PORT ST. LUCIE – David Wright traded the orange and blue threads for a white polo shirt and navy pants in his return to Mets spring training.
The club’s beloved captain arrived at First Data Field on Monday as a newly minted team special adviser, and got a taste of what it’s like to be on the other side.
“It’s a little strange putting on a different uniform,” Wright said. “That was the biggest decision I had to make today. I was like, ‘What do I wear?’ I’m so used to coming in and changing into uniform.”
Wright played his final major league baseball game in an emotional farewell last September at Citi Field. Wright was diagnosed with spinal stenosis in 2015 and dealt with numerous surgeries and health issues since. The 36-year-old went over two years without playing in a big league game before his final at-bat.
He now serves as a special adviser to COO Jeff Wilpon and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen after 14 years with the franchise.
“I definitely miss playing the game,” Wright said. “I don’t miss the physical aspect of it. I miss talking to the guys, I miss performing, I miss the big at-bat with runners in scoring position. I miss that feeling … I miss the competitiveness, I miss the preparation. I miss the ins and outs of getting ready.”
The seven-time All-Star third baseman will be available to the younger players if they have any questions. Wright wants to pay it forward because veteran players were helpful to him when he was first called up nearly 15 years ago.
Wright said his absence from the Mets really hit home for him when he was forced to find other ways to learn about the team’s day-to-day activities. Now, he absorbs Mets news just like regular baseball fans: By reading articles.
“It’s weird having to figure out what’s going on through channels where I was never accustomed,” Wright said. “I always had my finger on the pole. So that was strange. And watching baseball on TV. That’s when it kind of hit that I’ll be wearing slacks and a golf shirt instead of a baseball uniform.”
As has been the case with many of the Mets newest front-office additions, Wright awarded Van Wagenen’s seemingly everlasting energy and hard work all the credit for the team’s culture change. Van Wagenen is keeping Wright involved with the Mets with various phone calls and updates over the offseason.
Wright witnessed a Mets club with a new mindset on Monday and it reminded him of the 2015 NL pennant team. Then, players took the field and tried to win games for one another, and Wright sees a similar camaraderie forming with the 2019 club.
“You knew about a guy’s girlfriend or kid, you knew him on a personal level,” Wright said. “You wanted to go above and beyond and make sure you stopped that run from going home because it was going to effect his ERA.”
Wright, the franchise leader in a slew of categories including singles and runs scored, thinks many players in the Mets clubhouse — including Robinson Cano, Jacob deGrom and Jeurys Familia — will fill the leadership void he left behind.
“It seems like you got leaders all over the field with guys that can certainly get you to that point when you’re talking about the intangibles of a winning season,” Wright said. “It’ll be a good mix.”