BY JOE RINI
For third baseman David Wright, captain of the New York Mets, there will always be demands on his time beyond playing the game. Whether it’s signing autographs during batting practice for young fans whose faces are lit with excitement when they see him or standing before a throng of reporters after a game, David Wright is never unnoticed.
The Rockland County Times chatted with Wright on the dugout steps prior to Saturday’s game and asked how he handles the demands that go with being “the face” of a franchise and he said time management is key. For example, as part of his pregame preparations, Wright knows he has about 10 minutes after batting practice to meet with the fans, and it is something he enjoys doing.
During his tenure with the Mets, Wright has gone from being the young guy on a veteran club to being a seven-time all star and the captain of a young team. Looking back, he’s grateful for veteran players like Cliff Floyd and Joe McEwing, who gave him a “hard time” and “tough love” but taught him lessons like the importance of getting to the park early. He said their mentorship provided him the “foundation to being a successful big leaguer.”
He hopes to pass those lessons on to the next generation. As for 2014 with the Mets sitting in fourth place, Wright said, “No one is happy with the position we are in” and the team has missed opportunities to win games they should have won, but the team has young players “learning on the job…and that’s the best way to learn.”
Wright has had his own struggles, middling along with a career low OPS barely above .700. Barring a “Ya Gotta Believe” late season run, the playoffs do not appear to be in the cards, wild or otherwise, for the Mets in 2014. As young players like Matt den Dekker and Wilmer Flores get increased playing time down the stretch, the fans will hope they are fast learners and that 2015 will be the year Wright and the Mets turn it around and return to the postseason.
With his performance in Saturday’s 7-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs, 26-year-old relief pitcher Vic Black solidified his role as a setup man. Black entered the game in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and no outs and proceeded to retire the Cubs in order without allowing a run to score. Afterwards, manager Terry Collins said, “He’s been unbelievable. The job he’s done to come in with guys on base is truly amazing.”
However, prior to Saturday’s game, Black also helped former Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin as she practiced throwing the ceremonial first pitch. A Gold medalist at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Liukin is pursuing a sports management degree at NYU and also does commentary for NBC. Liukin delivered a strike to homeplate and may have helped Black become the early favorite for the Mets pitching coach job in 2035.
Saturday’s game had an added local flavor as the Mets honored Master Chief Daniel Parkhurst of nearby Liberty, New York with its Veteran of the Game honor. Parkhurst, a 30-year veteran of the United States Navy Seabees, whose career includes a couple of tours of duty in Iraq, was honored with a video tribute in the middle of the third inning and was presented with an American flag by Eric Campbell of the Mets.
The Mets enter play on Wednesday with a record of 59-68. The quest to reach .500 for the first time since 2008 becomes more daunting as they travel to the west coast to play the Oakland A’s and the Los Angeles Dodgers this week before returning to Citi Field on August 26 to play the Atlanta Braves as part of a six game homestand.