Josh Wright is finally finding a little time to get acclimated with his new surroundings in the desert of New Mexico.
The 24-year-old North Hall High graduate made a leap of faith May 25 and joined the Roswell Invaders — a baseball franchise in the independent Pecos League, centered in the Southwest — to try and resurrect his pitching career and pursue his ultimate dream of playing in the major leagues one day.
Wright seems to have his arm back in top form, despite the fact that it had been 53 weeks since his last live action during Emmanuel College’s appearance in the 2013 NCCAA Division I College World Series.
Now that he’s healthy and rested from his time away from the mound, Wright is clocking 93 on the radar gun.
Although the right-hander is drawing a paycheck for playing baseball — a perk in itself — the job is far from glamorous.
There will be long bus rides with only six of the 10 teams in the league located in New Mexico, and the rest in Colorado, Texas and Arizona.
So far, however, Wright likes what he sees after his first four-day road trip and initial outing on the mound in Taos, New Mexico, a town 9,000 feet in elevation and known mostly for its ski slopes.
“I’m having a blast,” said Wright, who is one of three players from Georgia on the Roswell roster. “Everyone treats it seriously, but we’re able to have fun at the same time.
“The fans have been great and the coaches do a great job.”
Wright’s opportunity in New Mexico came just at the right time. According to his father, Ken Wright, Josh had driven to the Cincinnati area in April to try for a spot in an independent league in the area, but didn’t make the cut. Many believed that was his final stand as a baseball hopeful.
In the summer of 2013, Wright was recruited to play for the Las Vegas Train Robbers, but couldn’t physically handle the wear and tear on his arm after throwing too many pitches in college.
Still, Wright wasn’t ready to give up. He kept training at Emmanuel and later joined up with Trent Mongero, his former high school coach, to work with the Trojans’ summer league program.
That was when Wright received a call from Invaders coach Rob Warnock, who is from Macon, to gauge his interest in spending the summer in New Mexico.
After some conversation with family and friends, the 6-foot-3 and 205-pound Wright packed his bags, hopped on a plane and headed to Roswell — the city made famous for a reported UFO crash in the late 1940s — to play in the Pecos League.
“I’m more than ecstatic for what Josh is doing,” his father, Ken Wright said. “As a dad, as a parent, to see him chase his dreams and that determination he has is incredible.”
Teams in the Pecos League boast unusual, colorful names. You have the Santa Fe Fuego, Trinidad Triggers and White Sands Pupfish. And who could forget a name like the Las Vegas Train Robbers?
Still, this is serious baseball. Everyone is chasing the same dream. It’s every man for himself.
So far, Wright is on a path to make the most out of his first summer in Roswell, a tourist spot complete with a McDonald’s in the shape of a UFO, while he tries to use the opportunity as a springboard into a professional career for years to come.
Right away, Wright got a boost of confidence from Warnock when he learned he would be assigned the role of closer for the Invaders (13-6), who are in the middle of a 12-game homestand.
Wright allowed two hits with four strikeouts over two innings in his debut with the Invaders — a 25-13 win against the Taos Blizzard two days after he arrived.
Then on May 31, the former Emmanuel College standout gave up one hit with a strikeout in an inning’s work to get out of a bases-loaded jam and earn his first save in an 8-6 win against the Raton Osos Bears.
Wright knows the odds of a successful pro career remain stacked against him, but he believes he’s capable of making it happen. What excites him most is that he’s landed in a baseball league that has a sound reputation for producing talent. He believes that if he keeps throwing well, he’ll get noticed by the right people.
According to his father, 19 players from the Pecos League have signed contracts with Major League franchises over its first three years in existence.
“Independent ball is exactly that — it’s a chance,” Mongero said. “If you have a dream to play in the major leagues, you have to take everything that comes along.
“This is one of those. He’s getting paid to play baseball. If you get in there and do a great job, you can get picked up out of independent leagues, especially pitchers.
“If you can get in there and earn your keep, there’s always a chance to move on. It’s a small one, but for someone who’s chasing a dream, that’s all you need.”