The Captain returns to Mets Spring Training

March 31st, 2022

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Dressed in a familiar blue shirt, Mets cap and pinstriped pants, David Wright joked Thursday that he was wearing his “costume.” He downplayed its significance. He did not dwell on it.

The truth is that the Mets uniform means something to him. Until Thursday, Wright had not worn it since Sept. 29, 2018, when he appeared on the field as an active player for the final time.

“It still fits,” Wright quipped, looking, at age 39, as if he could play a few innings at third base.

Wright cannot, of course; the same spinal condition that ended his career continues to limit him in his daily life. He doesn’t golf much anymore. He certainly hasn’t spent any time in the batting cage. But Wright is happy, content to be a father to three children. His two oldest, Olivia Shea and Madison, will always warm fans’ hearts for their roles in the ceremony prior to Wright’s final game. His youngest, Brooks David, has begun fooling around with a bat and a ball. (Brooks may be left-handed, unlike his pops.)

“That’s all the kid wants to do,” Wright said. “I know every father gushes about their kids, but that’s all the kid wants to do is play baseball.”

This week, Wright took a break from fatherhood to travel to Port St. Lucie for the first time in two years. Back then, he was a front-office advisor, dressed in khakis and a polo shirt for his daily treks to camp. Now, he no longer holds a formal affiliation with the team, so manager Buck Showalter invited him to St. Lucie as part of his initiative to use ex-players as guest instructors. Wright became the latest to participate, following Mike Piazza, Mookie Wilson and Al Leiter.

That gave Wright an opportunity not only to slip on a uniform for the first time in 3 1/2 years, but also to interact with old buddies. On Thursday, he spent time chatting with one of his closest ex-teammates, Jacob deGrom. He intended to seek out third-base prospect Brett Baty, who could become the Mets’ long-term solution at his old position. One of Wright’s brothers lives locally and received a visit. When St. Lucie Mets operations director Paul Taglieri heard that Wright was coming to town, he hid his car keys in a desk drawer to prevent Wright from pulling one of his fabled pranks on him.

Wright also took part in a daily hitters’ meeting -- mostly staying quiet, but chiming in from time to time to offer what knowledge he could. One of the most feared sluggers in franchise history, Wright hit over .300 in seven of his 12 full big league seasons. He clubbed at least 20 homers on six occasions. So when Wright spoke, Showalter said, “You could hear a pin drop … it was really great stuff.”

“I miss baseball,” Wright explained later. “I really miss talking baseball. I miss being around it.”

As gifted as Wright may be at this sort of thing, however, he’s not interested in doing it on a more permanent basis. Even once his kids are grown, Wright said, he has little desire to reenter the grind of professional baseball and all the flights, bus rides and early wakeup calls that go along with it. Instead, Wright will keep a respectful distance, offering help when he’s asked but otherwise watching from afar as he enjoys the pleasures of fatherhood.

Wright does intend to visit the Mets when they visit his adopted hometown of Los Angeles, and perhaps make short trips to other cities on the West Coast. He hopes to travel to New York for a week this summer with his family, which will give him another opportunity to be around the team. But Wright won’t be participating in Old-Timers’ Day because, in his words, “I don’t consider myself old.”

Even so, Wright is part of Mets history now, no longer part of the present. He’s an alumnus, and as one of the more successful players in franchise history, Wright figures to fit into the organization’s plan to increase its pace of number retirements over the next few years. Keith Hernandez will have his No. 17 hung from Citi Field’s top tier this summer. The short list of others who could follow begins with Wright’s No. 5 -- a potential honor that he considers only when asked to.

“I’ve never been one to go out there and search for or look for awards or accolades or any of that stuff,” Wright said. “I was very fortunate to get a chance to do this for a living. I think that’s plenty for me. The opportunity to be able to now not have to work and be able to be around my kids growing up -- baseball has been very, extremely good for me. Anything else is just icing on the cake.”