David Wright’s farewell among Queens’ best sports stories of the year

David Wright waves goodbye to the fans at Citi Field after the game.
Photo by Luis Zapata
By Zach Gewelb

The sports scene in Queens was filled with accomplishments this year.

A former Queens high school athlete became an assistant NBA coach for his hometown team. College athletes saw their dreams come true after being selected in June’s MLB Amateur draft and a borough icon said an emotional goodbye at Citi Field.

Former Cardozo hoops star joins Knicks’ coaching staff

A former Cardozo High School basketball player returned to New York, not as a player, but as a coach.

Royal Ivey, formerly of the Atlanta Hawks and the Philadelphia 76ers, moved from his assistant coaching position with the Oklahoma City Thunder to work with the New York Knicks.

Ron Naclerio, Cardozo’s hoops coach and Ivey’s former mentor, said he believes the Harlem-born and Hollis-raised assistant coach may be able to cultivate the best from Knicks players.

“He was wearing royal blue and orange colors that day and now he’s going to be coaching royal blue and orange,” Naclerio said, comparing Cardozo’s colors to those of the Knicks. “He’s got some good young guards — one of which I know and I’ve coached, Emmanuel Mudiay — and right now they’ve not achieved the level they think they can achieve. I think Royal with his coaching and his psychological part of it can actually take these guys up another notch or so and have them reach their potential.”

Ivey played 11 seasons in the NBA before beginning his coaching career in 2014.

“It’s a dream come true. So many kids grow up dreaming of trying to play for the Knicks, but he might have topped it — he’s coaching them,” Naclerio said.

Ivey has spent the season working alongside Keith Smart and Pat Sullivan on newly appointed head coach David Fizdale’s coaching staff.

Ivey had ties to Fizdale through their mutual time with the Hawks, when Fizdale was assistant coach.

St. John’s sees six players selected in 2018 MLB Draft

The St. John’s baseball team, coming off an impressive 40-17 season, had a school-record six players selected in the 2018 MLB Amateur Draft in June.

Senior Kevin Magee, a left-handed pitcher, was the first Red Storm player off the board. He was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the ninth round on the second day of the draft.

After struggling in 2015 and 2016, Magee turned things around during his junior and senior seasons with the Johnnies. His renaissance began in 2017, when he went 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA, the best mark of his career. He struck out 40 batters in 30 innings and didn’t allow a home run. Magee followed his stellar 2017 campaign with another strong effort in 2018. Appearing in a career-high 15 games, Magee pitched to a 7-3 record with a 2.67 ERA, while striking out 92 batters and walking just 15 in 77.2 innings pitched.

On the third day of the draft, five Johnnies were selected.

Junior pitcher Michael LoPresti was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 18th Round; junior infielder Josh Shaw was chosen by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 19th Round; graduate student John Valente, a utility player, went to the Detroit Tigers in the 21st Round; senior outfielder/pitcher Jamie Galazin heard his name called by the Chicago Cubs in the 22nd Round; and senior catcher Robert Boselli III was the last from St. John’s to be selected, going to the Cincinnati Reds in the 37th Round.

This marks the third time in program history that six players have been selected in the same draft class. The 2005 and 2015 Johnnies also had six players selected.

Mets bid farewell to David Wright

David Wright said goodbye to the Mets’ faithful in September at Citi Field, playing in one last game before riding off into the sunset.

Wright took the field as the starting third baseman one last time and received two plate appearances — drawing a walk in the first inning and popping up to first base in the fourth — before being pulled in the fifth inning.

Manager Mickey Callaway removed Wright from the game, giving the captain a chance to wave goodbye to the announced crowd of 43,928 fans.

“It’s so kind and it’s so generous and it’s so, at points for me, undeserving,” Wright said after the game. “When you see the stadium packed like that, there [are] no words to describe the feeling of walking out there and having your name chanted and seeing the signs.”

Players and coaches from both teams tipped their caps to Wright, honoring a 14-year career that was cut short due to injuries — namely spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Before the game, Wright caught the ceremonial first pitch thrown by his 2-year-old daughter, Olivia.

After the game, the team played a 3 1/2 minute video tribute on the big screen beyond the center field fence that chronicled his career in the Mets’ organization. From his days as a minor leaguer, to his first MLB hit, to playing in the 2015 World Series, Wright was reminded of the highlights of his Mets’ tenure before reciting a goodbye speech to the fans in attendance.

“This is love,” Wright told the crowd after the Mets’ 1-0 victory in 13 innings. “I can’t say anything else — this is love.”

Reach editor Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewelb@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4539.

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