PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Dominic Smith, the somnolent first baseman for the Mets, strapped a new sleep apnea mask over his hair on a recent night, unfurled a five-foot hose affixed to an airway pressure machine and pressed the power button.
Air streamed into his mouth and nose to force his airways open with pressure from the mask. He spoke of the apparatus like a new glove.
“Still breaking it in,” he said, lying on his back in a king-size bed at his rental house.
While this mask was new, Smith’s struggle to get a good night’s sleep dates back to high school. He learned he had sleep apnea in 2016 while in Class AA.
But when Smith reported to spring training this season ready to compete for the Mets’ starting first-base job, Brian Chicklo, the Mets’ head trainer, asked Smith about his repeated awakening and pauses in breathing at night, as well as his chronic sleepiness during the day. Chicklo also inquired about the mask. Smith, drafted No. 11 overall by the Mets in 2013, had not worn it in more than a year.
“I was just really focused on working out,” he said. “I didn’t make it a priority.”
The Mets knew that was a problem. After the team reviewed Smith’s performance last season, when he posted nearly as many fielding errors (four) as home runs (five) in 56 major league games, Chicklo arranged for Smith to undergo a sleep study at a local test site upon arrival in camp.
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