Shortly after winning Major League Baseball’s recent “Face of MLB” contest, Mets third baseman David Wright faced the wrath of his teammates in a crowded clubhouse.
“It’s kind of cool, because these guys are like my extended family,” Wright said Saturday at Big League Weekend at Cashman Field. “They wanted to give me a hard time and tried to put me on the spot. I walked in and they gave me a standing ovation and wanted me to give a little speech.
“I made it short and sweet. I basically thanked my parents for giving me the face that they gave me to be the ‘Face of MLB.’ It was a good time.”
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter long has been the face of New York baseball, but when he retires after this season, the 31-year-old Wright will be the longest-tenured active Met or Yankee.
A .301 career hitter and seven-time All-Star, the Mets captain — who has been called “our Jeter” by Mets owner Fred Wilpon — has admired the Yankees captain since his first season in New York in 2004.
“Derek, whether he knows it or not, and he probably doesn’t, he’s a guy that being a young athlete in New York, you can not only mold your game after but his leadership skills as well,” Wright said. “You can take a little from his game and apply it to yours.”
Wright relished the chance to play alongside Jeter for the United States in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
“I was studying his every move, watching his preparation and watching him work. It made me realize there’s a lot more to this game than what goes on between those white lines,” Wright said. “For me, it was a very valuable lesson in the way I prepare, the way I work and the way I lead.
“I went into the (WBC) being a big Derek Jeter fan, and I came out being an even bigger Derek Jeter fan, just the way he carries himself and the things I learned from him.”
Wright drilled a two-run double off the right-field wall in the first inning of the Mets’ 9-4 exhibition win over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday before 9,106 at Cashman.
Like Jeter, Wright only plans to play for one team in his career. Signed with the Mets through 2020, Wright already is second in franchise history in games played — behind Ed Kranepool — and is the club’s career leader in several categories, including hits, runs and RBIs.
“There’s a certain gratitude and connection I have that a lot of players probably don’t have with their organization,” said Wright, who was drafted by the Mets when he was 18. “I take a lot of pride in putting this uniform on every day. It’s a big deal when I come in and see that No. 5 hanging in orange and blue. I take that responsibility very seriously.”
Coming off an injury-plagued season in which he missed at least 50 games for the second time in three years, Wright’s main focus this season is on staying healthy.
“The most important stat, as far as I’m concerned, is games played,” he said. “I want to make sure I’m healthy and going out and playing 150-plus (games).”
The Mets bolstered their offense in the offseason with the addition of former Yankees slugger Curtis Granderson, who will bat cleanup and provide protection to Wright, who will hit third.
After enduring five straight losing seasons with New York, which hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2006, Wright is optimistic about the club’s future — especially on the mound, where the team features several impressive young arms in Zack Wheeler, the injured Matt Harvey and prospect Noah Syndergaard, who is expected to start the season in Las Vegas.
“To me, that’s the quickest way to turn an organization around — with young power arms — and it seems like we’ve got plenty of that,” he said.
■ NOTES — Two former 51s played key roles for the Mets, with Wilmer Flores hitting a tiebreaking two-run homer in the eighth and Andrew Brown driving in three runs. … Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo belted two homers off New York starter Bartolo Colon. … Chicago prospect Kris Bryant, a former Bonanza High School star, replaced Donnie Murphy at third base in the eighth but didn’t make an appearance at the plate. … The teams play again at 1:05 p.m. today at Cashman.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.