The date is August 24, 2015. The New York Mets are squaring up against the Philadelphia Phillies at their stomping ground, Citizens Bank Park. The leadoff man, donned in the Metropolitans’ blue and orange, shuffles to the plate to begin the second inning. He is met with emphatic applause by fans; some made the trek to the City of Brotherly Love solely to witness him in action. Adam Morgan serves him the 1-1 pitch. An inmistable crack resonates from the barrel of the bat as the baseball is launched into second-deck seats.
Mets captain David Wright has homered in his first plate appearance since returning from the disabled list, a narrative so artfully crafted that it seems almost too good to be true.
Indeed, even the most potent brand of fairytale magic has to subside sometime. The condition that kept him sidelined for much of that season, lumbar spinal stenosis, led to other debilitating injuries—namely a herniated disc in his neck and a subsequent shoulder impingement. The former limited him to 37 games in 2016, while the latter tore apart his plans to play in 2017 entirely. Whether or not he will be able to resume baseball activities in the coming season remains to be seen.
Because of the chronic, excruciating back pain that Wright must now endure, he adheres to an intensive rehabilitation regimen that lasts two to three hours every single day. Physically, he will never be the same. Living day-to-day is one issue—performing at the level of a professional athlete is a different battle all its own. Wright, however, remains steadfastly determined in his quest to return to the diamond. He meets this adversity with the down-to-earth and noble character that his name has become synonymous with across Major League Baseball.
Many a fan will tell you that David Wright did not deserve this fate. His prime was wasted away on rebuilding teams and teams that seemed destined to win it all. Now, as the Mets franchise deems itself a contender once again, he is reduced to a mere bystander in the dugout. Such circumstances serve as a reminder that though this is a child’s game, it can be unmerciful and cruel. It cuts legendary careers short and ends others before they even begin.
Nevertheless, David Wright has upheld a demeanor of utmost poise and grace in a time that is, without a doubt, marked with great frustration. He told the New York Post in April 2017, “If you are inclined to feel sorry for me, please don’t. Baseball has given me an incredible life.” Though he is unable to contribute on the field, he remains a permanent fixture within the Mets clubhouse, embracing his role as leader to his teammates.
He has also become increasingly involved in philanthropic work, raising $1.3 million for the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughter in his home state of Virginia. What he has given to this organization and the community over the span of 14 years cannot be found by glancing at a slash line; it cannot be measured in home runs, RBIs, or even wins above replacement. Certainly, talent of his caliber is rare and should be acknowledged. The résumé that he has compiled up to this point warrants a Hall of Fame discussion. But, even more noteworthy is that his impact goes far beyond the third base line.
I implore that those who wish for David Wright’s retirement to reconsider. For him to hang up his uniform would be bidding farewell to his livelihood. He, like so many others, has devoted himself entirely to this sport. To simply let go is far easier said than done. His unwavering commitment to baseball should be commended rather than criticized.
Of course, Wright is not ignorant. He fully comprehends the risk of attempting to play, and he meets with a number of specialists regularly. They indicate that a comeback is possible, and, until that is no longer the case, he will put forth his best effort. If continuing to pursue his passion is selfish, I believe that he has reserved the right to be selfish. As Mets fans, we are indebted to him. He has been a constant light in seasons overwhelmingly characterized by a sense of darkness. Through Ponzi schemes and late collapses, he has held the Mets together – not begrudgingly, but with a smile on his face.
“I don’t want to have regrets,” proclaimed Wright in a recent interview with MLB.com. He will not allow this narrative to come to a close before it has been written to completion, and, rightfully so, because he is the one who holds the pen. Regardless of the ending, we will be grateful to have read his story.