A photograph that former Major League catcher Brian Schneider framed and mounted on a wall inside his Florida home holds special meaning as the Marlins prepare to face the New York Mets and what is likely to be David Wright’s final game Saturday.
The photo shows Schneider, then with the Expos in their final season in Montreal, flipping over a dugout railing at Shea Stadium to catch a foul ball.
He is upside down, with his face pressed against the lid of an orange Gatorade cooler while his legs and feet are suspended above him. His outstretched left arm is dangling below the top lip of the dugout so that the mitt clutching the ball is concealed.
“It’s a sweet picture,” Schneider said. “It was a foul ball and I just reached over the top of the rail and caught it. I hit the top of the Gatorade coolers and they dumped over. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I just thought it was a cool photo.”
It was a play Schneider made in the bottom of the second inning on July 21, 2004 — on Wright’s first major league at-bat.
Later, after the two became friends and teammates on the Mets and Schneider would have Wright over to his house, he would point out the photo and tease him about it.
“I’d say, ‘Hey, remember this one?,’” Schneider said. “He knew exactly. It was funny. And I’d also send the picture to him all the time just to mess with him.”
Schneider, who now serves as the catching coach for the Marlins, is thankful he will be on hand Saturday at Citi Field to witness Wright’s final game. The Mets are expecting a sellout as fans pay homage to one of the most popular players in team history, a seven-time All-Star whose career was cut short by injuries.
“It stinks how his career came to an end.,” Schneider said. “He didn’t want to go out like this. But they’re giving him the day that he deserves there. He’s been a big part of that organization for a long time. He gets a chance to say goodbye to the fans.”
Schneider, more than most players, is all-too-familiar with Wright. Not only did they play together on Mets teams in 2008 and ’09, but Schneider spent his entire career in the National League East — with the Expos, Nationals and Phillies — trying to figure out ways to keep Wright from doing harm with his bat.
“When you see someone so long like that in your division, year after year, after awhile you don’t really need a report on them,” Schneider said. “Typically we threw in on him because he was so good out over the plate. He was a tough out.”
While Schneider enjoys teasing Wright about the photo, he was quick to note that he was behind the plate the following night when Wright recorded his first big-league hit and a few days after that in Montreal when Wright socked his first home run.
But Wright was more than just an outstanding player. Schneider said he is one of the friendliest and most respected players in the majors.
“When I got traded to the Mets, he was the guy who helped me out with my things,” Schneider said. “We’d go to to his house for dinner, one of the guys on my team that when we had an off day or go to dinner after a day game, he was the guy I went with. He wasn’t just a teammate. He was a good friend.”
There was always joking and playful banter any time Wright would step up to hit and Schneider would be behind the plate.
“It was constant,” Schneider said. “We’d have fun with each other at the plate, talking smack to each other. We’d just give it to each other. That’s part of the game, and that’s probably the biggest part of the game I miss most.”
Schneider retired after the 2012 season with the Phillies and went into coaching. But he remained in regular contact with Wright throughout the years. When Wright announced he would suit up for what would likely be his final time, Schneider texted him promptly.
“I just wished him the best,” Schneider said. “I told him I was there for your first and I’ll be there for your last. The game’s going to miss him.”