NC State's Brian Wright Begins Professional Career
June 19, 2002
RALEIGH, N.C. - After wearing out the Atlantic Coast Conference for four years, Brian Wright has moved on to the proverbial "next level." Wright, a three-time first-team All-ACC performer for NC State, made his professional debut Tuesday night for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers of the short-season Class A New York-Penn League.
Uncharacteristically, Wright went 0-for-3 with a walk and a pair of strikeouts for Mahoning Valley, which lost 3-1 to the Auburn Doubledays. Auburn starter Brandon League, a second-round draft pick by Toronto a year ago, carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning and combined with two Auburn relievers on a four-hitter. Mahoning Valley's only run was unearned.
"We had a pitching duel out there," Mahoning Valley manager Chris Bando told The Warren Tribune Chronicle. "Both pitchers threw the ball well. We didn't make some plays, and that led to some unearned runs. They also had some excellent pitching out of the bullpen tonight. They had quality arms. That is about as good as you will see in this league in terms of velocity and breaking stuff. You have to take your hat off to them."
Wright said that facing a pitcher the caliber of League and using a wood bat for the first time made for a difficult transition to professional baseball.
"It was a little bit of an adjustment using wood against a pitcher with that kind of stuff," Wright said. "He was getting it up there at 95-96 and topped out at 97. Plus, his fastball had a little run on it. So when you're used to seeing guys throwing in the low 90s and you're used to using aluminum, you can see how it's a big adjustment."
The Indians selected Wright in the seventh round of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft the first week of June and assigned him to Mahoning Valley, which is located in Niles, Ohio, about an hour east of Cleveland. Although a short-season league (a 70-game schedule from mid-June through the end of August), the New York-Penn League is still a Class A league and is a step above the "Rookie" level. Most first-year college players begin their professional careers in a short-season Class A league.
Wright, who is usually one of the quieter players in the dugout, was typically non-plussed about his professional debut.
"I was excited, but I was pretty even-keel, too," Wright said. "It's still the same game, and you have to take the same approach. You can't get too excited about one game."
Wright's 2002 season at NC State was one of the best ever by a Wolfpack player. His .418 batting average was the second highest ever by an NC State hitter. In addition, he had the second-highest single-season on-base percentage in NC State history at .510, and hit 26 doubles, the third most ever by a Wolfpack hitter. He tied for eighth in school annals with 73 runs batted in. Wright drew 46 walks and struck out just 19 times, a phenomenal ratio of 2.4 walks for every strikeout. He hit 14 home runs to lead the Wolfpack in that category as well.
Wright in 2002 became just the 18th player in ACC history to earn first-team all-conference honors three times, and the fifth from NC State.
Wright was undrafted out of Eastern Randoplh High School in 1998, and then went undrafted again after his junior season a year ago. To move all the way to the seventh round after going undrafted twice previously was quite a leap, but Wright was hoping to go even higher.
"I had been told that I might go a couple of rounds higher, so I was a little disappointed when I went in the seventh, but that's no big deal, really" Wright said. "I was happy to get the chance, and I was happy it was the Indians. I know that Cleveland, Oakland and Atlanta all showed a lot of interest in me, and I know that the Indians have a really good organization. I wanted an opportunity. Now it's up to me to take advantage of it."