something good would work out for both sides because he's a really exciting player. You're not going to find too many players in the game that are more exciting than him," Strawberry said. "It's a tough situation to be in."

The Mets drafted Strawberry in 1980 and he played with the team through 1990, winning a Rookie of the Year award as well as the team's last World Series ring in 1986. Strawberry, 49, said he was fed up with the team's management and decided to leave New York, signing a deal with the Dodgers. He eventually returned to New York, but it was with the Yankees.

"You don't know that when you're young but when you look back over it you realize, 'God, that was so stupid, I was so young, what was I thinking about leaving New York City to go to L.A. or anywhere,'" Strawberry said. "(New York) is the greatest place to play, the greatest fans. Are the expectations high? Is the media tough? Yeah, it's part of it. You just have to learn to live with that."

Strawberry added that it's a "different type of feeling" after playing in New York for so long and especially being able to have success with a team, like he did winning his one ring with the Mets and three titles with the Yankees in 1996, 1998 and 1999.

"Being successful here, they appreciate it a little bit more than anywhere else you go, you're just another player that comes along in other places, but the fans here never forget, the legacy you leave for yourself here is incredible and Jose has a chance to do that," Strawberry said. "He's a remarkable player, he's had some wonderful years, done some wonderful things and he still has a chance to do some greater things before his career is all over."

Reyes, 28, is heading into free agency as one of the top players in baseball. While injuries have cost him games, he's tied with the Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun with a league-best .329 average entering Saturday's games. He also leads the league with 16 triples and has 36 steals as well as a career-best .377 on-base percentage and a career-best .478 slugging percentage.

The shortstop said he has not talked to Strawberry about his past experience with free agency and said factors like leaving New York are going to play into his decision.

"Everything is a consideration," Reyes said. "I think to play here in New York means a lot to me. Like I always say, I don't want to leave here. I want to stay here. But at the same time, I don't know. Everything's a consideration."

As much as Strawberry wants Reyes to stay, the Mets might not be the team to offer Reyes the most money. Another team could swoop in and offer more money than the Mets, leaving Reyes with the tough choice of staying with the team that drafted him for less money or heading elsewhere to get paid more.

When asked if he's saying Reyes should forego the bigger paycheck to stay with the Mets, Strawberry laughed as he said he's not talking about that topic but clarified that it is not the meaning of his message.

"I have nothing to do with that, all I can say is I would love to see him stay in New York," Strawberry said. "New York loves him, Mets fans love him, all the players love him, they love the way he plays, and I just hope that things work out for both sides and he can continue to play here."

Matt Ehalt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.