On July 21st, 2004, I was lucky enough to watch David Wright’s major league debut from the left field bleachers at Shea Stadium. Back then, you got into the bleachers for free on Wednesdays if you showed up early and had a Pepsi can or bottle, so we went pretty much every week the Mets were at home and saw some thoroughly mediocre baseball teams. The promotion ended after the 2005 season when management, sensing the Mets were about to be pretty good, no longer needed gimmicks to fill random parts of the stadium.
I remember having followed Wright through the minors since the Mets had gotten him as a compensatory pick for the loss of Mike Hampton and being pretty psyched about his arrival. His debut was fairly unspectacular; he went 0 for 4, and the Mets won the game on a Nick Johnson error in the 8th inning against the old Expos, but over the coming weeks and months it became clear he was here to say. It was a transitory period for the Mets, for certain, but things were looking up.
Also on that 2004 Mets team was Mike Piazza, who didn’t play that day but split time between catching and first base that season, still a threat at the plate even if his powers were waning. He was the last reminder of the Mets of my teenage years and my favorite player for so long, who moved on after the 2005 season. By now I was 18 and in between my first and second year of college. When we sat in the bleachers during those otherwise miserable Mets seasons, Piazza would routinely crush balls into and over the old Shea bleachers, but once he arrived Wright joined him, and I actually managed to recover a ball Wright hit into the stands during BP and get it signed by Mr. Met (I hear it’s worth a lot of money).
That was eight years ago, and the torch was passed then from Piazza (who’s now on the Hall of Fame ballot) to Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and the would-be Mets dynasty of the late 2000’s. A lot can happen in 8 years, and while those teams fell short, I was a massive fan of both Reyes and Beltran. Reyes’ departure was painful, Beltran’s was far more inevitable, and by 2012 David Wright remained as the last link to both them and Piazza.
It seemed like anything but a certainty for a long time, but at least now he’ll be around for another 8 years, the face of yet another generation of Mets players who, ownership issues aside, hopefully accomplish what none of his teammates could before. At the very least, he’ll be around for eight more years while they try to figure it out, the last man standing out of all of them, and that’s pretty swell in and of itself.