Very few people get to realize their dream.
So once they do, then what?
In a sense, that was Orioles right-hander Mike Wright in 2015.
The third-round pick in 2011 out of East Carolina University spent parts of five seasons in the minors before making his major league debut last May.
What a debut it was. He threw 7 1/3 shutout innings against the Los Angeles Angels to get the win. He followed that with seven more shutout innings in his next start and then won his third outing. He was 2-0 with a 1.40 ERA after three starts – you couldn’t begin a big league career much better.
But maybe, just maybe, Wright’s focus, hunger and determination slipped a little once he had immediate success in the majors
“The whole dream was to get there. I got there. I was really excited, really confident. It was kind of like adrenaline and everything was just in there,” Wright said. “But after that, it started to become, ‘This is where I’m going to normally be’ and I didn’t really have a direction.
“But now I think I have a little bit better direction, and I want to be consistent for more of the year and not just two starts.”
Like many rookies, Wright had his share of bumps and bruises in 2015. He ended up 3-5 with a 6.04 ERA in 12 games (nine starts). He ultimately lost a spot in the rotation. And that stuck with him all winter.
He entered spring training with a different mindset. He didn’t want to fit in. He wanted Buck Showalter and company to take notice.
“I was no longer there in spring training for the experience. It was my fourth year (in camp). I wanted a spot and I approached it like I was going to take a spot,” Wright said. “The years before I was going there to try and impress and try to do all the right things and kind of blend in. This year, I was trying not to blend in. I was trying to make a statement. And I really wanted a spot right out of spring training, and I think that was the difference.”
No one has ever questioned Wright’s competitiveness or ability. It’s been maintaining consistency that has been the problem. He felt like he did a better job of that in the spring, and he was named the club’s fourth starter to open the season.
He’ll make his 2016 debut Saturday night – assuming the weather permits (the forecast is not pretty). If Saturday’s game is postponed, Wright’s turn likely will be pushed back to Sunday.
Regardless, he’s getting a chance to do more than just pitch in the majors now, and he expects to take advantage of that opportunity.
“That’s my new dream, to stay in the rotation,” Wright said. “I’m gonna do what I need to do to help my team. And as far as executing pitches, if I can continue to do what I did in spring training, I think that’s gonna mean being in the rotation. And then I’m gonna stay there. The confidence is definitely there and I’m excited about it.”