3/4/15

My Day at Spring Training: David Wright Is The Mets

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Met third baseman and captain David Wright strikes the ball in the batting cage during Monday, March 3rd's spring training practice. Photo: Stephen Guilbert

The best moment in camp on Monday came with the guy you would expect it to: David Wright. While I was late getting to the spectacle, a spectator told me that a young fan starting asking David questions about his swing and technique. After a bit of chatting, the 32-year-old Mets captain realized it would be much more effective to show the young player what he was talking about and invited him in the cage. This is when I arrived.

After a few swings and only limited success, David Wright asked the young fan if he was sure he did not want batting gloves. The kid said "okay" and Wright quickly handed his own pair to the youngster. After the young athlete put the gloves on, he took a swing and crushed the ball. The crowd that had assembled let out a big cheer. David congratulated his new batting practice mate and walked him out before signing autographs for fans.

From what I heard and from what I could tell, this was not a Make-A-Wish event or a staged photo opportunity, this was simply David Wright being David Wright. He did not ask a coach or staff for the green light. Rather, Wright wanted to teach the young fan something he was trying to explain, so he did. I think if someone were to poll the fans at the complex on Monday and ask what was the coolest moment of the day, at least nine out of ten would say it was this.

It made me realize that more than any other player or person within the organization, David Wright is the Mets. The Wilpons might own the team, Terry Collins might manage and Sandy Alderson might assemble the group of players in camp but this is Wright's team. When I say that, I do not just mean that he is the leader or the captain. He is and we've know that for some time. I also think it goes further than saying he's the face of the team--something he has been for the better part of a decade. What I mean is that when someone thinks about the Mets--be it a fan of another team, a casual sports fan who might not follow baseball that much, or the most die-hard of die-hard Metroplitan fanatics--they think about David Wright. They don't think of Citi Field, or Flushing or Fred Wilpon or Daniel Murphy or "orange and blue" or the 7-line or even Matt Harvey. Well, they might eventually. But first they think of David Wright. Wright is the Mets in a way I have never seen a single player take so much ownership of identity of a team. And it's awesome.

This gesture that seemed completely "off script" illustrated both the genuine awesomeness of David Wright as well as the presence he brings to the Mets. While the interaction was with a young fan, you cannot help but think his teammates saw how commanding his actions are and how well he uses his status. Sure, the focus might be on Syndergaard's lunch for another full week but this story tells me much more about David Wright as a leader and a symbol for the Mets than telling a young player to stop eating and join his team.

I have never asked readers to share a story on social media--my hope is always that my writing, ideas and style will cause the audience here to share what I write with others who will appreciate it--however I do believe that this story should be trumping the dead-horse-beaten "lunch" story. If you have a moment, share it on Twitter or post it to a Mets Facebook group. Let's get this story making the rounds again.

Here are the photos of David Wright with the young fan:

Wright looks on as his student tries to employ his instruction. No batting gloves, not a great hit. (Photo: Stephen Guilbert)
"Are you sure you don't want batting gloves?", Wright asks his protege. "Okay", the young athlete replies. (Photo: Stephen Guilbert)
Next swing: Gloves on, a fantastic hit. Wright smiles as the young man strikes the ball well, employing the advice given to him by his mentor. The crowd was not louder during any point on Monday than this very moment. (Photo: Stephen Guilbert)

Other coverage of Monday's practice:

1.) Curtis Granderson hits off a tee
2.) Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares take BP
3.) Harvey and Syndergaard wow the crowds
4.) Hansel Robles impresses

Next up: The fans at spring training

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