David Wright got to the big leagues and found Shannon Forde there waiting. She told him where to be, how to get there, what to expect and how to not screw it up. Forde gave him hints on how to handle the pressure of being the bright new young face of the Mets franchise, she told him good places for a young bachelor to live and how to handle himself in the big city. She listened to him go through the growing pains of being a 21-year-old celebrity in New York, and she joked with him about his dating game as much as his hitting stance.

“The team said [Shannon] is one of the first people you’re going to meet and this is going to be one of the more important people that you’re going to meet,” Wright remembered of meeting her. “She’s gonna not only teach you how to set a schedule, and deal with the media and this and that, but there’s like all these little things that people don’t think about when you get called up as a 21-year-old kid from Virginia. She’s gonna help so that you don’t embarrass yourself in one of the biggest markets in the world.”

Judy Battista walked into the Mets clubhouse as the first woman to cover the Mets in over a decade, taking over the beat temporarily for the New York Times and understood what Wright meant about Forde. She was clearly the person that she could turn to for answers. Unlike Wright at that time, Battista recognized just how rare Forde was back in the early 2000s.

“I just remember she was great at her job — on top of things and always a smiling presence. She was the person you called or went up to when you needed something. Players and writers obviously liked her and respected her,” Battista recalled. “I was definitely aware that I did not see a lot of women around other teams — not just in New York City — I mean nationally — and I was absolutely aware that she and I were very often the only women at a game.”

Forde was beloved among players, writers, managers and executives alike. In March 2016, when she lost her battle with cancer, that became apparent when the personal memories flooded the newspapers, TV and radio. She was a friend to writers, particularly to the rare women who were baseball beat writers like Battista or me. She was like a big sister to players like Wright. She was like a daughter to long-time PR director Jay Horwitz. She was an amazing wife to her husband John and mother to her son Nick and daughter Kendall.

But for people like Battista and me, Forde was also more than that. She was a trailblazer, making women in baseball more normal and acceptable.

She was one of the first women to rise through the ranks of PR in baseball at the time. In her 22 years with the Mets, she rose to the rank of Senior Director of PR. While that is more common today, it was a rarity even 10 years ago.

And that is how she will be remembered Sunday night when she and Horwitz are inducted into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame.

Horwitz hired Forde first as an intern out of St. John’s University and then permanently as soon as he could.

“She’d played softball in high school, her father was a coach, she knew the box scores and knew the team,” Horwitz said. “I never thought about [her being the only woman] at the time. It was never an issue. She just had a way about her. She could relate to people and she could do it without ever backing down. She could handle the younger players and the stars without flinching.”

Baseball isn’t all that far removed from the days when women were not welcome in the game. Obviously, over the last year, there are still men in baseball — and in particular in the Mets organization — that had very little respect for women in the business.

But Forde’s respect for the game and the players and coaches earned her that respect in return.

“You can tell when someone is respected in the game when the players want to be around them,” former Mets manager Terry Collins said. “When Shannon would come down to the clubhouse, the players wanted to talk to her. They wanted to tell her about their families, ask about her kids. They wanted to know what she thought of a question they’d had to answer or how to go about handling a question.”

“When she came into the clubhouse, there was never any questions about her being there, she belonged,” Collins said. “She had a respect for the game and the players. Everyone sensed that and they respected her.”

Wright had to respect her. She was the one who could guide the kid from Virginia through the unfamiliar and crazy world he was coming into.

“She’s one of the first faces that I’m introduced to coming to New York and she was like ‘OK, I’m going to teach you or help you deal with this, just like this circus,’” Wright said thinking back. “But looking back on it I didn’t realize until now that she was the first woman in baseball I ever saw or worked with.”

“She was just so good at her job that I never thought it was unusual or rare,” Wright said. “She was just the person you go to, because she was so capable.”

For Wright, because she played such a big role in his arrival and her natural ability to connect, Forde became more than a capable colleague.

“I’m the oldest out of four. So I’ve never had an older sibling, but she treated me like I was her younger brother. It was almost like this calming effect every time she was around. ... She wouldn’t hold anything back, she would tell me how it was and I could joke around with her the same as the guys, like sitting around and talking to my older sibling, which was always reassuring to me and comforting to me.”

“If I ever needed to complain about something that I couldn’t complain to my teammates or friends, or if somebody outside the baseball world wouldn’t get it. She always got it,” Wright said. “And she was always like an ear for me and would give me advice.”

Forde was checking on Wright through her final days working with the Mets, through her four years of cancer treatments. There was no way that would keep her from being at the 2015 World Series no matter how difficult.

“I had a bad back, which is nothing compared to what she was going through,” Wright said of the spinal stenosis that ended his career in 2018. “She was always coming over and wanting to know how I was feeling or how it hurt or what I needed, meanwhile she’s going through God knows what at Sloan Kettering. That’s just the way she was always so giving and never wanted any of that attention of how are you feeling? How are you doing? She always deflected and asked something about me.”

So, that’s one of Wright’s lasting memories of Forde. She was determined to make the trip to Kansas City and made it to the clubhouse before Game 1. Wright, concerned for his friend and knowing how difficult it was for her just to get there, came up and asked how she was and what she needed.

Forde smiled at him and told him: “Just make sure you’re ready to play.”

©2021 New York Daily News. Visit nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Copyright 2021 Tribune Content Agency.

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