Sidelined Wright finds purpose in camp

Sidelined Wright finds purpose in camp

NEW YORK -- The crowd behind David Wright was screaming his name, the familiar chant that's rung through Queens for more than a decade. The legendary Mets third baseman turned around, saw the mass of blue-and-orange-clad fans lining the bleachers and took center stage.

He didn't grab a bat, but a microphone. He didn't step into the batter's box, but onto a field at Camp Coleman. The Mets fans? Those were campers, who were delighted to spend part of their Monday afternoon hanging out with Wright. The feeling was mutual.

"I love it. I love it," Wright said. "Ross [Coleman] asked me to come out here before I got hurt, and he called back later and said, 'Is this still OK? Do you still want to come out?' And I said, 'As long as you want me out here.' Because I enjoy coming out, sharing stories with the kids."

The campers peppered Wright with questions, some more pointed than others.

"What color eyes do you have?" Brown.

"What's your wife's name?" Molly.

"What inspired you to become a pitcher?"

The third baseman took the inquiry in stride.

"I'm actually not a pitcher, but I wish I was because they have an easy job," Wright told the camper. "Position players win games. We clean up the pitchers' mistakes."

Later on, Wright was asked if he was "OK from what happened." What happened, of course, was the herniated disk in his neck, which resulted in surgery on June 16.

Wright said he's feeling well, and now "it's just a matter of time, kind of taking its course and allowing the bone to heal."

He said his six-week checkup went well, one of three benchmarks in his recovery. He'll also have a three-month checkup and a six-month checkup.

"It's definitely tough to sit back and watch the team, especially when we're struggling," Wright said. "When the team's scuffling a little bit, you want to be the guy to go out there and get the big hit, the guy to go out there and help lead the charge for a five-, six-game win streak."

He's been able to find purpose elsewhere, though, like answering questions from younger Mets. Wright found himself giving out answers on Monday, too, though to campers instead of teammates. After picking Wright's brain, the kids ran the bases and slapped five with the star before rounding third.

When he was a kid, Wright would attend Norfolk Tides games and feel lucky if he got an autograph or took a picture with a player from the Mets' former Minor League affiliate.

"Then all of a sudden, you turn on the television a week later and they're in the big leagues and you're saying, 'Wow, I just got a chance to meet that guy and now he's playing for the New York Mets.'"

Wright got to live that dream. He's played 13 seasons for one team, endearing himself to fans and teammates. One camper asked Wright what it was like to be the Mets' captain.

"It's the best feeling," Wright said. "It's not necessarily about how many hits you get, it's about how your teammates feel you're a leader… That's probably one of the biggest honors I'll ever get."

Joshua Needelman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.