CLEARWATER, FL – Austin Wright is well on his way to becoming a major league pitcher and he’s enjoying every second of it.
The 23 year old from Illinois, now a starting pitcher for the Clearwater Threshers and the 26th ranked prospect in the Phillies organization, has made his way to double A despite playing professional baseball for just two seasons.
It has been a somewhat of a long road to professional baseball for Wright, who played three years of college baseball before signing with the Phillies in 2011, but that has not phased him in the slightest.
“I feel like I’m living my dream right now,” Wright said. “I try to soak it all up and continue to grind it out.”
Wright got his start in baseball at a young age thanks to the influence of some very important people in his life – his parents.
“My dad had me playing from the time I was two years old,” Wright said. “I was hitting balloons. He would flip them up and I would have success hitting balloons.”
Aside from just pitching balloons to his young son, Wright’s father also instilled a deeper appreciation for the game of baseball in him by routinely taking him to Cubs games at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
“I was a Cubs fan. My dad had seasons tickets four rows behind the Cubs’ dugout,” said Wright. “We were little and we would miss school sometimes to go to the games. It was a hit to go to the Cubs games.”
After growing up playing the game, Wright has continued to excel. He was an All-State pitcher in Illinois before playing two years of junior college baseball and then an additional year at the University of Mississippi.
Wright could have become a pro ball player right out of high school and was turning heads with the major league scouts, but instead he opted to go to college.
“My goal was to sign [with a major league team] out of high school but my parents wanted me to get a college education and I listened to them a lot,” Wright said.
“I still do up to this day. They really preached going to college for a bunch of different reasons, like maturing as a person and to have something to fall back on if baseball didn’t work out.
“So I listened to them and I went to college for three years and I figured after my junior year I was ready. The Phillies are a great organization so it made that decision a lot easier.”
Staying in college wasn’t always an easy decision for Wright. During his time in college, three major league teams drafted him.
The Pittsburgh Pirates picked him in 2008. Then, the Boston Red Sox selected him in 2010. Finally in 2011, the Philadelphia Phillies drafted Wright where he signed to play.
“Its something I have always wanted to do,” Wright said about signing with the Phillies.
“So I was always hoping I would continue to get the opportunity after declining it a couple of times. But, like I said, I was ready for it when I was in high school.“
Last season, Wright posted an impressive 11-5 record with a 3.47 ERA for the Threshers. With his confidence now high, Wright has some lofty goals for the upcoming season.
“I’d like to make the All-Star team in the Eastern League and I’d like to just get better each day. In spring training I go out there each day and just try and make strides towards becoming a major leaguer.“
In order to reach his goal of playing in the big leagues, Wright recognizes that there is still work that he needs to do to improve his pitching.
“Commanding pitches,” Wright said. “You can always get better at that. I’m trying to get the feel for a change-up.”
Armed with a keen eye on improvement and a positive outlook, Wright is set for a breakout season with the Threshers.