Wright can do no wrong
Gold Glove Award winner. Three-time National League All-Star. Member of the exclusive 30/30 club. The list of on-field achievements goes on and on.
Off the field, the Mets phenom has twice been a guest on "Late Show with David Letterman," been immortalized at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Times Square, had a Delta Airlines plane renamed "The David Wright Flight" in his honor, not to mention the video game covers bearing his likeness or the private meeting with the President of the United States.
For most 25-year-olds, such attention would be a little overwhelming -- but David Wright is not your typical 25-year-old.
"David has always been grounded," said his mother, Elisa. "But if he starts to get a little ahead of himself, that's where Rhon (David's father), myself or one of his brothers will step in."
With an upbringing and support system like that, it's no wonder his transition to stardom has been smooth. Wright has embraced his role not only as one of the faces of the franchise, but also as a pillar in the community that supports his team.
"I have been blessed with the ability to play this game that I love so much," said Wright, "and I've always been taught that with great power comes great responsibility. I feel it's my duty to give 100 percent on the field, and give back to the people in this city who have given me so much."
It was in that spirit that the third baseman established the David Wright Foundation in 2005, initially to raise funds and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis in honor of a dear friend. The foundation's first event was a gala dinner at the New York Stock Exchange Member's Club, which raised over $100,000 for several Multiple Sclerosis centers in the metropolitan area, including the Gimbel MS Comprehensive Care Center at Holy Name Hospital inTeaneck, N.J.
A few months later, Wright visited the Gimbel Center and saw the impact that the foundation's efforts could have. In honor of his visit, the children in the center presented David with a number of gifts, including posters they had made for the occasion.
"That was such a special day. I think I ended up getting more out of it than they did," Wright recalled. "The kids wore their Mets gear and made me feel so welcome. It was an amazing experience, and it made me want to do more."
The foundation has since expanded its mission to support ill and disadvantaged children in the New York metropolitan area andDavid's hometown of Norfolk, Va. In the last three years, it has raised over $1 million for organizations such as the Make a Wish Foundation, Toys for Tots, as well as the Police Athletic League and the Patrolman's Benevolent Association-a tribute to his father, a member of the Norfolk Police Department.
Last year, another family member inspired David to embrace a worthy cause. His younger brother, Stephen, was a senior in Virginia Tech's engineering program and was in Blacksburg during the tragic events of April 16, 2007, that resulted in the deaths of more than 30 members of the school's community.
"My heart definitely skipped a couple of beats when I heard that the engineering building was one of the shooting sites," said the lifelong Virginia Tech Hokies football fan. "But I talked to my brother Matthew and found out Stephen was safe. That eased my mind, but I couldn't help feeling sorry for the victims and their families. That whole area is home to me and I knew that I needed to do something."
Through his foundation, David established a scholarship at Virginia Tech that each year provides full, four-year tuition for an engineering student, in honor of the victims.
Also in 2007, with support from Vitamin Water and Nike, Wright added the 5-Star Kids program to his roster of charitable efforts to help sick and underprivileged children. One facet of the program is donating tickets to youngsters who might not otherwise have the chance to attend a game. Each homestand, he hosts 30 kids representing various organizations around the city-from the Boys and Girls Club, to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit from the NYU Medical Center, to Tuesday's Children, which works with the families of the victims of the September 11th tragedy.
"When I was a kid, I would have loved the chance to come to Shea and see the players I grew up watching in Norfolk." Wright lived 10 minutes away from Harbor Park, the former home of the Mets' Triple-A affiliate, and frequently went to see the Norfolk Tides play.
Wright was the first of several Norfolk-area natives who would become first round selections and eventually big league stars. B.J. Upton, a teammate of David's at Hickory High School, his brother Justin, and Ryan Zimmerman were all first-round Draft picks.
"It makes you proud of where you came from, and you feel like you're in a special fraternity," Wright said. "We still work out together in the winter."
There is another fraternity that Wright recently joined when he represented the Mets at the 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium.
"I woke up one morning and had a message to call Omar (Minaya) right away. I thought maybe I was traded," joked Wright.
Of course, the Mets general manager was calling to tell David that he had been named to the team as an injury replacement for the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano.
"I was very appreciative to have the opportunity to represent not only the Mets but also the National League," Wright said. "When you add the fact that the game was at Yankee Stadium and the history of that building ... it's something I am never going to forget."
Wright entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the top of the eighth inning and was 1-for-3 with a walk in what turned out to be the longest All-Star Game in history, at four hours and 50 minutes.
"Obviously, the game didn't end the way we wanted to," said Wright of the National League's 4-3 loss. "But, the whole night was unbelievable. It was like walking around Cooperstown: Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Yogi Berra, Mike Schmidt all together in one place. I'm glad I didn't have to fly across the country for this one, because I had more time to just soak up everything that was going on around me and really enjoy the experience."
David had a chance to say goodbye to Yankee Stadium when he suited up for the National League, but the lifelong Mets fan isn't quite ready to bid farewell to its Queens counterpart.
"Shea has so many great memories for me: I played my first big league game here, I hit my 100th career home run here. But what I'll remember most is the 2006 season, especially the playoffs. I've never experienced an atmosphere like that. I think there's still some magic left in this ballpark though, so maybe we'll be able to send Shea off in style with another trip to October."
This story was used with permission from the New York Mets and originally ran in the July edition of Mets Magazine.