Let’s rewind to July 9, 2006. I was nine years old, and a casual New York Mets fan. It was a beautiful Sunday morning, and I was dreading spending part of the day in church.
At least, that’s what I thought I’d be doing.
I woke up earlier than any nine-year-old wants to on a weekend and went downstairs to find four black David Wright t-shirts on the couch, one for each member of my family.
My dad informed me that we weren’t going to church, we were going to Shea Stadium for my first Mets game. We drove to Hoboken, got on a fan bus with my aunt and uncle, and rode out to good ol’ Shea. We had seats in the upper level by third base for that day’s game vs. the then Florida Marlins.
Fast-forward to the bottom of the 8th inning. The Mets were down 5-3 with Logan Kensing on the mound. Jose Valentin led off and worked a walk. Paul Lo Duca hit a fly ball to center that Reggie Abercrombie lost in the sun, allowing him to reach first and Valentin to advance to third. Jose Reyes came in as a pinch runner for Lo Duca.
The Mets were in business with the heart of the order coming up. Carlos Beltran lined a ball to short that deflected off Hanley Ramirez’s glove, allowing Valentin to score and Jose Reyes to advance to second as the tying run. Carlos Delgado then lined out to right field for the first out.
Up stepped David Wright. Kensing started him with a slider low and away for ball one. Wright then fouled off a couple of pitches to make the count 1-2. Wright was on the fastball, so Kensing decided to go back to the slider.
Let’s just say that Kensing hung that one. Wright crushed it to left-center to give the Mets a 7-5 lead. It was his 20th home run of the season before the All-Star Break, prompting a curtain call.
Wright didn’t just win the game for the Mets. He gained a fan for life.
By the start of my next little league season in the spring of 2007, I was mimicking Wright’s batting stance.
I had the whole routine down. Bat under the left arm. Undo-redo the left batting glove, undo-redo the right batting glove. Grab the bat with both hands, hold it perpendicular to the ground, and stare at the Louisville slugger label intensely. Respectful downward head nod to the pitcher. Step into the box, tap the outside corner of the plate, quickly followed by the inside corner. A couple of slow, measured half swings as the pitcher got his signs, and then bring the bat back, waggling rhythmically over my head.
And, of course, my tongue sticking out.
I also chose number five when it was available and played a lot of third base. I kept trying to make barehanded plays, largely unsuccessfully, but the one I made was pretty sweet, if I can say so myself.
The next game I went to was on September 16th, 2007 vs. the Phillies. Wright already had 30 stolen bases of the year, but needed one more homer to reach the 30-30 plateau. Wright drove a 3-2 pitch from Geoff Geary out to right field, to become just the third Met to reach the 30-30 mark. Two Mets games, two huge homers from my favorite player.
Also, Wright should’ve won the 2007 NL MVP award. I will die on that hill.
There are so many other David Wright moments to talk about. When he walked-off Mariano Rivera and galloped to first base. His clutch performances in the World Baseball Classic, earning him the nickname “Captain America.” Becoming the captain of the Mets. The tumbling, barehanded catch in San Diego. Several huge homers – the first ever at Citi Field, his first homer after coming off the injured list in 2015, and the one in the World Series.
Unfortunately, injuries derailed the end of his career, which concluded three years ago today.
As soon as Wright and the Mets announced that he would take the field one last time, I hopped on StubHub and got tickets. The cost didn’t matter. I was at college, which for that weekend, didn’t matter either. I had to see my idol play one last time.
The atmosphere at Citi Field on September 29th, 2018 was unlike anything I had witnessed before. There were so many emotions. Anticipation, to see him play again. Hope, that he would do something in the game. Resilience, because he was coming back from such a difficult situation. And finally, sadness, knowing that this was the end when he should’ve had more time playing the game he loves and was very good at.
The night started off with Wright taking the field on his own, sprinting to third and kicking the base. Citi Field was the loudest I ever heard it. And at the worst possible time, my allergies kicked in. So weird. What are the odds of that?
Wright then jogged to home plate to catch the ceremonial first pitch from his daughter. Really cool moment. In the bottom of the first, Wright came up with Jose Reyes on third. Marlins starter Trevor Richards started him off with a slider low and away for a borderline strike.
Welcome back to the show…
Wright was able to work the count and take a walk, what might’ve been the most applauded walk in Major League Baseball’s history.
In the top of the second, Steven Matz induced a nice, easy one-hopper from Marlins catcher Bryan Holaday. Wright snagged it, crow-hopped, and slung the ball to first for the out. Got ‘em.
He got his second at-bat in the bottom of the 4th. He popped up the second pitch into foul territory behind first base. Mets fans hoped it would fall, but Peter O’Brien made the catch to a chorus of boos.
It was announced before the game that Wright would get two or three at-bats. We hoped he would get one more chance. He came out of the dugout in the top of the 5th, jogged to third base, and took a few warmup grounders, chatting and laughing with Jose Reyes.
Then, Mickey Callaway came out of the dugout. Several minutes of salutes, handshakes, hugs, and cheers followed, ending with a curtain call. There was not a dry eye in Citi Field.
As far as the game was concerned, the results didn’t matter. The Mets had been eliminated from playoff contention already, so this night was all about Wright. Truthfully, nobody cared about the game after he came out. We just wanted to see his speech after the game.
Naturally, the game went to the 13th inning. Ugh. Mercifully, the game finally ended on a walk-off. As soon as the celebration ended, a wonderful tribute video appeared on the jumbotron.
He came out of the dugout, and I could tell he was nervous. He had never particularly enjoyed being the center of attention, so speaking in front of a capacity crowd must’ve been unsettling. He spoke about love and how the fans welcomed him and had his back. It was a great ending to a long but good night.
Want your voice heard? Join the Rising Apple team!
David Wright was so much more than just a baseball player. He was the face of the franchise and Captain America. He was accountable and a great leader. He did so much good off the field with various charities and his foundation. And perhaps most importantly, he was the reason an entire generation of Mets fans, including me, fell in love with baseball.