PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- His cape and shield stowed away for the spring, Captain America watched on television Saturday evening as Team USA lost a thrilling World Baseball Classic game, 7-5, to the Dominican Republic.
It was just four years ago that David Wright earned that superhero nickname, his strong World Baseball Classic run coming months after the Mets signed him to a long-term deal and named him captain. Appearing in four games at the 2013 event, Wright hit .438 with a grand slam and 10 RBIs before an intercostal strain ended his tournament.
He has no regrets. And while he respects the opinions of teammate Noah Syndergaard and other U.S. players who have little interest in playing in the Classic, Wright politely disagrees.
"Everybody has their right to their own opinion, and obviously Noah doesn't think too highly of it," Wright said. "But I do. So I'm not sure if it's just a different mentality, and I'm not sure if there's a right or a wrong. But getting a chance to represent your country, and put that jersey on, and hear the chants of 'U-S-A, U-S-A' -- that's one of the highlights of my career."
One of the first players invited onto Team USA's roster, Syndergaard declined in November, citing his desire to be as strong as possible for the regular season. When pressed about his decision earlier this month, Syndergaard quipped: "Ain't nobody make it to the Hall of Fame or win a World Series by playing in the WBC."
The absence of American stars such as Syndergaard, Clayton Kershaw, Michael Trout, and Bryce Harper has led to a wave of opinion pieces contending that United States players care less about the WBC than their Asian and Latin American brethren. But Wright disagrees, citing the much bigger bucket of Americans who jumped at the chance to play for their country.
Wright found himself among that group for the first time in 2009, when his two-run, walk-off single sent Team USA to the tournament's semifinals over Puerto Rico -- a squad led by then-Mets teammates Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran. Even today, Wright counts that hit among the greatest moments of his 13-year career. The third baseman's 15 RBIs over two tournaments are the most in Classic history, while his .333 average ranks third among those with at least seven games played.
"Up to this point if you say, 'Hey, what's the most fun you've had on a baseball field?' I'd say the World Series," Wright said. "But I would say in the conversation of cool things that I've gotten to do on a baseball field, the World Baseball Classic is toward the top of that list for sure."
Wright's back, neck, and shoulder issues prevented him from being a consideration for this year's Team USA roster, and at age 34, he is unlikely ever to play in the event again. But the third baseman believes his interest in the tournament -- he watched Team Italy versus Venezuela on Saturday night alongside his family, in addition to Team USA and the Dominican Republic -- is the norm, not the exception among American-born players.
"I would argue the fact that American players aren't interested," Wright said. "Obviously, what Noah said made headlines, and you may not have Kershaw and Noah. But [Max] Scherzer at one point committed, before he had the finger injury. [Chris] Archer. [Marcus] Stroman. You're getting the top tier, I think, of what the U.S. players have to offer. You look at the lineup, it'd be hard to argue you could find much better."