David Wright recalls the announcement crackling over the school's public address system. Michael Cuddyer, a star player from another high school in Chesapeake, Va., had just been drafted ninth overall by the Twins.
No other player from the area had ever been taken so high in the draft. So Wright, who is three years younger, looked up to Cuddyer, hoping to emulate his work ethic so he also might be chosen in the draft someday.
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"Just the excitement, the buzz,'' Wright said this week as he remembered that day in 1997. "He brought a lot of scouts to that area.''
For years, the two have remained friends, working out together during the offseason. They will don the same uniform Tuesday night at Citi Field as members of the National League squad at the All-Star Game.
"There's not a guy that I'm more proud of,'' Cuddyer said of Wright. "Not just the numbers he's put out there or the way he's played the game, but more so the way he's handled himself. This is a tough place to play.''
In the offseason, Wright signed an eight-year, $138-million contract extension that formalized his commitment to remain a Met for life. In the first half, he hit .304 with 13 homers and 44 RBIs.
In a game loaded with 39 first-time All-Stars, Wright earned his seventh bid to the Midsummer Classic and earned a start in his home park.
Mets manager Terry Collins, a coach for the NL, gave up his office for NL manager Bruce Bochy. Wright, however, kept his own locker in the Mets-turned-NL clubhouse, another sign of the status he's attained since his days in the Tidewater region of Virginia.
"It's crazy, it's crazy,'' Wright said. "To come full circle and participate in one not only in New York but at your home stadium, it feels so special.''
Wright's favorite All-Star Game memory has always been his first appearance in 2006, when he hit a home run. But Wright expects new memories to be made Tuesday night.
"I think this one is going to take over as the most memorable All-Star moment for me,'' he said. "Taking the field for the first time, looking up and seeing the orange and blue in the crowd, just feeling that energy that these fans are going to be giving off, that's no question going to be number one.''
As the de facto host of the game, Wright spent much of Monday making media rounds and chatting with his NL teammates. Later, he took hacks in the cage alongside his Home Run Derby teammates.
Among them was Cuddyer, who marveled at Wright's grace in the spotlight.
"He's always had it,'' Cuddyer said. "He's always been that guy that does things the right way and is cognizant of doing things the right way. He's aware that people are watching him. He embraces it and he's proud of that.''
With Nick Klopsis