David Wright honored by owner's praise but says he's no Derek Jeter
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- David Wright has been assigned the same parking spot for years. It is near the front of the players' lot, right next to a gate that opens into a pathway that leads to the back door of the clubhouse.
He has always preferred this entrance. From there, he can quickly reach the indoor batting cages or easily get to his locker, the one located closest to the exit.
"I like going this way," the Mets third baseman said Friday, a fact not lost upon those who enforce the hierarchy here. "They obviously like taking care of me."
Such are the perks reserved for Wright, the de facto captain of the Mets, who arrived weeks early for his first spring training after agreeing to stay with the franchise that raised him.
"I feel at ease," said Wright, who signed an eight-year, $138-million contract that almost certainly ensures he'll spend the rest of his playing days with the Mets.
The Yankees have retained a procession of franchise players -- Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle never donned any other uniform, and now Derek Jeter falls into that category -- but the Mets had never culled one of their own until Wright.
"To me, he's our Jeter," Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon said this week. "I think you need a core. I don't want to put it all on his shoulders, but he gets it."
But Wright, 30, was careful to put the comparison in context. Though flattered that Wilpon would group him with Jeter -- owner of five championship rings -- Wright said it was "probably undeserved."
"I don't know if there's anyone else in that class," Wright said. "He's in a class all by himself as far as I'm concerned. To be able to not only accomplish what he's been able to accomplish on the field but to do so while being in New York, under a microscope for one of the most famed sports franchises in the world, that's a tremendous accomplishment."
Wright continued as if he were reading Jeter's resume: first-ballot Hall of Famer, owner of more than 3,000 hits and the recipient of a "whole handful of World Series rings."
Indeed, by championships, there is no comparison. But by stature within each's franchise, Wright casts as large a shadow as Jeter.
"As far as I was concerned, he was not going anywhere," Wilpon said.
Looking back, even as the details of his contract extension had yet to be worked out, Wright said he shared the owner's sense of confidence.
"In my eyes, there never once was a moment where I was like I might put a different uniform on next year," Wright said. "Never. Ownership made it abundantly clear they wanted me here."
The contract left no doubt. With that, Wright fulfilled a dream, spending his career with the team he cheered for as a boy. In that way, Wright is no different from Jeter.
"There's not very many people that get a chance to grow up rooting for a team, get drafted by that team, get developed by the team and then spend their entire career with that team," Wright said. "I feel very fortunate to do that. And yes, I think that puts my mind at ease."