Blue Jays Wright hangs up cleats

McCLURE – For the first time in 18 springs, McClure’s Matt Wright won’t be getting ready for another baseball season.

Since Wright was 9 years old in 1997, he has been playing organized baseball and moving up the ladder. He went from Little League to Babe Ruth to American Legion to high school, to college and then to the professional ranks.

He has pitched in the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor league organizations since 2008.

But, the lefthander from Snyder County has decided to retire. He will be 27 in May.

“I had a feeling at the end of last season (in AA Manchester, N.H.). I gave myself a lot of time (over the winter) to think about it and now I am at peace with my decision,” he said

“Now, I will be able to spend more time with my family and friends,” Wright noted. “This will be the first spring and summer that I have had free for years.”

Baseball has been a big part of Wright’s life since he started playing for McClure in the Snyder County Little League.

After Little League he moved into Mifflin County Babe Ruth, playing for Belltown. As a 15-year-old, he was named the league’s top pitcher and backed it up with an outstanding perfomance on the tournament trail.

Wright was one of the main reasons Mifflin County advanced to its first Babe Ruth World Series in 2002. He not only was one of the top pitchers, but he scored the winning run in the regional final that sent the local all stars to Connersville, Ind., for the series.

He pitched in 10 games as an all star that summer and had a 3-2 record. Wright threw 52 innings, struck out 53 and walked 21. He had a WHIP of 1.03.

During the World Series he threw 19 innings and gave up just two runs. In fact, he pitched back to back days against Omaha, Neb., and Tallahassee, Fla., giving up just two runs in 13 innings of work. For his efforts, he was named as one of the two Sportsmanship Award winners for the series.

His success continued in American Legion baseball, where he played for West Snyder in the Susquehanna Valley League. In high school after three seasons at West Snyder, he led Midd-West in its inaugural year to its highest finish ever in a team sport as he pitched and batted the Mustangs to the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals.

Then it was on to college where he was named as an NCAA Division II All-American at Shippensburg University. He made his mark early, winning 2006 Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference Rookie of the Year. During his junior year, he helped the Red Raiders to the 2008 NCAA Division II World Series.

Wright picked up Shippensburg’s only win in the series, striking out 15 batters along the way.

He established school and PSAC records for strikeouts in a season (151) and a career (333).

Also during his college years, he pitched in one of the top college summer leagues in the nation, the Cape Cod League.

Next came the major league draft in 2008 and he was selected in the 12th round by the Blue Jays.

Wright then worked his way up the minor league chain.

During his stay in the minors, he played for Auburn (N.Y.) in the short-season Class A New York-Penn league in 2008 and 2009. He moved up to the Lansing (Mich.) Lugnuts of the Class A Midwest League in 2010.

From there he went to Dunedin Blue Jays of the Florida State League, another Class A club, in 2011 and 2012, and for the past two years pitched for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats of the Class AA Eastern League.

His six year minor league totals were 15-15 with four saves. He pitched in 101 games and 376.1 innings. He gave up 351 hits and 190 runs. His strikeout to walk ratio was what set him apart from other pitchers as he struck out 416 and walked 131.

Some of the strikeout victims included Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Jacoby Ellsbury.

“I don’t have any regrets,” Wright said, “I got to go to different places that I probably wouldn’t have during those six years. I got to meet a lot of famous baseball people.”

During those days away from Snyder County he got to meet Richie Hebner, Roger Clemens, Rick Langford, Pat Hentgen and Sal Fasano, who was his manager in Lansing.

He plans to continue to work with his father, Scott, at their McClure business and he also plans to coach the Beaver Springs Babe Ruth team with his father.