CINCINNATI - Time had dulled the memories. It all moved so quickly then, and David Wright didn't know any better than to expect more champagne, more success.
In 2006, he took it for granted, he admits. But on Saturday, as the Mets came to within three outs of their first National League East championship in nine years, Wright resolved not to make the same mistake.
So before the delirium could be unleashed, before the champagne showers and the cigar smoke and the victory lap around the field, he scanned the stands to hard-wire the memories into his brain.
"I've said it from Day 1," Wright said after hitting a three-run homer in the Mets' 10-2 victory over the Reds that clinched the division title, "I bleed orange and blue. To be able to celebrate with these fans, this city, this team. Incredible feeling."
Wright, 32, is the lone link to the Mets' last playoff run, the only player to emerge from the franchise's descent into a valley.
He signed a long-term deal during the franchise's darkest days and committed to stay partly on promises of a turnaround, only to have his health battered over and over again.
But as Wright tackled his latest health scare -- spending four painstaking months of rehab to beat spinal stenosis -- he sustained himself with visions of what the Mets finally accomplished Saturday night.
"When I was laying on my back rehabbing for a few months this summer, this is what you dream of," he said. "This is what motivates you. This is what pushes you. This is what drives you. Again, not just for what we do on the baseball field, [but] for how close this team has come and how we play for one another."
Fittingly, Wright added the final flourish, a three-run shot in the ninth. He added yet another signature moment, along with his dramatic slide during the Mets' sweep of the Nationals, plays that chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon called "the exclamation point for me."
Since Wright's return, the Mets have managed his playing time. But the captain insisted upon being on the field for the end of the playoff drought.
"He is who he is," manager Terry Collins said. "And he's a special guy and he does special things, and to have him hit that home run today, can't happen to a better guy."
After his ninth-inning homer, Wright retreated to the clubhouse, where he was greeted by the plastic sheeting covering the lockers. It was another memory burned into his mind, another moment he'll shield from time.
"As much as you're prepared for this moment, you can never quite understand how much fun this is," Wright said. "And how exciting this is until you actually experience it, until you get that strike three and getting a chance to celebrate with your teammates."
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