By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Newly minted head coach Justin Holmes wasted little time in securing the first part of his staff for the 2019 Tennessee Tech baseball season, announcing the return of assistant coach Mitchell Wright in an enhanced role.
"It's unbelievable," Wright said of the opportunity to stay on with the Golden Eagles. "I love it here. My fiancé, Lacy [Anderson], and I are really looking forward to getting our lives started here. I love this team. There's a great dynamic and it's one I've never truly felt before. The relationship between myself and the staff and the players and all of the innerworkings is very intricate. There's a ton of open communication and it's just very special. I am blessed to be here and excited to get rolling again."
Holmes added, "There's no other guy I would want for this position. The guys love him. He's loyal to the program and the University. I'm happy that he will be staying with us."
Wright was heavily involved with the Tech pitching staff in 2018, a unit that turned in the best team earned run average (4.86) in the Ohio Valley Conference and lowest by a Golden Eagle squad since the 2014 campaign. He worked with two of the most decorated pitchers in program history, ace Travis Moths and closer Ethan Roberts, both of whom became All-Americans and top-10 round selections in the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft.
"Mitch did a fantastic job this past season," Holmes explained. "He had to walk into his first year at the Division I level and we're a top-25 team. He got thrown right into the fire. He was tested right away and passed with flying colors. We all are in that situation and there's a lot of pressure on every single move that you make and, more than anything, just going to work every day, doing the right things and making sure you are on top of it. And he handled that with grace."
Looking forward to 2019 and beyond, Wright will expand his role on the staff in a number of ways.
"I'll have some more recruiting duties than I've had in the past, working a little bit closer with Coach Holmes on developing offers," Wright explained. "I'll be significantly more involved in pitching this year, expanding on a good role I had last year. I'll likely start by calling pitches early in the year, but I think it's important that whomever is catching is learning and can eventually call the game for us."
Holmes echoed the anticipated role to one that places Wright as the Golden Eagle pitching coach moving forward.
"When we talk about roles, expanded is a good way to say that, because he did help Coach [Matt] Bragga extensively with the pitching," Holmes said. "Now he is going to take over that program. I'm a baseball guy, but I am not a pitcher by trade, so I feel that we need to have a guy in that position where that's his specialty. His plan, his strategies as far as developing the pitchers, having programs for them to throw on, arm maintenance, everything like that, is top notch.
"His recruiting – he has experience prior to coming here with UAH and being on the road," Holmes added. "He has great connections. I think he has a great rapport with the kids and a good eye for talent, or at least it matches up with what I humbly think is good talent. And it's very important that we speak the same language on that, which we do."
Wright joined the Golden Eagle staff as an assistant coach for the 2018 season after serving as a student and then volunteer assistant coach at the University of Alabama in Huntsville for two and a half years. While in Huntsville, Wright served as a student coach for the 2016 season and then as a volunteer assistant for the 2017 season. He also served as an athletic administration assistant for UAH during his three years at the university, covering an array of responsibilities with game management and staff coordination.
Wright was a member of the Chargers' baseball team as a left-handed pitcher from 2014-15, completing his senior season with All-Gulf South Conference Honorable Mention honors. He struck out 60 batters in just over 50 innings of work on the mound, highlighted with a career-high 10 punchouts at North Alabama.
Prior to his arrival at UAH, Wright played for one season at the University of West Alabama in 2012, eventually transferring to Calhoun Community College for the 2013 season. In 2013, he earned ACCC North Division First Team honors.
A left-handed pitcher for four years, Wright comes from a family of baseball players and coaches. His father, Roger, served as the head baseball coach at Buckhorn High School in New Market, Ala. for 17 years before stepping down in 2014 to watch his sons play. A 2016 inductee into the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame, he returned to Buckhorn as a head coach in March of 2017.
The Huntsville, Ala. native also has two younger brothers immersed in the baseball world. His middle brother, Kyle, was a star for Vanderbilt from 2015-17 and was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves. His youngest brother, Trey, is set return to Buckhorn High School for his sophomore season and play for their father, Roger.
Wright graduated from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in December 2016, earning degrees in both history and secondary education. He is currently engaged to Lacy Anderson.
"The opportunity to stay here is very special to me," Wright said. "I get to stay closer to my family and Lacy really loves Cookeville. The chance to stay at a program that is this elite is something I've always dreamed about, but nothing I ever thought would actually happen at this point in my career."
Photo by Thomas Corhern