Wright provides solid foundation
Mets star steps up in fight against multiple sclerosis
There was Scott Rolen, Wright's role model as a young third baseman, seated near the front row and clapping his hands. So was Cliff Floyd, Wright's mentor in the Mets' clubhouse. And the notable names continued on down the line -- Dontrelle Willis, Todd Zeile, Jason Marquis, Olympic athlete Sarah Hughes.
With unflappable poise, Wright addressed them all, stirring the crowd at the first-annual 'Do The Wright Thing' gala in December, held by the David Wright Foundation, which exists to fund centers fighting multiple sclerosis.
"We had a great turnout," Wright reflects. "It was a really strong first event. Going up to the podium and seeing Scott Rolen and Dontrelle Willis listening, and seeing all these important people in the community who attended, it was special to me."
At 23, an age when most players are just fighting to put down roots in the big leagues, Wright is perhaps the youngest in club history to start a foundation.
But Wright is savvy enough to acknowledge that he holds a bright future in New York. Across town, the Yankees' Derek Jeter launched his Turn 2 Foundation during his rookie season. That charity just celebrated its ninth anniversary and has prospered.
"It's something I wanted to do since I started playing baseball," Wright said. "You see players making impacts with their foundations. I wanted to be a part of that."
"For him to be as young as he is and to have as developed a mind as he does, it's huge," said Floyd. "I think it's only going to get better. He has a huge upside to himself, and I look forward to watching him play the game when I'm old and done."
The inspiration for Wright's charity came from a source near and dear to his heart. Stephanie Miller, the wife of Wright's agent and former Met Keith Miller, is among the hundreds of thousands affected by multiple sclerosis in the United States.
Wright calls Miller "more than an agent, he's a close friend," and said that when he first broached the topic of the foundation with Miller, the former big league infielder was moved by the gesture.
"He doesn't usually get so emotional, but I talked to him a couple of times on the phone and you could tell he was tearing up a little bit," Wright said.
For the foundation's first event on Dec. 14, the Wall Street gala used all proceeds to benefit the MS Comprehensive Care Center in Teaneck, N.J., and the M.I.N.D. Multiple Sclerosis Center in Detroit, Mich., raising more than $100,000.
Wright has bigger plans on the horizon. A golf tournament is scheduled for June 1, while Wright has been in contact with the Times Square Hard Rock Cafe about future events.
Also kicking around ideas about bowling events and possibly a charity poker tournament, Wright is planning to expand beyond just multiple sclerosis, spreading charity funds to firefighters, police officers, hospitals and more worthy causes.
The third baseman acknowledges his growing popularity among New York baseball fans should help to maximize the impact his foundation can have in the years to come.
"I understand that I'm very fortunate to be in the position I'm in, where I can use my name to influence the community," Wright said. "If I can use my name to influence people in a positive light, then that's something that's well worth it.
"I realize that I'm young and I've only been here a couple years, but New York's a great place to play baseball. The community really rallies around our players, so I've been able to use that to my advantage and the advantage of our foundation."
Floyd, the Mets' teammate perhaps most responsible for molding Wright's Major League attitude (only recently has Floyd conceded that Wright no longer has to carry his bags on road trips), says the best is still yet to come from the budding star.
"He hasn't even touched what he's going to do," Floyd said. "But he's going to still have to work. I tell people that I want him to get better and make all the money he can make and go to the Hall of Fame, because I would love to see him there one day."