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Tampa Bay Rays' Jamey Wright is a survivor

Converting from starter to bullpen specialist has extended the former Westmoore standout's baseball career.
BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, Published: July 17, 2013

photo - MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: The Tampa Bay Rays' Jamey Wright throws live batting practice during spring training on Tuesday, February 19, 2013, in Port Charlotte, Florida. (James Borchuck/Tampa Bay Times/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1135143
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: The Tampa Bay Rays' Jamey Wright throws live batting practice during spring training on Tuesday, February 19, 2013, in Port Charlotte, Florida. (James Borchuck/Tampa Bay Times/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1135143

When the tornado formed May 20 near Newcastle, Marnie Wright desperately tried to get in touch with her husband, Jamey, a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Wrights moved to Dallas a few years ago, but parents on both sides of the family live in the Moore area.

Jamey was in Toronto. The Rays had lost a 7-5 afternoon game. Concluding his postgame workout, Wright was in the visitor's weight room.

“My phone buzzed. My wife was screaming and crying,” Wright said. “I asked, ‘What's going on?' She screamed, ‘tornadoes.' I turn the training room TV on to CNN. This was before it got huge, at the very beginning.”

Marnie already had contacted her parents. After he hung up, Jamey called his father.

“He told me exactly where it was at,” Wright said. “It ended up being just a little south of both our families.”

Wright's mother-in-law was friends with the mother and daughter who lost their lives at the 7-Eleven on a day winds peaked at 210 mph.

“It's just awful,” Wright said. “We have friends of friends that lost their homes, lost everything. I went back there on my off day three days later. To see it ... those poor people affected by it, I don't have words. They'll get through this, but I just feel so bad for them.”

A first-round pick by the Colorado Rockies 20 years ago out of Westmoore, Wright, 38, has lived most of his life in Moore.

“I always tell people that's where I'm from,” Wright said. “The kindest people I've ever been around are right there in Moore.”

Jamey, his wife and three children — daughter Presley, 9, and sons Jett, 6, and Cash, 5 — made their offseason home in Moore until three years ago. After playing two seasons with the Texas Rangers, they purchased a home in Highland Park.

“We really don't have to drive,” Wright said. “I can walk my kids to school in about four minutes. They sort of call it the bubble, a two-mile area that provides everything you need. We love it there, but Moore will always be home.”

10 different MLB teams

Eight consecutive seasons Wright has reported to spring training as a nonroster invitee. Eight consecutive seasons Wright has made a major league roster.

The first decade of his career Wright had guaranteed contracts. He made 246 starts before converting to the bullpen in his early 30s.

Wright hasn't started a game in six years, but eight times he made more than 20 starts, the majority with the Rockies, who drafted him with the 28th overall selection.

“Colorado is still one of my favorite parks,” Wright said. “I just wish I would have pitched a little better there.”

The list of 10 teams Wright has pitched for is exhibit A how a former starting pitcher revived his career as a bullpen specialist.

The list of major league teams Wright has pitched for: Rockies, Brewers, Cardinals, Royals, Giants, Rangers, Indians, Mariners, Dodgers and Rays.

“I'm doing what I love to do,” Wright said. “I've been a baseball fan since I was six years old. I'd grab the newspaper and see how George Brett and Bret Saberhagen were doing with the Royals.

“You see so many guys have shoulder or elbow problems. I've never had shoulder surgery. I've been blessed to stay healthy. I feel as good the past couple of years as I've ever felt. I'm throwing the ball as well as I ever have.”

Casey Close, Wright's longtime agent who represents high-profile clients such as Derek Jeter and Ryan Howard, told the Seattle Times two years ago he's enjoyed watching Wright extend his career.

“What a fantastic human being,” Close said. “He fought through a few hardships and still made himself a very effective pitcher. Jamey always has had a passion for the game. It comes through. That's one reason his success has continued further than other players.”

When he pitched for Westmoore in the early '90s, a program that started from scratch in 1989, Wright didn't have grandiose expectations. He would have been thrilled with a college scholarship.

Two decades later, Wright calls up boxscores on his iPad to keep tabs on dozens of former teammates, like Todd Helton and Matt Holliday.

“Playing for all these teams, I've got more friends than anybody,” Wright said. “That's important. The relationships I've made in this game I've been very blessed. I cherish every one of them. That's the fun part, the part I will miss someday.”

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