But d’Arnaud’s drive to his local Ralph’s, a grocery store near where he lives in Southern California, wasn’t about to be interrupted by someone looking to sign him up for a credit card. This was David Wright calling to welcome him to the Mets, the day d’Arnaud was traded by the Blue Jays as the centerpiece of the deal for R.A. Dickey.
D’Arnaud took Wright’s call in a lefthand turn lane and finished the conversation while sitting in the store parking lot. He is laughing as he recounts the story Wednesday afternoon over lunch — he’s just finished a plate of salmon and a bowl of Edamame — in part because his friend in the passenger seat was amazed when he said who it was.
But it’s also clear the call meant something to him. “I was so pumped,” d’Arnaud says. “He was at a wedding and he took the time to call. I don’t know how to describe it. It shows he’s big on team chemistry.”
As it happens, so is d’Arnaud, who grew up in what he calls a “huge baseball community” in this city of about 80,000 near Long Beach. D’Arnaud decided to go to Lakewood High instead of the rival school his older brother, Chase — now an infielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates — attended, so he could play baseball with many of the same kids he won a youth World Series with at the age of 14, a thrill the guy who has been part of two separate trades for Cy Young winners — Roy Halladay is the other one — still calls his favorite baseball memory.
He revels in retelling how while in the minors he helped forge a team rallying cry by yelling “Oppo Taco” whenever he hit an opposite-field home run, cracking up teammates and sparking handshakes and T-shirts.
He goes to his old high school during the offseason to hit and throw, and even though the players are used to seeing the solidly-built 23-year-old sporting a Chicago Bulls cap, some watch him out of the corners of their eyes as he passes.