NEW YORK -- In longtime friend and former teammate Michael Cuddyer's estimation, Saturday was akin to David Wright's wedding day. "You don't really remember it," Cuddyer said hours before Wright took the field likely for the final time as an active player. "You've got to look at the pictures."
When Wright does, whether in a day or a decade, he will see snapshots of both his life and career. He will be alone, charging out to third base, tapping the bag and saluting the crowd. He will be embraced, toting his two-year-old daughter, Olivia Shea, in his arms after catching her ceremonial first pitch. He will be in line, hugging each of his teammates on his way off the field. He will be the object of a sold-out crowd's adulation, tens of thousands buying tickets because they knew this might be their last chance to see him play.
Fourteen years after beginning his career amid soaring expectations, Wright walked off the field Saturday as perhaps the most popular player ever to wear the uniform. He took two last plate appearances in the Mets' 1-0 win over the Marlins, which Austin Jackson won with a walk-off single in the 13th. Then he departed, reemerging to make a postgame speech in front of those who stayed.
"This is love," Wright said, addressing the crowd. "I can't say anything else. This is love."
A night after Wright made an emotional return to Citi Field, pinch-hitting in his first game appearance in more than two years, he was back in the starting lineup, hitting third. The Mets scripted out the day, wanting Wright to take as much as possible from it. So they scheduled him for only two trips to the plate -- he walked and popped out -- and then ushered him to the television and radio booths for interviews. Although Wright would have liked to have had another at-bat, one last crack at another hit, he did not want to assert that upon the Mets.
Instead, he jogged out to third base in the top of the fifth and began ribbing longtime teammate Jose Reyes, when he noticed manager Mickey Callaway emerging from the dugout to remove him. Glancing around the stadium, Wright teared up.
"For a split second I looked around the field and I saw the signs and heard the chants," Wright said, "and everything kind of hits you at once."
The three surgeries, the years of physical therapy and recovery. The healthy times before then, the better times. The later years, the World Series and the memories therein. The teammates, the connections. That Wright departed as the franchise leader in hits, runs and RBIs tells but the slightest bit of his story.
"If you're not a person like David Wright is, you don't get to get honored like this," Callaway said. "These guys are going to play baseball for a small part of their lives, and then they have to be human beings the rest of it. They should all look up to David in that regard."
The truth, as Wright noted, is that most current Mets barely know him. Before Friday, Wright had not played in a Major League game since May 27, 2016. Among current teammates, Steven Matz holds one of the closer connections, having grown up a Mets fan on Long Island. Matz laughed pregame when someone quipped that the thousands of people on hand to watch batting practice were there to see him. On another night, Matz would have starred, striking out eight over six shutout innings.
But this was not another night. This was Wright's party, which began when he arrived at the ballpark to find "five or six dozen" fans waiting at the players' parking lot just to catch a glimpse. It continued with countless autographs after batting practice, with his daughter's first pitch and his own sprint onto the field. Olivia Shea joined Wright again after the game for his postgame news conference, clinging to his uniform as he, in a different way, did the same.
"I really don't want to go in there and get changed right now," Wright said. "I want to wear the jersey around a little longer."
Not long after, Wright leaned against his longtime locker in the home clubhouse, still in uniform, exhaustion in his eyes.
"I can't sit here and tell you that I'm good with where I'm at right now -- that would be a lie and that would be false," he said. "You love something so much and you want to continue that. … I'm at peace with the work and the time and the effort and the dedication that I've put into this. I'm certainly not at peace with the end result. But tonight was special."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Cue the celebration: Fans anticipating Wright's postgame speech were forced to wait four extra innings as the Mets and Marlins traded zeros. Finally, in the bottom of the 13th, Michael Conforto led off with a single and moved into scoring position on Jack Reinheimer's walk. The next batter, Jackson, ripped a walk-off double into the left-center-field gap, prompting his teammates to pour onto the field.
"David's always been a generous guy," Matz said, "so he gave us a playoff-type atmosphere even when we're not in the mix."
Wright is the Mets' all-time leader in hits, doubles, walks, runs, RBIs, total bases, at-bats, plate appearances and strikeouts. He is second in home runs, 10 behind Darryl Strawberry, third in batting average, fourth in on-base percentage and eighth in slugging. Wright also ranks in the Top 10 in games played, triples and stolen bases, and is the Mets' leader in Wins Above Replacement.
He started alongside Reyes on Saturday for the 878th time in his career, the most of any tandem in franchise history.
• Just like old times: Reyes, Wright share the field
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
There's a new villain in Gotham. In his final at-bat, Wright popped a ball toward the right-field stands, where Marlins first baseman Peter O'Brien made a difficult catch near the fence. Hoping the ball might drift out of play, Wright smirked as he walked back to the dugout.
Three innings later, O'Brien came to the plate amid a hail of boos. They continued throughout his at-bat until, finally, O'Brien flied out to center. Afterward, Wright quipped, "I feel bad for the guy, but I don't feel bad for the guy."
"That's the atmosphere that you like to play in," O'Brien said. "As an away guy, getting booed on the road, it's the best feeling."
FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM
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HE SAID IT
"I've never been one to love the spotlight. I love the playing field and I love being part of a team. But to be singled out tonight was something that was a little, for me at least, uncomfortable. But toward the end of it, I can't tell you how much I loved the fans' reaction. I can't tell you how much I loved the city's reaction. It was truly amazing and I can't thank everybody enough. It hit me right in the heart." --Wright
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Mets threatened to win the game in the 11th when Reinheimer reached on a walk, then put himself into scoring position with the first stolen base of his career. Reinheimer was ruled safe at second on a close call that stood after a Marlins challenge. Miami reliever Drew Rucinski then walked Jackson, but got Kevin Plawecki to hit into a double play to escape the jam.
With the pomp and circumstance of Wright's likely final game in the books, the Mets will complete their season Sunday in a 3:10 p.m. ET finale against the Marlins. Wright is not scheduled to play, though he will remain on the active roster. Noah Syndergaard will pitch for the Mets opposite Miami right-hander Sandy Alcantara.