NEW YORK -- As the first half of the season drew to a close on Sunday, Mets manager Terry Collins admitted that his star third baseman was tired. Flying from Pittsburgh to New York late Sunday evening did not help David Wright, who woke up early the following day to participate in All-Star festivities.
So when asked how Wright might fare in the Chevrolet Home Run Derby at Citi Field, Collins hedged his optimism.
"But he doesn't have to prove anything to the people that know him," Collins said. "I just hope he has some fun with it."
Those words proved prophetic. Despite mustering only five home runs to tie for sixth place, Wright received a standing ovation Monday night at Citi Field. It was not enough for him to advance to the second round alongside Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes (the eventual winner), Baltimore's Chris Davis, Washington's Bryce Harper and Colorado's Michael Cuddyer.
"It was awesome," Wright said. "It really, really was awesome. It's what I remember the playoff atmosphere being like in 2006."
As the National League's Derby captain, Wright selected Harper, Cuddyer and Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez to participate alongside him. Then Wright, who admitted to being "gassed," watched each of those players outperform him.
Wright fared far better during his Derby debut in 2006, smashing 16 first-round homers and 22 in total to finish second behind Ryan Howard of the Phillies. Despite perennial All-Star appearances, he swore off the Derby in subsequent years, before jumping at the chance to serve as NL captain in his home park.
"What a great atmosphere," Wright said. "That's what I'm going to take away from this."
Heading into the night, Wright understood the perils of his Derby assignment better than anyone. Citi Field has always been tough on right-handed hitters, despite recent changes to its outfield dimensions. And Wright did not come close to leaving the yard on many of his swings, popping up several balls to shallow left and center field.
The popular landing spot for his five homers was the first deck in left -- two decks shy of where Cespedes and Cuddyer, the only other right-handed hitters in the competition, parked quite a few of their shots. Wright averaged 396.6 feet on his home runs, according to MLB.com data, with his longest traveling 403 feet.
So count him among those amazed by Cespedes, whose 32 home runs over three rounds included a 455-foot blast to straightaway center to win it.
"I think that everybody put on a pretty good show," Wright said. "We fell a little short. It's a little disappointing, but I'll tell you what -- that atmosphere was awesome, and that's going to be something that I'll always remember."
Though Cespedes earned the loudest cheers at the end, Wright was the early beneficiary of Citi Field's love. He compared it to his only playoff experience in 2006, when Shea Stadium rocked on a nightly basis.
"The thing I'll take away from this is just the atmosphere, the crowd, the ovation I got," Wright said. "That was really, really, really cool. That just gets me even more excited about tomorrow, and gets me even more excited about when we become that playoff contender."
Tuesday's All-Star Game should provide one final burst of excitement for Wright, before two days of much-needed rest. This has been a whirlwind few weeks for the slugger, and a unique time as well -- for Wright, the Derby may end up being a twice-in-a-lifetime experience.
"The question is whether I will ever be asked to do it again, and the answer to that would probably be no," Wright said, laughing. "So I might go out on my own terms and officially retire."