11/17/2004 9:00 AM ET
Wright gets warm welcome at home
Mets rookie returns to Norfolk as local hero
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- David Wright returned to southern Virginia as a conquering hero of sorts early this past summer when he was promoted from the Mets Double-A club in Binghamton to their top affiliate in Norfolk.
|David Wright hit .293 with 14 homers and 40 RBIs in 69 games for the Mets. (Kathy Willens/AP)
For the Norfolk native, few situations could have been sweeter. Returning home this offseason as a bona fide Major Leaguer, however, is one of them. Wright went home early in October, fresh off a spectacular two and a half months as a rookie sensation in New York, and he quickly discovered that once you've hit the big time, life changes.
Wright, who hit .293 with 14 homers and 40 RBIs in 69 games for the Mets, is humble about the attention he's gotten. His sterling character has been evident throughout his rise to the Major Leagues and that attitude hasn't changed now that he's on everyone's "it" list.
"It was a little different reaction," Wright said. "Our community is great and you get recognized. But celebrity is not the right word. I'm just recognizable. And I was really surprised about it. It's amazing that you come home and people recognize you. I didn't ever expect that.
"You go to a mall and someone comes up to you and they want to shake your hand or get an autograph. It's very flattering. The people here know exactly what I hit and what I did. They give me the numbers. They watch and know exactly what's going on. They know everything about you."
Wright was chosen in the first round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, a sandwich pick at No. 38 given to the Mets after Mike Hampton signed with Colorado. He was coming off a stellar career at Hickory High School, where he earned All-State honors from 1999 through 2001. Wright, 21, was the Gatorade Virginia High School Player of the Year as a senior, and the folks back home didn't forget that.
This past weekend, Wright had his high school number retired at a halftime ceremony of a sold-out Hickory football game. Clearly, he was touched.
"It was great because I played there for four years," Wright said. "That was the community in which I grew up. I was raised here and to have that kind of turnout, it was incredible to see that kind of community support.
"The people here are very knowledgeable that they have a homegrown product. People stop and ask me about [new manager] Willie [Randolph] and all kinds of baseball questions. They really know what they're talking about. It's intelligent conversation."
Wright also appeared on a baseball card this season and had his image saved for posterity in the form of a bobblehead doll. The doll was given out at a Class A St. Lucie game this season. Wright was a Florida State League All-Star for St. Lucie in 2003.
"[St. Lucie general manager] Paul Tagliere told me they were thinking of doing the doll this year," Wright said. "You get a kick out of it. You see it and you can't even explain it. You collect baseball cards and the bobbleheads as kids, and when you see it, it can be a bit overwhelming."
Wright hasn't been so overwhelmed, though, that he is resting on his laurels. He began weight training the week after the season ended, is swimming and running twice a week and has already begun hitting and throwing twice a week.
"The first week after the season I was able to reflect," Wright said. "It gave me an opportunity to take a deep breath and take a look back. But I still have a lot of work to do. Once you get that taste in your mouth of being a big leaguer, you want to become better and better."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.