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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- New York Mets third baseman David Wright is making his fifth straight All-Star Game appearance. His favorite memory of the event predates those experiences, though.
|Wright has 14 home runs at the All-Star break -- four more than he hit all of last season.|
Wright, who made his debut in the All-Star Game in Pittsburgh in 2006, fondly recalled his selection to the Futures Game for promising minors leaguers in Houston two years earlier.
Wright had the opportunity to meet All-Star Scott Rolen, a childhood idol, while attending the Futures Game at Minute Maid Park in 2004. Ten days later, Wright made his major league debut at Shea Stadium against the Montreal Expos.
Now, Wright and Rolen are representing the National League at third base in Tuesday's All-Star Game, with Wright making his fourth start. Manager Charlie Manuel has placed Wright fifth in the NL lineup, sandwiched between Philadelphia's Ryan Howard and Milwaukee's Ryan Braun.
"I grew up a huge Scott Rolen fan and tried to kind of mold my game after his," Wright said on Monday. "Now, getting a chance to play in the All-Star Game with Scott, that's one of the biggest honors that I've had. The guy you tried to mold your game after, now you're getting a chance to play with."
Said Rolen: "We have the same agent. We met up and brought him in the clubhouse and hung out a little bit right after the Futures Game. He was fantastic. He enjoyed it, I think."
Rolen's impression of Wright these days?
"As good as he is right now, I think he's going to get better," said Rolen, who is hitting .290 with 17 homers and 57 RBIs for the Cincinnati Reds. "Everybody enjoys watching him hit. He takes those strong swings and he's a good guy. He represents himself really well. He certainly represents the Mets really well."
Wright will be the lone active Met in this year's All-Star Game. Shortstop Jose Reyes is also at the event, but had to withdraw from the game because of a right oblique issue that resulted in him getting pulled from Saturday's game at Citi Field against the Atlanta Braves.
Considering the Mets have among the game's highest payrolls and a high-profile roster that also includes Johan Santana, Jason Bay and Francisco Rodriguez, Wright admitted he is surprised there isn't more Mets representation in Anaheim. Not that Wright suggested the Mets were deserving of more players, with the possible exception of right-hander Mike Pelfrey (10-4, 3.58 ERA), who opened the season 9-1 before tailing off of late.
"I was hoping that we'd have more teammates," Wright said. "But, throughout the first half, we really didn't have many guys that had those great individual performances. It seemed like we found a way to win games. But then you look at the stat sheet and we didn't have a guy or two guys that jumped out at you as far as what they were doing production-wise with their numbers. Still, we were finding ways to win and really survive. It would have been nice to obviously have a couple of more teammates. But there are so many deserving players."
Wright arrived at the All-Star Game a year ago with only five homers, en route to a career-worst season total of 10. This year he already has 14 long balls, plus a .314 batting average and a National League-high 65 RBIs.
"Without a doubt, that's a big ballpark -- that, Safeco out in Seattle, Petco [in San Diego] everybody talks about," Rolen said, referring to Citi Field being among the game's notorious pitcher-friendly ballparks. "His strength is probably in right-center, in the middle of the field. And that's about as big as you can get in baseball. He's adjusted well, hit for a high average, hitting doubles and driving guys in. He's leading the league in RBIs, right? Offensively you either score runs or drive runs in. And he's doing both."
Wright was not invited to participate in the Home Run Derby this year. He finished as a surprise runner-up to Howard in the 2006 event in Pittsburgh, but then consistently declined invitations in the ensuing years. So Monday night he planned to have an up-close look from the field as other All-Stars launch shots in the Home Run Derby at Angel Stadium.
"I didn't get the 'ask' this year," Wright said. "It was fun the one time. I think more than anything you kind of get a little mentally tired, and obviously a little physically tired. Really, the main thing is I don't think I can do any better. So it's really a lose-lose situation for me. I'll take my one appearance and kind of run with it."
In 2006, the year he competed, Wright hit 20 regular-season homers before the Derby. When play resumed after the All-Star break, he hit only six homers the remainder of the regular season. The speculation was that his swing was negatively altered by the competition.
Even Monday -- four years later -- Wright continued to refute any suggestion there was a connection between his Home Run Derby participation and the second-half power swoon.
"I really don't think so," Wright said. "I think my production was fine afterward. I hit a few less home runs. But, as you saw last year, I went a whole year without hitting home runs. I don't think the Home Run Derby had anything to do with it.
"I didn't participate in any Home Run Derbies before last year and I still didn't hit a lot of home runs."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
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