CHICAGO -- The cheering had grown loud enough, the chanting overwhelming, so David Wright obliged. He jogged over to where the netting ends behind home plate at Wrigley Field, high-fiving the hundreds of Mets fans who refused to leave. Then he hopped over a railing leading to the top step of the dugout, shaking the hands of more fans there. Game 4 of the National League Championship Series had just ended. The Mets were heading to the World Series.
When Wright chose three years ago to re-sign with the franchise that drafted and developed him, accepting what ultimately proved to be a below-market deal from a fourth-place team, he spoke often of his World Series vision. Winning, Wright said, could never be as sweet with another franchise as with the one he grew up idolizing. And so he relished in this pennant, at least as much as anyone.
"To be able to do this here means the world to me," Wright said. "It wouldn't even come close to do it somewhere else. It might sound a little selfish, but I'm enjoying this. This is one of the best days ever for me."
Wright spoke slowly, clearly savoring his own words, as he stood outside the Mets' clubhouse late Wednesday night.
"People kind of giggled at us and laughed at us when we claimed that we were going to be a playoff team," he said. "I'm pretty sure that we were underdogs going into that L.A. series. I'm pretty sure that we were underdogs going into the Chicago series. So to be able to go out there and win it with this group of guys, and be able to prove everybody else wrong -- I hate to use that cliche, but it feels really good. Because we knew we had a good team in Spring Training and we backed it up."
In reaching their first World Series in 15 years, Mets teammates and coaches saved their finest words of praise for two people. One was manager Terry Collins, a baseball lifer who reached the game's pinnacle during his fifth decade in it. The other was Wright, whom the club drafted in 2001, brought to the big leagues three years later and leaned on during the postseason another two years after that. Wright speaks often about how he assumed that would be the first of many busy Octobers.
He has since learned how rare these opportunities can be. As late as this July, even if Wright believed a World Series run could happen for the struggling Mets, he couldn't be sure he would actually be a part of it. For four months, Wright rehabbed his spinal stenosis condition, which threatened his very career. He rehabbed in California, then returned to baseball activities in Florida, finally rejoining the Mets in August.
"It's been a long road for me, personally," Wright said. "But every day of rehab, I dreamt about this moment -- not only getting to the playoffs, not only getting to the NLCS, but hopefully dreaming about what it would be like to play in the World Series. Words can't even describe it. This is the World Series. This is the World Series."
Wright's manager, Collins, thought back nearly six years, to his first season as the Mets' Minor League field coordinator. That spring, Wright -- by then an established All-Star with little business on the Minor League side of things -- walked up to Collins to introduce himself.
"That tells you what kind of guy he is," Collins said. "And then when you're around him and you see the character he has, and how he approaches the game, and how he feels about the game, and then to re-sign here with his status when he knew there were going to be some tough times, it tells you what kind of person he is."
If nothing else, Wright is now the kind of person who wins pennants. He is not Yoenis Cespedes or Matt Harvey or Daniel Murphy, and even if the Mets go on to win the World Series, it's unlikely that Wright -- a 32-year-old who hit .286 in four NLCS games -- will be the best player on the field.
But he will continue to be the face of a team, a clubhouse, a borough and a city.
"This team is kind of a combination of the 'Miracle Mets' and 'Ya Gotta Believe, '69, '86, 2000,'" Wright said. "To be able to be mentioned in the same breath as those teams, we're going to go down in Mets history as one of the greatest Mets teams ever assembled. And I'm proud of that."