On a bitterly cold night with a crust of snow on the ground in Virginia Beach, David Wright stood at a charity fundraiser in his home state and warmly described his New York state of mind. And mind you, this was January of last year, when a World Series that included the Mets seemed as unlikely as a blizzard in June.
"Has it been an easy road? Of course not," he said at David Wright Vegas Night, a big fundraiser for a local children's hospital that specializes in caring for youth who cannot afford much care. "We've taken some lumps and have had some rough seasons. But at the end of the day, I'm exactly where I wanted to be."
Wright will always have Virginia blood in his veins, witnessed by the passion he pumps into his charity event and the crowds he draws there. But from now until forever, he will be known as a New Yorker through and through.
The Mets' captain had the seat nearest the host when he, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Wilmer Flores appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Friday night. He was the one who set the tone during the taping (yes, a taping for a "Live" show) in Brooklyn, after the audience ended its "Let's go Mets!" chant, when he addressed the host with a Mets mantra: "You gotta believe."
He really is exactly where he has wanted to be, in a Mets uniform No. 5, heading into the World Series as a toast of the town.
"I've always said [since] we won [the NL East title] in 2006, there are crazy cool perks you get from being a New York Mets baseball player," he said at Citi Field on Saturday before the team left Sunday for Kansas City and World Series Game 1 Tuesday night. "I've had the opportunity to go to dinner at the White House, I've done Letterman a couple times. I got a chance to do Kimmel. It's funny how some of these guys ask you, 'Was this what it was like in '06?' When people are banging on the restaurant windows and people in the restaurant are chanting 'Let's go Mets!' That's special. You obviously missed that these last nine years."
That decline was so steep that critics whispered about Wright having taken the easy way out, avoiding the pressure that comes with being on a contender. He saw it in just the opposite terms. He was here to roll up his sleeves for hard work.
All the while, he and New York have become very comfortable with each other. Once the two became teammates, he learned he was living directly across a Manhattan street from Curtis Granderson. Wright befriended David Lee, then a Knick, and this year admired the sacrifice the big man made as a reserve for the champion Warriors.
"It's pretty cool, seeing somebody from such a laid-back state becoming a major athlete for the New York Mets," Brandon Kemp, a patient at that Virginia children's hospital and Amityville native, said a few hours before Wright's Vegas Night, recalling an uplifting visit from the captain.
You never know. With a World Series triumph, Wright might get to follow the lead of another captain, Derek Jeter, and host another New York institution: "Saturday Night Live."
"I don't know about that," Wright said. "I guess it's out of the comfort zone, but sometimes you have to get out of the comfort zone. So it would definitely be a consideration."