If you were building a major league
baseball superstar from scratch, what attributes would you incorporate within him? Would he have a great bat, a good fielding
arm, patience at the plate or would he just be a solid team leader?
Regardless of what you envision
the perfect major leaguer to be like, you definitely wouldn’t expect him to have all of those abilities as soon as he
donned a major league jersey, unless you were talking about David Wright.
From the second he was called up
to the Mets from Triple-A Norfolk last season, Wright has produced numbers unheard of for a young third baseman, thus making
it a no-brainer for the Mets to trade under-achieving third baseman Ty Wiggington to the Pirates for pitcher Kris Benson,
at last year’s trading deadline.
Wright, the Mets 129th
third baseman during the franchise’s 43rd season, gives the Mets a stable presence at third base that the
Mets never have had. Sure they’ve had Howard Johnson, Edgardo Alfonzo and Robin Ventura play the hot corner at different
points in their history, but none of them gave the Mets the triple threat of power, speed and patience at the plate as quickly
as Wright has.
“David Wright has one of
baseball’s prettiest swings and even though he is definitely worth talking about now, he should improve his outstanding
play in the future and be a great player for the Mets for many years to come,” says former Major Leaguer and current
Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner, who is a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, hitting over 360 home runs during
a brilliant nine-year playing career.
Wright himself has acknowledged
the high standards that people like Kiner and Mets Manager Willie Randolph have put on him by simply playing his heart out
every night, making great catches and delivering clutch hits with amazing consistency. Wright even dominates pitchers with
counts not in his favor, where you would think the young Wright would stand no chance.
“I don’t mind hitting with
two strikes or in bad counts,” says the 22-year-old Wright, who ironically grew up watching the Mets Triple-A affiliate
in Norfolk, Virginia and is a life-long Mets Fan. “The more pitches you see, the more comfortable you get. To me, the
deeper you get in a count, the harder it is for the pitcher to fool you and you’ve seen everything he has to offer you.
I’ve just grown accustomed to hitting in bad counts, I mean I’d rather not (hit in bad counts), but I’m
comfortable with it if it happens.”
Suddenly comparing Wright to greats
like George Brett and Mike Schmidt doesn’t seem that far of a stretch. Wright doesn’t even seem overwhelmed by
those comparisons, admitting he puts more pressure on himself than anyone else does.
“Those guys [Brett and Schmidt]
were great players that did a lot for this sport,” said Wright, who grew up idolizing Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr. “It’s
really an honor and a privilege to be compared to players like that by such a smart baseball guy like Willie Randolph. Those
are some pretty high expectations for anyone to live up to, but I think I have some pretty high expectations for myself and
I really want to succeed. Comparisons like that are nice, but I still think I have a long way to go before I become that kind
Despite Wright’s passion
for the game and a quiet seriousness that’s obvious while he’s on the field, Wright is a great teammate that keeps
things light in the dugout during the course of a game. After a Ramon Castro home run on August 13 against the
Dodgers, Wright rushed to Castro and performed what seemed to be a rehearsed handshake with a skip at the end.
“I have a handshake for pretty
much everyone on team,” says Wright, laughing. “We just try and keep things fun in the dugout. Ramon (Castro)
is great teammate. He always does this little skip, joking around the dugout, so we added that into the handshake. You got
to keep things fun out there. It’s just a bunch of big kids playing a game, so you have to have a good time and smile
when you’re out there.”
Wright’s antics in the dugout
have slowly made him a stellar teammate on a team filled with big names like Carlos Beltran, Mike Piazza and Pedro Martinez.
In a day where players like Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield cause drama in the locker room on a regular basis, but are dealt
with because they put up great numbers, Wright would easily be forgiven if he simply put up quality numbers year in and year
out. No one would care if he wasn’t a good locker room guy, but this is David Wright we’re talking about, not
Manny Ramirez or Gary Sheffield.
“I played against David Wright
a lot when I was in the Dodger system,” said Mets right fielder Victor Diaz, in the Mets dugout an hour before the Mets
faced the Washington Nationals on August 19. “Then we played a little bit together in Triple-A last season. God has
blessed him with so much talent, he’s just a great teammate; he’s great to the fans too. I don’t think anyone
could say anything negative about Dave, only positive.”
While Wright may be putting up
some of the best offensive numbers on the Mets so far this season and is a great presence in the clubhouse, the best thing
about Wright is that he knows he still has a lot to learn.
Early this season Wright committed
a handful of errors on the field and as a result is leading National League third basemen with 19 errors. To counter act this,
Wright has spent extra time at practice, taking grounders at third base with bench coach Sandy Alomar. His hard work has evidently
paid off, as he only has only committed three errors in his past 30 games played.
Wright also understands that his
teammates play a vital role in his success and has been earning their respect off the field with a great attitude that shows
the 22-year-old is about a lot more than hitting over .300 and having 70 plus runs batted in. As a show of respect, Wright
has been carrying Mets left fielder Cliff Floyd’s bags from the field and the hotel all season. Wright figures it’s
the least he can do for the 13-year veteran who is enjoying his best season in quite some time.
“It’s kind of a mutual
thing between me and Cliff. He buys me suits and takes me out to lunch a lot; I think it’s a pretty fair deal. Everyone
on this team has been so great to me, Chris Woodward, Doug Mientkiewicz, Cliff Floyd and Mike Cameron, all those guys have
really been there for me,” says Wright. “This team has such great chemistry on and off the field and collectively
has really helped me out a lot. It was a dream come true for me to be drafted by my favorite team growing up and I just want
to make the most out of this opportunity.”