Esposito: Wright’s End Song

It was a Wright-eous Love fest at Citi Field on Saturday, as the sellout SRO crowd enjoyed celebrating the “return” and end song of their beloved Captain, David Wright, in what was acknowledged as his final major game.

You could have held a Banner Day with all of the hundreds of signs and congratulatory messages held by the thousands of fans who broke out all of their Wright t-shirts and jerseys for the celebration.

It isn’t often that batting practice appearances are applauded like a game winning RBI, but when D Wright hit the cage, the fans erupted.

Wright returned the love with some shots to the stands in left and other impressive drives.

After BP, Wright also demonstrated one of the characteristics that made him such a fan favorite by signing hundreds of autographs and agreeing to dozens of selfies with the fans behind the plate and later down the right field line for a lengthy time. To one young fan, Wright handed him his BP batting gloves.

The Wilpons were among the many well-wishers pre-game, and there was even a Yoenis sighting. The heel-recovering outfielder came back to congratulate the Captain, as well as Cliff Floyd and Michael Cuddyer, among others.

Wright thanked all of his teammates for their support and friendship by giving each one an inscribed bottle of Don Julio Tequila. On the back side of each was the message, “Thanks for the Memories,” with his number and facsimile signature. His teammates returned the favor with an engraved bottle of wine and had Jacob deGrom present it to Wright.

To a man, the players were eager participants to the celebration, and were grateful that Wright had the opportunity to end his career in a fitting manner.

“Oh, yeah, this has been a kick to be a part of this,” said Dominic Smith. “It’s been exciting to see. David’s such a great teammate, a great person. I’m not even going to open (the Tequila). I’m going to ask him to sign it and keep it (on display).”

Michael Conforto recalled the day he was drafted by the Mets and he was almost immediately welcomed by the Captain. “He called me about twenty minutes after I was drafted. Everything David does is the kind of player we all want to be.”

Manager Mickey Callaway voiced the same sentiment before the game.

“Everything everyone has ever said about David Wright is absolutely true. As a performer, as a leader, as a person…we’re doing something special for David not for the numbers he put up, but for the person he is. If you’re not a person like David, you don’t get this.”

When Callaway got the job last winter, one of the first players he heard from was Wright. “He said, ‘I’ll do whatever you need me to do.’ He’s a special player, a special guy, a winner, that’s for sure…He chose to do the right thing every single day.”

The game didn’t start until there was a very special, very unusual “second” first pitch. When it came time to take the field Wright led his team onto…wait, by himself, with his teammates leading the applause by the dugout. Second man out was Jose Reyes, whom Callaway had said “had the biggest smile” when told he was playing side by side with Wright once more.

The tag team of Reyes at short and Wright at third had come full circle.

Once the full complement of players took the field, Wright went behind the plate, to “catch” the first pitch by his two-year-old daughter, Olivia. Accompanied by his wife, Molly, and his parents, it was a beautiful family moment for the Wright clan.

“I gave that about a 10 percent chance of really happening,” Wright said after the game. “When Jeff floated the idea a few weeks ago, I thought that was awesome.”

Wright had his first official 2018 at-bat the night before, when he grounded out to third on the first pitch he saw off Marlins pitcher Jose Urena. He had two more chances on Saturday to put some curvy numbers on his 2018 batting average, but walked in the first off Trevor Richards, and then in the fourth, fouled out to Marlins first baseman Pete O’Brien.

That placed some symmetry to Wright’s total career, as his first plate appearance in 2004 also ended with a foul pop-up, that time to Marlins catcher Brian Schneider, who by chance was in the building again this time as the Marlins catching coach. The eventual Met became a good friend to Wright when he later joined the Mets, and the two hugged strongly prior to the game.

“I wish I had gotten a hit, but at least I have an on-base percentage this year,” Wright lamented later.

At the top of the fifth, Wright took the field, but his final exit was already scripted. Callaway sent Amed Rosario to take over for short. Reyes moved to third, and Wright slowly left the field to a vociferous ovation, the Captain America theme music from the Marvel movies, and Free’s classic rock hit, “All Right Now.”

Hugs and waves all around and a well-deserved curtain call, and Wright’s career comes to a close.

After his on-field exploits, Wright made appearances in the radio and TV booths. “I want to thank the organization, the city, the fans,” Wright said to Howie Rose. “Tonight couldn’t have gone any better than…well, I told (coach) Ruben Amaro (on the foul pop that ended his batting career), ‘You’ve got to trip that guy, stick out a leg or something…”

As for his next chapter, Wright had no answer.

“It’s been a long couple of weeks, but tonight went fast. I love the game, and I’d certainly like to stick around if they’ll have me.”

They will, David, they will, anytime and in any capacity, there’ll always be room for the Captain at Citi Field.

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