The moment David
Wright officially ascended to celebrity status in New York came last spring.
The Mets third baseman received a phone call from Big Apple housewife Jessica
Sklar, asking if he wouldn't mind helping her husband work on his swing. Wright
said yes, and that's how he ended up giving batting tips to Jerry Seinfeld one
afternoon at Shea Stadium. Matthew Broderick, star of The Producers, tagged
along. "They were a lot better than I thought they'd be," Wright says.
"Both those guys were driving balls into the outfield. I was laughing so
hard at the one-liners I couldn't concentrate."
Those aren't the
only celebs to make their way to Shea Stadium recently. Over the past two years
the Mets have reeled in marquee names at a rate once expected only of the
crosstown Yankees. Closer Billy Wagner, first baseman Carlos Delgado and
catcher Paul Lo Duca are this year's prize acquisitions, joining 2004 pickups
Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. But even with all that star power, it's
Wright, an affable 23-year-old, who has a chance to become Shea's answer to
Wright's first full season in the majors, he led the club in batting average
(.306) and RBIs (102) and hit 27 home runs. But his contributions went beyond
the stats. "What's special about him isn't just his bat," says general
manager Omar Minaya. "It's the energy that he brings to the team, the
youth, the joy, the passion for the game. The team feeds off him and
[shortstop] Jose Reyes." As part of his team initiation, Wright had to
carry luggage for veteran outfielder Cliff Floyd on road trips, and the two
developed a close relationship; Floyd repaid Wright's efforts by buying him a
couple of suits. "His wardrobe was struggling," Floyd says. "I was
able to pimp him out a little bit." Floyd also owes Wright a dinner, thanks
to a friendly bet the two made over who would finish with the most RBIs first.
"We battle," says Floyd, 33. "We fight like little brother and big
brother. I enjoy it because it keeps me younger."
has an apartment in Manhattan, he spent much of the off-season at his parents'
house in his hometown of Chesapeake, Va. He enjoyed hanging out with his old
buddies and watching his two younger brothers' high school games. (Wright is
the eldest of four brothers.) He owes much of his competitive drive to his
sibling rivalries. At home a simple game of cards or pool can quickly devolve
into trash-talking. "My brothers are the first ones to call me if I have a
good game," Wright says, "but if I drop a pop-up or make a stupid
error, they're the first ones to rib me about it. They keep me
doesn't put on a star's airs. He jokes as easily with the clubhouse workers as
he does with the team veterans, and he deflects praise onto teammates and
coaches. The Mets' acting player rep, Wright spent one morning in spring
training hitting up teammates for alumni association dues in the clubhouse.
He's generous with the media--he took time out to talk to a reporter from a
high school paper this spring--and accommodates autograph requests as often as
he can. "I remember as a kid going to see the Norfolk Tides [the Mets'
Triple A team] and just screaming for autographs, screaming for anyone to
acknowledge you," he says. "A majority of the players just walked by. I
told myself if I was ever in that position, anytime I had the available time,
I'd stop and sign."
Asked to name
the most exciting moment of last season, Wright recalled a game against the
Phillies on Aug. 30. He was on second base, and catcher Ramon Castro belted a
three-run homer in the eighth inning, propelling the Mets to a come-from-behind
win and pulling the team within a half game in the wild-card race. ( New York
finished six games out.) "Feeling the electricity and emotion in Shea
Stadium, the way that place exploded--that for me was the highlight," he
says. "That's why I want to play playoff baseball in New York."
As loaded with
talent as the Mets are, it's a good bet the Big Apple's newest star will be
doing just that come October. --B.S.
With 60 stolen bases in 2005, shortstop Jose Reyes became the first Met to lead
the NL in that category. Roger Cede�o (1999) and Lance Johnson ('96) had
a modest proposal
The Mets won't
get maximum benefit from power hitters Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, David
Wright and Cliff Floyd if they don't put runners on ahead of that quartet.
Shortstop Jose Reyes (right) has to improve his OBP--.300 last season, .303
career--or New York will have to move him to the bottom of the order and find
another leadoff man. Rookie second baseman Anderson Hernandez is the best
in-house choice. At 23 he's coming off a season in which he had a combined .357
OBP at Double A and Triple A, and he has the kind of speed that manager Willie
Randolph likes, with 35 steals in 132 minor league games last year.