SARASOTA, FLA.—Montgomery, Ala., is not a hotbed for athletes, but there is at least one exception.
The modest city’s rich history dates back to the civil rights movement in the 1950s, and has curated one venerable relief pitcher in Wesley Wright, now pitching for the Baltimore Orioles for the 2015 season.
“Most people where I’m from do not become professional athletes,” explained Wright while sitting outside the Ed Smith Training Grounds before spring training workouts.
Wright came from a modest home, and a family deeply rooted in its Southern Baptist faith. Wright’s actual birth given name is Dequam LaWesley Wright, derived from his great-grandfather John Wesley, who in turn was named after the co-founder of Methodism.
Against odds, Montgomery provided an inspiring foundation for Wright that has resulted in an impressive seven-year career in the majors, originally selected in the seventh round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2003 amateur draft.
Wright remains thankful and appreciative for every day he has on the job as professional baseball has served him and his community well.
“Once a season, you’re introduced to someone, or you go to a place and you just look around and you’re thinking, I cant believe a person from my humble, humble beginnings [is here].”
But make no mistake, the reliever’s solid standing in the MLB has not changed who he is: understated, grateful, with a tremendous respect for the game of baseball above all else.
“To become a professional athlete, to be drafted out of high school, and to still be playing 12 years later is an amazing feeling, I’m truly blessed to be able to do it, and it’s a dream come true.”
The 30-year-old pitcher had to adjust to the dichotomy of a small-town dream turned into a big-league career, mentioning his hometown as “very southern, very homey, very hospitable”, and mentioning it is “very different from the big-league lifestyle.”
That transition has been difficult for Wright at times. Most notably, his release from the Chicago Cubs last season after appearing in 58 games, posting an 0-3 record and a 3.17 ERA.
He remained positive through the difficult time.
“When it happened it was disappointing, but not shocking.”
The unexpected twists and turns that have taken Wright back to the American League East with the Orioles following a stint with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013, he holds a firm grasp on his roots, continuously giving back to Montgomery in his own private and understated way.
“I get a chance to stay close to my humble roots from Alabama, and get the chance to go abroad and play and learn.”
Wright has prospered to this point in professional baseball, citing his mantra, “Expect the worst, and deal with the best” as great help in dealing with many hurdles in his career.
And while he may have had reason to expect the worst in previous years of his baseball career, Wright remains unaffected due in part to his family, faith and community.
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