Mets, Braves wear caps to honor first responders
Teams join MLB in league-wide 9/11 tribute
ATLANTA -- Fourteen years ago, David Wright was an 18-year-old ballplayer, newly drafted by the New York Mets, stopping by his parents' home in Chesapeake, Va., on his way to his first instructional league in Florida.
The phone rang. Televisions were turned on. And like millions of Americans, Wright watched in horror as the terror of the 9/11 attacks on New York City unfolded.
Wright debuted with the Mets a little less than three years later, on July 21, 2004, and ever since has been front-and-center in helping to recognize the city's first responders who reacted so bravely that day. Wright, his Mets teammates and the Atlanta Braves all honored the first responders on the 9/11 anniversary by wearing caps bearing the various organizations' logos during batting practice before Friday's game.
"I wish we would kind of celebrate the first responders a little bit more often," Wright, the son of a recently retired policeman, said before the game. "But it's nice that these brave men and women get the recognition and the credit they deserve. They're the true heroes."
All 30 Major League teams also will wear a special cap during games Friday with an American flag on the side. The caps will be sold and the proceeds donated to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the Pentagon Memorial and the Flight 93 Memorial.
"We should always honor those affected," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who was a third base coach with the Florida Marlins in 2001, "and never let people forget about what happened."
For the Mets and the Braves, the anniversary is especially poignant. Ten days after 9/11, on Sept. 21, 2001, these two teams played at Shea Stadium in the first game in New York since the attacks.
Wright hadn't made it to the big leagues yet, but he remembers the game well.
"Baseball is very small compared to that, but one of my favorite baseball games in history was the Mike Piazza homer game right after 9/11," Wright said. "As small as baseball is on that scale, for maybe a split second, the people of New York got to rally around us, and maybe it allowed a small distraction from what had happened days earlier. The USA chants breaking out, the flags … it was pretty spectacular."
Wright has spoken to several first responders in his years with the Mets. They are interactions that have shaped his views on the true meaning of heroism.
"Until you have a conversation with one of those firefighters, or a father that lost a son, or a son that lost a father, until you have a face-to-face conversation with those men and women … you don't quite understand the impact. It's something that you really get to understand the magnitude of the heroism that, instead of running away, these brave men and women ran toward it to try to help," he said, pulling on an NYPD hat on his way to batting practice. "Hopefully, this celebration [of the first responders] continues for many years to come."