Wright move: Third baseman heads off to Classic
Hits RBI single, scores run in final spring game before joining Team USA
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- David Wright donned his traditional blue, orange and white -- the colors he signed up to wear for another eight years -- during a light-hearted set of fielding drills on Friday morning. To one side of him, Ike Davis shouted out lyrics to a Journey song. Wright, a TV buff, yelled over him to offer a loud, and rather critical, opinion of "The Walking Dead."
This is the atmosphere that Wright has helped cultivate, and Friday was his last chance to lord over it before things grow serious. Set to board an Arizona-bound plane on Saturday, Wright will soon meet his new Team USA mates during World Baseball Classic workouts. The blue on his uniform will remain in place, albeit a shade darker, while the orange will transform into red.
"Of course, I'll miss being here and I'm sure I'll have to catch up a little bit once I get back," Wright said. "But for me, the chance to represent Team USA, to go play for your country, was something that I just couldn't pass up. I had so much fun the last time. I wanted to do it again."
|Bracket | Full scoreboard|
Growing up, Wright dreamed of playing on Team USA's teenage clubs, but never received an invite. Because he turned pro straight out of high school, the Olympics were not an option. That left the Classic, which first called the third baseman's number in 2009.
For Wright, it turned out to be a transformative experience. His walk-off single against Puerto Rico allowed the Americans to stave off elimination, eventually launching them into the tournament semifinals. That hit, Wright says, ranks "right up there" with anything he has ever achieved in a Mets uniform.
"My country is very, very important to me," Wright said. "But the Mets are equally important to me. Both are right there at the top of my list, as far as taking pride in putting on the uniform."
Wright remains mindful of that conflict as he departs for the Classic. More than ever, the Mets are his team, with a new eight-year contract in place and a possible captainship waiting when he returns. Upon arriving at Port St. Lucie this spring, Wright spoke about the comfort level of having the same locker and the same parking spot for the next eight years.
Such stability comes with added responsibility; it is Wright's job to help mold the next generation of Mets into winners. Just as he and Pedro Feliciano are the only current Mets who were around for the team's playoff run in 2006, Wright could be the only one still here when his new contract ends. He is under team control longer than Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Travis d'Arnaud, longer than Jon Niese, certainly longer than anyone on the coaching or front office staffs. When his deal expires, he will be on the verge of his 38th birthday.
So this is an important spring to establish relationships with Wheeler and d'Arnaud, who are in their big league infancy, while also serving as a de facto coach. There is a decent chance the Mets will officially name him captain after he returns from the Classic, slapping a formal title on something everyone already seems to recognize.
"I understand my responsibility here," Wright said. "But once I put that Team USA jersey on, my responsibility is to that organization, to that team. It would have been nice to be here, especially to get to know some of these younger guys, both as players and in the clubhouse. But you can't have both. As far as I'm concerned, you don't get this opportunity too often so I wanted to represent my country."
There is, of course, a risk of injury at in Classic, but Wright says he could just as easily hurt himself here. There is the risk of working into game shape too soon, but manager Terry Collins insisted he has "no concerns."
So Wright will give Team USA everything he has, in hopes of adding an international championship to his resume. For a few weeks -- and only a few weeks, nothing more -- he will freeze his lifetime loyalties to the Mets.
"Some of my friends grew up Mets fans like me," Wright said. "Some of my friends grew up Orioles fans. Some of my friends are now Nationals fans. It's kind of divided. But when you put the Team USA uniform on, everyone can unite a little more when you represent something like that."