In the first inning, he shook hands with the umpire at third base. In the fourth inning, he pursued a groundskeeper who was pulling a sweeper, for a handshake and a hug.
“All these fans thanking me?” he said. “I feel like I should be thanking them for 14 great years.”
If Willets Point could have a mayor, Wright was it on Saturday.
That the Mets, owing to uncertainty about his health and perhaps to their bred-in-the-bone cheapness, did not spend months planning Wright’s comeback/retirement lent a welcome spontaneity to this celebration. Unlike with the Yankees, who specialize in choreographed Mausoleum Retirement Tours, this night unfolded in a joint packed with men, women, children and grandparents clad in No. 5 Wright jerseys amid a rollicking street-party vibe.
Wright came to bat in the bottom of the first, and walked. In the fourth, with nearly everyone at Citi Field figuring this would be his last at-bat, Wright attacked a pitch and got just under it, sending a towering pop-up toward the stands beside first base. The Marlins’ first baseman, Peter O’Brien, glided sideways, and then glided some more and caught the ball as he reached the stands.
It was, under normal circumstances, a nifty catch.
But under these circumstances, in front of these fans, it registered as a cardinal sin, and they showered O’Brien with relentless boos when he came to bat, when he trotted out to first base, whenever he touched the ball. Wright confessed he dug the nuttiness of it. “That’s that fan passion I was talking about,” he said. “That was cool.”
The Mets pulled Wright from the game in the fifth inning. There was a final, thunderous ovation from the fans, the Mets’ bullpen pouring onto the field to applaud him, the Marlins themselves standing and clapping.
Perhaps more revealing were those moments in the second and third inning, when Wright stood alone at third base, on his accustomed turf. He kept turning around, pounding his glove, kicking the dirt, looking about the stadium, as if to say to himself:
Remember. Remember this.