Whether or not he got to play baseball during his senior year of high school, Hobbs graduate Hunter Wright knew he was going to play college ball – he just didn’t know where.
But, as of Tuesday night, the decision was made as Wright signed his letter of intent to play for the University of the Southwest.
“I have been working for this since I was seven years old,” Wright said. “Grinding day in and day out and all the hard work is paying off. I am looking forward to keep playing the game I love because I am not ready to hang it up.”
Wright lost his junior season to the COVID-19 pandemic and then his senior season was delayed, but that didn’t stop him. Wright expected to play in college.
“I knew I was going to get to this point,” he said. “I had full faith in myself that I was going to go to the next level, whether we played or whether we didn’t play.”
As a member of the Eagles, Wright helped Hobbs advance to the Class 5A state championship game, something the Eagles hadn’t done in the previous 40 years. Unfortunately Wright and the Eagles came up short in their bid to win a state title, falling to La Cueva in the championship game at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Still, the Eagles had the best record in the state, finishing 20-3. Hobbs was the only school in New Mexico to win 20 games in the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened season.
Wright led the Eagles in stolen bases (13), walks (16), and was tied for the team lead in plate appearances (86). He also reached on an error a team-high five times. Overall, the Eagle graduate hit .397 with three doubles and a triple. He scored 25 runs and knocked in 11.
“We had a great group of kids,” Wright said. “We were all family. We worked together and we worked hard. (The season) was a dream come true.”
While the college game is tougher than the high school level, USW skipper Mark Appel isn’t worried about Wright having a hard time with the transition.
“I believe Hunter will adjust just fine,” Appel said. “Is it different? Yes. However, I think coach Boyle does a great job preparing these boys to eventually become great collegiate players.”
Despite losing his junior season to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wright still put up good numbers for his high school career. He had a .348 batting average with 39 runs scored and 14 RBI. He had four doubles and a triple along with 19 walks and 15 stolen bases.
“He was a great kid to have around. He was one of those kids who works extremely hard,” Hobbs skipper Marco Boyle said. “He is a leader by example. I just wish the best for him. USW has got a really good kid. He is going to work his tail off. He listens and is a true believer in the philosophy of the program. He does exact- l y what you ask of him and plays the game 100 percent.”
Boyle believes Wright will be a great addition to the USW baseball program.
“As long as he works hard and makes a showing, I think he is the kind of kid who they are going to be able to put in the lineup,” Boyle said. “He is a winner, a go-getter, a gamer so to speak. The work that he puts in day in and day out at practice, really is what is going to shine for him.”
Wright is joining a program that went 22-34 during the 2020-21 season and played all of its games on the road, because of New Mexico COVID-19 protocols preventing games from being played in the state. Despite everything against them, the Mustangs still managed to earn a spot in the Red River Athletic Conference tournament. USW won its first game in the tourney, before dropping the next two, ending the Mustangs’ season.
Before signing with USW, Wright played in a lot of college showcases and had several one-on-one tryouts. But it was Appel who Wright really impressed.
“The USW coach came and watched me in our first playoff game against Carlsbad,” Wright said. “After that he wanted to talk with me in person, and we went and talked and he gave me an offer.”
“I’m looking for a player that is hungry and blue collar. Those two types of players really thrive in our program, and I believe Hunter has those drives,” Appel said. “He is young and the ability to play most positions on the field will help him get on the field much quicker at an early age.”
The Eagle graduate went over to the campus and got to take a tour. He saw the clubhouse, the indoor hitting cages, the dorms and the campus. Because school is out for the summer, he didn’t get to have any face-to-face meetings with the 2021-22 team, but Wright did say he knows a couple of players on the team.
The 2020-21 Mustang roster had several players from the Lubbock and Midland/ Odessa areas, and even one from Carlsbad, but Wright will be the only Lea County player on the team. That the Mustangs were able to land a county player was exciting for Appel.
“It’s always great when we get to bring in local talent,” the Mustangs’ skipper said. “Let’s be honest, most local standouts want to experience something different. Any time we get to keep someone of Hunter’s caliber, I believe that says something for our program. From the start, I have always wanted to win with local and regional talent, and I believe we have done so.”
While some players do red-shirt their freshman year, Appel gives every player the chance to earn a spot on the active roster, and Wright will be granted that opportunity like everyone else.
“Everyone in my program has an opportunity to compete for a starting spot or a varsity roster spot,” the USW skipper said. “I think that is the beautiful thing about my program, the kids that work their tails off each year get more playing time. It’s never about politics, never about age, never about where they are from. Each and every one of my kids are equal and have their share to compete for playing time. This last year we had five guys in the field and three guys in our rotation that were freshmen. I think that is a huge selling point to my program – that freshmen have the same opportunity as the upperclassmen to play. I’m excited to see what this guy can do for us.”
As for his education, Wright hasn’t decided on a major, but thinks he might study business. Baseball-wise, one of the best things for Wright is playing at home. Having friends and family able to come watch his home games is something the future Mustang is looking forward to. While he got to see the dorms, Wright said he is planning to live at home as long as he can.
“I will still be able to see my family and friends and still play the game I love,” he said. “I want as much support as I can (get) from friends, family, and just anybody who knows me. I want to represent Hobbs as best I can.”