Wright's long journey leads to first Fall Classic
Mets captain savoring experience after injuries, lengthy postseason drought
KANSAS CITY -- David Wright has fought through injury and adversity. There was a time in 2012 when he was a year from free agency and wondered if his career would end somewhere else rather than with the Mets.
There was a time this season when he didn't know how effective he'd be after returning from a more than a four-month absence because of stenosis in his lower back.
Upon his return Aug. 24, the former All-Star third baseman had a heart-to-heart talk with manager Terry Collins.
"I didn't know how my back was going to respond to going out there and playing every day," Wright said Monday. "So I told Terry, 'If I struggle and am not hitting, get me out if there's a better option. I want to win.'"
Collins said he greatly admires Wright's character.
"That tells you what kind of a professional, what kind of a team-first attitude he's got," the manager said. "That's why he's the captain."
Fortunately, Wright remained productive and healthy and the Mets are back in the World Series for the first time since losing a five-game set to the Yankees in 2000. Since Wright's career began in 2004 and he's played all 12 seasons for the Mets, this is obviously his first time to the Fall Classic.
Collins, 66, also has been waiting his entire life to get here. Game 1 of the best-of-seven series against the Royals is Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8 p.m. game time) at Kauffman Stadium.
Game 1 will be the Mets' first World Series game since Luis Sojo dribbled a two-run, ninth-inning single to center off Al Leiter to win Game 5 and that series on Oct. 26, 2000, exactly 15 years ago Monday.
There was a time when Wright never thought it would happen. The Mets hadn't been to the postseason since losing a seven-game NL Championship Series to the Cardinals in 2006. Now, before all the tumult of the World Series begins on the field, he said he's taking the time to drink in the entire experience. It will be over before he knows it.
"You try to think about the road that got you to this point, I guess," Wright said. "So for the first time you try to get a little bit more philosophical about it. You think about your Little League days, playing travel ball, being drafted, coming up through the Minor Leagues. Going to the playoffs really early in my career.
"Obviously, the last nine years haven't gone the way I thought they would. Now playing in the World Series, you start thinking about the past and you just want to enjoy it."
Wright has as much a Mets pedigree as anyone on the team and arguably anyone in club history. He was selected by the Mets with the 38th overall pick in the 2001 Draft out of Hickory High School in Chesapeake, Va., and is the club's longest-tenured player.
He said that it was loyalty and an affinity for the organization, plus a nice sales job by general manager Sandy Alderson, that prompted him to sign an eight-year extension before the 2013 season that will likely make him a career Met.
"I like to consider myself a loyal person," Wright said, "but I had faith in what this organization was doing. I had faith in Sandy and the front office that they would put this kind of team on the field."
It took Wright 1,546 games to make it to the World Series. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's the most games played by one player with a single franchise before reaching the World Series since first baseman Todd Helton played in 1,578 games for the Rockies before they were swept by the Red Sox in the 2007 Fall Classic. The record of 2,564 games belongs to Craig Biggio of the Astros, who were swept by the White Sox in 2005.
All of this makes Wright's ascension even more dramatic.
"This is about this organization, the fan base, the city," Wright said. "I mean, when we got back from [beating the Cubs in the National League Championship Series in Chicago on Wednesday night] there were dozens of fans in our parking lot [at Citi Field] waiting for us to say hello and congratulations. Walking down the street, you get high-fives. You can see in the fans' faces just how excited they are about this. That's what makes this so special.
"I knew that if I had gone somewhere else and won right away, it wouldn't have felt nearly as good or nearly as satisfying as doing it here for a team that I grew up rooting for, for a team that drafted me when I was 18 years old. It's almost like a second family to me."
And so, after playing in 38 games this season because of his back woes, Wright has been able to keep it together just for this. He arrives at the ballpark early every day just to do the stretches and exercises for his back that allow him to play. There have been good days and bad, but not enough pain for him to ask Collins to sit him.
Over the next week, he'll find any way he can to play. After all, Wright has driven himself through enough injury and adversity just to get to this point.
"He's been a Met his whole career," Collins said. "This means a lot. I think he's thrilled to be a part of it."