'Santa' Wright gives young fans a thrill
Third baseman, Randolph, Franco host kids at Shea
There was no Mrs. Claus this year. But Santa had his helpers, including manager Willie Randolph and Julio Franco. And that was more than good enough for all concerned, especially the throng of kids from area elementary schools.
David Wright donned a new Santa suit and entertained more than 100 children representing seven schools from the five boroughs of New York City.
"[General manager] Omar [Minaya] is usually the Santa around Shea, so it's kind of neat to be able to don the outfit and assume his role for a day," joked Wright.
Before Santa arrived, Randolph led the children in several holiday songs and took some questions from the kids. At first the Mets' skipper fielded many softball-type questions until one astute seven-year-old addressed the biggest offseason drama for the Mets.
"Why don't you get Barry Zito?" asked the young fan.
Randolph chuckled and said that he hopes that wish comes true for the holidays.
Wright, though, was the hit with the children from P.S. 40 and 48 from Queens, P.S. 329 and 32 from the Bronx, P.S. 19 and 30 from Manhattan, and P.S. 14 from Staten Island.
Chanting "Santa! Santa! Santa!" the young fans greeted Wright with adoring praise, rushing up to him as soon as he entered the Diamond Club at Shea Stadium. Wright then sat in Santa's chair next to a Christmas tree adorned with Mets ornaments and, with the help of Randolph and Franco, handed out gifts to each child, even trading hats with seven-year-old Geralyn Reyes from P.S. 19, who came outfitted with a Mets winter cap.
"This is very fun," said Reyes. "Santa was really nice."
Each year the Mets host children from area schools, with a member of the team wearing the Santa outfit. For several years, reliever John Franco assumed the role with zeal, to the point that the Mets decided to retire his suit in respect to the good job he did.
This year, Wright -- with an artificial pouch that added pounds and shape to his stomach -- was as much a star as when he steps on the diamond.
"This is a tremendous joy," said longtime Mets fan Iris Nieves, the director of the Bronx Office of Youth Development. "The kids were so excited when they saw the stadium, driving in. And even more so when we came inside. And then to have David be so kind as Santa, what a thrill."
Santa Wright even mentioned his own wish list for the holidays.
"It would be great to have Barry [Zito] under the Christmas tree, and I'm sure the other Santa [Minaya] is working hard on getting that done," said Wright, who admitted that he is following the offseason transactions closely. "My New Year's resolution is, of course, to add a World Series ring to my finger."
Chris Girandola is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.