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Cumberland’s Wright returns home with baseball hardware

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Wright

Cumberland High and Bryant University graduate Chris Wright was the top reliever in High-A and was the closer for the High-A West champion Eugene Emeralds.

CUMBERLAND — Chris Wright recently returned home a champion who happened to be on the mound for his team’s final out before a celebratory scene ensued.

The product of Cumberland High and Bryant University also came back as someone who is also well known within the professional baseball landscape. Call it reaping some well-deserved accolades following a season-long run of dominance.

Baseball America came calling twice, selecting Wright as the best reliever among High-A prospects per the publication’s annual “Best Tools” survey that’s voted on by league managers. Earlier this month, the unofficial Bible of all things baseball-related chose the 2019 12th round pick of the San Francisco Giants as the lone reliever to the 2021 Minor League All-Star Team.

“Seeing your name is great and solidifies what you’ve been working toward for so long,” said Wright, “but when it comes down to it, it doesn’t change my mindset going forward. You can never be good enough. There’s always something you can get better at. As long as you keep moving forward and taking the steps to get better every day, hopefully everything else takes care of itself.”

The memories of his first full season as a pro might be still fresh, yet the 23-year-old Wright admits there’s a part of him that can’t wait to turn the page and gear up for the 2022 season.

“I’m going to use this offseason to get better,” said Wright when reached recently.

From his season-opening two-week stint with Low-A San Jose, to spending the season’s final four-plus months as the unquestioned backbone of High-A Eugene’s bullpen, Wright was a tour de force of flame-throwing proportions. Between the two stops, he struck out 79 in 45 innings while holding batters to a .126 average.

Pitching almost exclusively in high leverage situations, Wright stayed locked in over long periods of time. He posted a streak of 14 consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run that ran from June 26 until August 15. He closed the regular season with 10 straight scoreless outings, then turned in two run-free appearances during the playoffs for a Eugene ballclub that captured the High-A West Championship.

With a High-A West-leading 17 saves in 18 regular-season chances, Wright noted it was important to establishing a routine that would ensure peak performance when it was time to come in from the bullpen.

“I knew I would be closing. Early in the game, you’re paying attention but you’re also hanging with the guys in the bullpen. If you’re paying attention for 120 straight games, you’re going to get burned out. Your mind will fade and things will start to change up on you a little bit,” he said. “There has to be a balance when you’re throwing a third of the games in the season … watching the game but not really analyzing it when you know you have a day off from throwing. It’s about taking a mental break. Learning that early on was big for me. It’s about identifying what day you know you need to turn the switch on. If you haven’t thrown in a while, you probably should have that switch on when it’s the fourth inning and getting your body ready.”

***

Playing for a championship was “definitely fun because you had something to play for,” said Wright. “There’s nothing like getting those competitive juices going. Your adrenaline goes through the roof. You’re out there trying to win for the guy next to you.”

With Eugene up two games to one in the best-of-five championship series and protecting a 5-0 lead in the ninth inning of Game 4 against Spokane, Wright stood out on the mound as the pitcher with a chance to seal the deal.

“That’s a spot I always wanted to be in … putting an exclamation point on the end of the season,” said Wright, reflecting back to Friday, Sept. 24 when he turned in a scoreless ninth that officially clinched the title. “When it’s on the line, I want to be out there with the ball and be the guy they look to when it’s high-pressure time. I appreciated that my coaches trusted me throughout the season to continuously put me in those spots.”

For someone who had to wait roughly 21 months between throwing pitches in an actual game that counted in the standings, Wright says he woke up each day raring to go.

“When you get to go to the field every day to play the game you’ve been playing since you were little, it can only be a grind so much,” said Wright. “The attitude of having fun and doing it not because it’s a job … you have to make sure you want to be there. When that’s the case, it definitely makes things easier.”

***

Looking back, the time that Wright spent at a Seattle-based training facility called Driveline Baseball after it was learned that there would be no 2020 minor league season helped to put him on a path of eventual success.

“Heading out there was definitely a great start. It gave me a base of what I needed to do to get better … giving me my curveball grip and adding a cutter for the [2021] season. Those were two pitches that helped me out a lot,” said Wright.

Refining the additional pitches to his arsenal was done with the help of a familiar support system located at Hop’s Athletic Performance in Coventry. By the time Wright reported to the Giants’ Arizona-based spring training complex in early April, he was in a good place mentally and physically. From there, it was about going out and executing the plan that had been months in the making.

“Figuring it all out had an impact on how the season went,” said Wright. “Preparation and having a plan going forward is the most important thing for your own development. If you know what you want to do and set your goals so you can get there, you’re doing everything in your power to do that. If you’re chasing something and don’t know how you’re doing it, at that point you’re doing it for no reason. It’s like you’re chasing ghosts where you don’t know what’s there.”

There is a noticeable perk to being back among familiar sights and sounds after spending considerable time on the West Coast.

“After eating restaurant food for six months straight, coming home and having a meal is really nice,” said Wright.

The offseason lifting program is already underway with throwing to commence next month.

“There will be plenty of time to build up so I’m ready for the season,” said Wright.

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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