Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

February 10, 2008

Wagner still seeking baseball's ultimate goal

TAZEWELL, Va. — Billy Wagner will begin his 14th season of Major League baseball Wednesday when spring training for the New York Mets opens in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

The ultimate goal remains the same.

“It’s just to stay healthy and help our team to reach its goal,” Wagner said. “I’m to the point now where the ring ... it would be really nice to have something to show for 15 or 16 years of work.”

The 36-year-old Wagner has done it all in baseball. As one of the best closers in the game, the hard-throwing southpaw from Tannersville is a five-time All-Star and seventh on the all-time list with 358 saves.

Yet, the World Series still remains a dream. He’d like that to change. Soon.

“We’ve got the team. We’ve got a great offense and a great defense, we’ve got some serious pitching potential so I think the Mets organization has given us every opportunity to be successful,” Wagner said. “It’s just up to us, it’s a lot of hard work involved and we can’t get caught up in the expectations and how many games we should win.

“At the end of the year, you want to be the only team standing.”

Wagner, a 1990 Tazewell High School graduate and a first round draft choice by the Houston Astros out of Ferrum in ‘93, was back home last Friday to assist in the opening of the Second Chance Learning Center, the second such facility that’s opened in Tazewell County since 2005.

He couldn’t stay long, with spring training opening this week. Unlike the rookies trying to earn a job, Wagner is an established veteran. Yet, he still gets excited about returning to work.

“I think you get used to it, but I still have to check myself,” Wagner said. “I’ve been doing this a long time and coming from Southwest Virginia, I never thought I would really do much. I feel like when I go to camp I represent a lot of people that have supported me.

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