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Wright takes role in stride

Though not an everyday starter, the former Bloomingdale and USF star has found a niche with her hometown team.

While playing third base for Bloomingdale high school seven seasons ago, Amber Wright was a key factor in the school's first fast-pitch state championship. She was the Times' Hillsborough County Player of the Year and an all-state selection in her senior year.

After four years starting for the University of South Florida, she is now an important part of the Tampa Bay FireStix title run.

Wright has played in all three Women's Pro Softball League seasons. Her initial season was at Tampa Bay, then last season she helped Orlando win the league championship.

Although she doesn't always start, she is a regular player and major contributor to the league-leading FireStix' hot season.

"Amber will give everything she has for the benefit of the team," FireStix coach Linda Derk said. "Every time we have called on her to do something, she not only goes in and does it, she goes in a does it well."

Making the adjustments from high school to college to professional, left definite impressions on her mind. Stepping up levels in competition was not an automatic step up in her skill level.

She worked hard to improve.

"In high school it was easy to stand out, because there weren't that many great pitchers or players," she said. "I was able to stand out. In college everybody was playing at my level and most were better. There wasn't a weak pitcher in anybody's lineup. I had to work extra hard to keep up, improve and move ahead."

On her way to playing professionally, she discovered quickly she was on her own to improve her skills and had daily pressure. She realized very early how much she missed the oversight and correction of high school and college coaching.

"Professional coaches expect each player to have the maturity and responsibility to isolate and correct any mistakes to improve," she said. "At first I thought it was just the coach I started with, but after three coaches I realize that is the way pro coaches operate. We are paid to know what we are doing and if we can't figure it out and correct it, they will hire someone else more capable."

Wright likes being in Tampa _ partly because she can save a few bucks by living at home,but mostly because her family and friends support her at home games.

Although she plays mostly in the outfield, she occasionally plays an infield position.

She takes her utility role in stride and doesn't complain. This year's FireStix, from the coaching and administration to each player, impress her.

"I feel very confident about this team," she said. "Every one of these women have a self-confidence that radiates the whole team. That is a good feeling. They don't get caught up in thinking, "Georgia is hot right now' or "Akron is the defending league champion.' We stay within ourselves, playing our game and doing our best on each play. We have the attitude we can beat anybody in the league as long as we play our game."

Derk believes players like Wright are important to the team, the sport and the league.

"You can't have a good quality team without players like Amber," Derk said. "Whenever she is on the filed and in the dugout, she not only gives everything, but supports her teammates."

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