The end of the 2018 season was near and David Wright had not played since May 27, 2016.
After years of battling spinal stenosis, Wright was forced to reevaluate the remainder of his baseball career at the age of 35. After 12 years with the same organization that drafted him out of Hickory High School, Wright was forced to walk away.
Wright knew his body would never be able to handle the grueling 162-game season it once could and declared shortly before the Mets’ final homestand of the 2018 season that it would be his last.
It was the end of an era, one that began in 2001 when the Mets drafted Wright No. 38 overall and influenced him to de-commit from Georgia Tech. Wright got seven All-Star nods, two Golden Gloves and two Silver Slugger awards in a Mets career that was cut short.
Wright was diagnosed with spinal stenosis in 2015, which ended his season after just 38 games. His 2016 season was also cut short following a herniated disc and subsequent neck surgery.
Returning to baseball in limited duty in 2018, Wright suited up for the Mets’ Single-A affiliate in Port St. Lucie and their Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas. But Wright was a shell of himself. In 12 minor league games, he accumulated just seven hits in 41 at-bats, striking out 10 times.
However, the Mets knew their captain since 2013 deserved a proper send off.
In the fifth inning of the series finale with the Miami Marlins on Sept. 29, 2018, it was time for Wright to walk away from the bright lights of Citi Field for good.
He first shook hands with then-crew chief Michael Winters on the third baseline as then-Mets manager Mickey Callaway exited the dugout. Looking up at the sold-out crowd in Flushing, Wright saluted the roaring fans twice before slowly making his way off the field.
Turning around and touching the bill of his cap to salute the fans, Wright pounded his chest repeatedly as tears welled up in his eyes.
The first teammate to greet him was appropriately Jose Reyes, as the infield duo played 895 games together. The longtime teammates embraced, once the two young cornerstones of the organization.
Cameras caught Wright’s wife Molly Beers proudly looking on from the stands as she cradled their first-born daughter Olivia, who’s middle name, Shea, was in tribute to Shea Stadium.
Wright blew a kiss to the crowd and made sure to hug each one of his teammates, one by one, before making his way into the dugout for more hugs. He came back out to the field to tip his cap one more time, the stadium somehow growing louder.
The Mets defeated the Marlins 1-0 in 13 innings, but the night belonged to Wright.
“Man, I’m glad we won,” Wright joked to the fans in a postgame speech. “This is love, I can’t say anything else. This is love.”
Wright finished the final game of his career 0-for-1 with a walk and a putout, with his final out coming in a foul pop-up to Marlins first baseman Peter O’Brien. It looked as though O’Brien was hesitant to catch what he knew was a career-ending out in foul territory, but he did so anyway and was the primary target of boos for the rest of the game.
But the collective “Thank You, David!” that reverberated throughout the stadium drowned out everything else as he was pulled after the fifth inning.
“We’ve had some pretty good times here and some rough years but you guys have always had my back and that means the world to me,” Wright said. “I wish I could thank everyone individually but all I can do is say thank you from the bottom of my heart.
“Thank you for letting me live out my dream here every single night.”