- The Washington Times - Monday, February 25, 2008

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The sight at first is a bit strange.

Something just doesn’t look right about Brian Schneider and Ryan Church jogging around the practice fields at Mets camp with interlocking NY’s on their caps instead of curly W’s, joking around with David Wright and Johan Santana instead of Ryan Zimmerman and John Patterson.

It took them a while to get used to it, too. Church had spent the last four years in the Washington Nationals’ organization. Schneider had been with the franchise 13 years, since the summer day in 1995 when he was drafted out of high school by the Montreal Expos.

But after arriving for spring training earlier this month and realizing they are a part of a Mets team that should make a serious run at the World Series, any lingering emotions from Washington were quickly swept up by visions of grandeur.

“You look around this clubhouse and you see MVP candidates, All-Stars, Cy Youngs,” Schneider said yesterday morning. “Sometimes you wake up and you’re like: ‘Am I really here right now?’ This is awesome. I’m having a blast here.”

Indeed, Schneider and Church both look like they’re having a great time. Don’t get them wrong; they miss Washington and the friends they left behind there. But they’ve fully embraced their new surroundings. These days, they’ve got wide smiles on their faces, knowing they’ve been given a chance to be a part of something special.

“Washington’s a great city, and [the Na[JUMP]tionals] have got something good going on,” Church said. “But now I’m in a better place. We’ve got something better going on.”

When Schneider and Church left RFK Stadium in September, they knew they would have a new home this season. They just figured it would be located along the Anacostia River, not in Flushing Meadows. Both players fully expected to be in lineup when Nationals Park opened and a new era of baseball in Washington kicked off.

So imagine their surprise Nov. 30, when both received phone calls from Nationals general manager Jim Bowden informing them they had been traded to the Mets for outfielder Lastings Milledge.

Schneider was on vacation in Napa Valley, Calif., touring wineries with his wife, Jordan. Some vacation — his cell phone began ringing constantly, with dozens of messages clogging up his voice mail before he could return all the calls.

“I was shocked,” he said.

Church, who had grown used to his name surfacing in trade rumors for several years, was initially disappointed … until Bowden told him he was headed to the Mets.

“I got off the phone, and I wanted to do cartwheels,” he said.

Schneider and Church were no strangers to New York general manager Omar Minaya, who had both players in Montreal and always fancied them. After his Mets suffered a monumental September collapse and handed the National League East title to the Philadelphia Phillies, Minaya knew he needed to make some bold moves in an attempt to win it all in 2008.

Thus, he parted ways with the talented-but-immature Milledge in exchange for what he feels is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, plus an up-and-coming slugger who can play right field on a daily basis.

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