In the clubhouse, Wright is both rabble-rouser—towel-snapping the guys who still seem half asleep—and diplomat—speaking pidgin Spanish with the Dominican contingent. Being someone often referred to as one of “New York’s most eligible bachelors” makes him an irresistible target for friendly mockery, which he takes in stride, sometimes preemptively striking first. With Tom Glavine, the team’s patriarchal 41-year-old pitcher, Wright jokes, “Hey, man, I was a huge fan of yours when I was in elementary school.” To which Glavine has a stock rebuttal: “Look, you’ll be lucky if you’re still playing at my age, and you won’t look as good as I do.” Paul Lo Duca, the starting catcher and wiseacre-in-chief, has made it a priority to keep Wright in check. “He thinks every woman in the world is in love with him, so we give him some shit, keep his feet on the earth,” Lo Duca says. “I tell him that if he was a garbageman, not a single woman would notice him. Glavine always says, ‘When I was your age, every woman loved me too. It’s not you, it’s the uniform on your back.’ ” Wright, for his part, has a well-rehearsed comeback. A woman flirts with him, the guys give him hell, and he says to the guys, “Hey, she can’t help it. She’s only human.”
The good looks, the money, the ultimate bachelor pad: Comparisons with Jeter have become inevitable. Like Jeter, Wright entered the major leagues at 21 and is a pure product of his team: drafted and groomed when he was still a teenager. Growing up, Wright idolized Cal Ripken Jr., but Jeter has become his model for playing in New York. “He’s offered me some great advice,” says Wright. “He just says to remember who you were when you started playing and don’t change. It sounds simple, but it’s not. You wear the uniform, you’re under a microscope. He has his social life, but he’s also someone kids look up to. That’s a hard balance. I’m very conscious of what it means to wear the jersey, but at the same time, I’m a 24-year-old who likes to do what any normal 24-year-old does.” But Jeter, of course, is known for having dated a variety of high-profile women—Mariah Carey, Jessica Alba—whereas Wright can sound vaguely monastic on the subject of dating. “I don’t want to put them in the same category as drugs, but women can be a … a distraction,” he says. “I have to remember, baseball is the reason I have my apartment, baseball is the reason I’m on the cover of video games—baseball is what I do. I’m not saying I don’t ever … I mean, I go on dates, but I’ll just never let something like that become as important as the game. Not right now, at least.”
All baseball, all the time. Such unrelenting single-mindedness can come across as extreme—robotic, even—but Wright knows he has a critical year ahead. Having won their division for the first time in eighteen years last season, the Mets are no longer a team of just potential. This season, the expectations will be raised: Fans are less likely to be enamored of Wright the Phenomenon if it distracts Wright the Player, as some suspected it did when he fell into a minor slump during the second half of last year. “People say there’s a lot of pressure here, but that’s what I live for,” says Wright. “No one puts more pressure on me than I do.” Recognizing his evolving role on the team, he knows he has to graduate from boy wonder to bankable commodity, never mind his age. “It’s important to be a leader, especially to the younger guys,” he says, a statement that gives him pause. “It feels weird to say that—I mean, just a couple of years ago, I was one of them. I guess, in a way, I still am.”
A t Superplay USA, Wright has been spotted. A middle-aged woman asks if he wouldn’t mind signing … a framed poster that she apparently has been carrying around, hoping for such a run-in. A teenage girl asks him to autograph a takeout menu, another her boyfriend’s hat. “He’s too shy to come over,” she says, “but he was like, ‘I’ll kill you if you don’t get him to sign this.’” A clique of students from James Madison University take the lane next to Wright’s, and ask for a few cell-phone portraits. Because Wright is both so young and so polite—he takes ten minutes after every practice to sign autographs—people are more comfortable than awestruck around him. “Hey!” says a waitress, handing him a napkin. “Will you sign this even though I’m a Cardinals fan?” (The Cardinals won last year’s World Series after edging the Mets out of the playoffs.) For a moment, Wright pretends to be offended—brow furrowed, a shake of his gelled head—before scrawling: To my favorite Cardinals fan, the Mets rule!!! David Wright.