Detour to the Dominican: Franklin County alumnus finds opportunity with Braves after foreign ball
Published 5:36 am Saturday, December 11, 2021
LORMAN — Roxie native Clayvonjae V. Wright walked on and earned a scholarship to play baseball with the Alcorn State Braves this fall. Unlike most players who celebrate their signings in a library or school gym, Wright saw his senior season at Franklin County High School disappear.
He said he got into some minor trouble and was placed into alternative learning. Prom was taken away and so was his senior year of baseball. His opportunity to earn a scholarship at the college level was gone.
His dad Michael Wright went on a vacation trip to the Dominican Republic where he talked with some guys who played baseball and lead training. Michael showed them a video of his son and the people were impressed.
“They liked how I played. They could make me better,” Clayvonjae said. “My dad came back home and asked me what I wanted to do in life. He told me about the league and asked if I was interested. I said ‘yeah.’”
Clayvonjae spent the next two years going on four trips to the Dominican Republic to play baseball, all in order to earn the opportunity to play baseball at the collegiate level. His first trip lasted a month. His second lasted for about two months. The third lasted a month before COVID cut it short, and the fourth lasted about six months, he said.
The first week in the Dominican is still fresh on his mind. Getting off the plane he was greeted by tropical weather. It was hot, he said. There was a little bit of culture shock when he heard the locals speak.
“I had never seen black people speak Spanish. In Mississippi, most of the Spanish I heard was at Mexican restaurants,” Clayvonjae said. “My Spanish was not all that good then but I got better. My first time going there I didn’t talk much. I just trained a lot.”
His time in the Dominican was spent in Boca Chica, a city in the province of Santo Domingo. It is the hometown of Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Elvis Luciano, who was the first player born in the 2000s to play in a MLB game.
Baseball is a big deal to Dominicans because it is their main sport. Players are taught how to be professionals from a young age, he said.
While American baseball training focuses heavily on weights, the training there was different. It required more agility and led to a lot of soreness for Wright in his first week.
Over time, his Spanish improved and he could understand what people said. He could say what he needed to say in Spanish, but was not good at putting multiple sentences together. His baseball also improved.
“I would wake up early in the morning and go to practice from 6 to 7 a.m. Then I practiced with a second group from 10 to 11 a.m.,” Clayvonjae said. “I would go back to the apartment and rest. A little later in the evening I would go out and workout and practice again. We would go to the beach and work out. I didn’t have a job, I just focused on baseball.”
In his time there he hit seven home runs. One of those home runs was a grand slam in Juan Dolio, a town in the province of Sand Pedro de Macoris. He will return to the Dominican for one last refresher before returning to school at Alcorn State University. Every time he goes down, Clayvonjael said he feels like his game has improved.
At Alcorn State, he is studying business management. His goal is to learn how to work in stocks and hopefully take his money and make money, he said.
Head coach Reginald Williams said it was a surprise to him when he heard Clayvonjae’s story.
“He is a baseball rat because he is always at the ballpark. He is a hard worker and is soft spoken,” Williams said. “I look forward to working with him. He is like a sponge. He is very receptive and executes everything.”
Defensively, Clayvonjae has good mechanics and at the plate, he has some power in his bat. While the NCAA limits how often coaches can lead practices, players are allowed to go to facilities and train on their own.
Williams, who played baseball for the Cincinnati Reds, was hired in late August. He is optimistic and upbeat for the upcoming season. The players have created a level of excitement, he said.
“We are going in with a mentality of competing against the conference and working together,” Williams said. “I think as a team we are working for one another and with one another. We can accomplish some good things. Clayvonjae’s chemistry with the team is very good.”
Clayvonjae said his belief in his ability to play baseball is what kept him going. It was a lesson he learned while playing in the Dominican.
“I feel like if you believe you can do something you can do it,” Clayvonjae said. “Down there, from the time they are kids they believe they are going to be in the majors. It’s the only way out. It is the only thing they think about. If you put the work in you can do it.”