Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
If you were five years old when David Wright debuted for the Mets, you're probably in college or working now. If you were in college on July 21, 2004, maybe you have kids and a mortgage. If you were 21 years old that day, as Wright was, you're nearly 36 now, with two daughters and a back, neck and shoulder that bark at you every morning.
Why was Wright crying at the podium on Thursday afternoon, while announcing plans to end his baseball career after one final appearance? Why were you probably a little weepy too, watching at home or following along online?
Standing in the back of the room as Wright spoke, feeling an unmistakable heaviness in the air, what struck me was the passage of time, the reminder of our own fragility, and unmistakable sense that no matter how much success we enjoy, or money we make, the only guarantee about anything is that it will eventually end.
Remember Shea Stadium in the mid-2000s, when Jose Reyes danced and legged out flashy triples, and Wright smiled and clubbed homers? When it seemed for a moment that the two of them might make Queens the baseball center of New York?
Reyes is also 35 now, deep into a physical decline and wrapping up his Mets career. On Thursday, he sat in a chair in the the front row of the media room, alongside the reporters who have covered some or all of his partnership with Wright. Moments before they entered, a hug from Reyes in the clubhouse was what first brought out the waterworks in Wright.
Know this, though: Despite his tears, Wright understands that this is a largely happy ending. He is one of the true success stories in the game, healthy and productive long enough to become the captain of the team for which he rooted as kid, make piles of money, and play in the World Series. He is mature and well-adjusted, and realizes that he is among the very lucky ones.
Proof: Earlier this month, Wright was taking grounders with a bunch of relative kids in Las Vegas on a 100-degree day, laughing and smiling. This was his attitude, even when his body screamed at him to shut it down.
Several hours later on the same night, after Wright went hitless in five at-bats and struck out twice in a Triple-A game, he stood in a quiet hallway outside the locker room. He chatted about his future, and while he had not yet decided his exact plan, he was clearly comfortable with reality. "He's at peace with it," is how one of his oldest friends in the organization put it.
That night in Vegas, even while emphasizing how determined he was to return to the big leagues, Wright spoke at length about how much he enjoyed his new family (it was the phrase "My beautiful wife Molly" that really caught in his throat during Thursday's news conference).
He wasn't sad. Wistful, reflective? Sure. But Wright is mature enough to know how charmed of a baseball life he has led.
Time came for him anyway, as it does for all of us. Now Wright will go home to his family -- and those who loved watching his career will search for another marker of the years speeding by.