NEW YORK -- The tattoo crawls up Mets pitcher Jon Niese's right arm, traveling from his glove wrist toward the crook of his elbow. The words Graylee Mae provide a constant, permanent reminder of the newest and most important addition to his family.
"It's obviously a big change in my life," Niese said of his now 7-month-old daughter.
In the Mets' clubhouse, Niese is far from alone. This Father's Day, he, pitcher Dillon Gee and Daniel Murphy will all be celebrating the holiday as bona fide dads for the first time. Niese's daughter was born in November, two weeks after Gee's son, Hudson, came into the world. Five months later, Murphy and his wife welcomed their first child, Noah.
It has been a transition for all of them.
"To me, it's just changed my outlook," Gee said. "All the other things in life that we thought were a big deal don't seem quite so big anymore."
As relatively older players in a youngish clubhouse, the Mets' newest fathers don't have many resources to turn to in the workplace. The majority of Mets players do not have children, though that gap has closed significantly over the past seven months.
So Gee, Niese and Murphy are all learning on the fly, both at and away from the ballpark. Recent technological advances have made it much easier for players to keep in touch with their families on the road, from phone calls in the clubhouse to Skype sessions in their hotel rooms. Mets players, like their contemporaries around baseball, take advantage of those perks on a daily basis.
At home is where the real challenges lie. As the oldest by far of three boys growing up, Niese learned how to change diapers at an early age. Gee did not. The first night he and wife Kari Ann brought Hudson home from the hospital, Gee attempted to be a good husband by changing his son in the dark, so as not to wake his wife. That seemed like a good idea until he realized he had taken the old diaper off too soon.
"I've only had a couple moments as a parent where I've kind of freaked out," Gee said, laughing. "That was one of them."
Before having Hudson, Gee and his wife struck a deal: He would take on the lion's share of responsibility in the offseason, knowing she would need to shoulder a heavier load come April. It's a fine line between parent and baseball player that all the Mets' fathers must straddle. Murphy took significant criticism when he missed the team's first two games of the season to be with his wife for the birth of their son, with talk-radio hosts debating his right to leave the team for his family.
Yet everyone within the Mets' clubhouse gave Murphy their support, and he found he was far from alone in the outside community. Last Monday, Murphy traveled to Washington to speak at The White House Summit on Working Families alongside multiple members of President Barack Obama's cabinet. That discussion focused on how fathers balance their careers and families.
"I don't really have a whole lot of experience in it," Murphy said of life as a parent. "My wife has two months of experience. I've had the easy part."
He laughed, because he knows no part of parenting is easy.
"You think you know what you want in life, but now all the little things just don't matter," Gee said. "One day, [my wife and I] looked at each other and we were like, 'What did we do before we had this kid?' Now it's all we know."