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Meet the Mormon 'Moonlight' Graham

Published: Thursday, Nov. 1 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Thanks to the 1989 film “Field of Dreams,” many know the story of Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. The outfielder appeared in one Major League Baseball game with the New York Giants in 1905.

Ron Wright is the Mormon version of “Moonlight” Graham, with a slight twist.

Wright made his major league debut with the Seattle Mariners in a 2002 game against the Texas Rangers. While Graham never came to the plate, Wright batted three times and accounted for six outs.

“It’s cool and not cool,” Wright said of his membership in baseball’s one-and-done club. “I could have fared better, but I did make my one game memorable. I’m just glad I made it. It was an unforgettable experience.”

Wright’s long climb to his single appearance in the big leagues is a compelling story. Along the way he found his wife and started a family, overcame a debilitating injury, avoided steroids and emerged with increased faith and a stronger testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“The gospel," he said, "kept my head on straight through it all.”

Dale Murphy

Wright was born in Delta, Utah, the son of a mason/beekeeper. His family, faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, moved to Tri-Cities, Wash., when Wright was about 8 years old. He developed a love of baseball at a young age and idolized the most prominent Mormon in the majors — Dale Murphy. He got a copy of Murphy’s biography and soaked up everything he could learn about the 1982 and 1983 National League MVP.

“I’ve loved ‘Murph’ since he was with the (Atlanta) Braves,” Wright said. “I knew he was LDS, which set him up as a good role model.”

Wright recalls traveling with some relatives to San Francisco to see a Giants-Braves three-game series in 1987. The group was able to meet Murphy and even attended church services with the Atlanta baseball star.

“I’ll never forget that. It was really a neat experience,” Wright said. “The whole three days were surreal. It was crazy being in his presence. He was the idol of a lot of LDS kids back then. Right then I knew I wanted to play baseball as long as I could.”

Game-changing choices

The Atlanta Braves drafted Wright in the seventh round of the 1994 draft. As he adjusted to life in the minors in West Palm Beach, Fla., he found himself surrounded by 18-year-olds away from their parents for the first time. They had money to spend and no morals, Wright said.

“There was everything going on down there,” he said. “It was like a college fraternity on steroids.”

It just so happened that the league Wright played in didn’t schedule games on Sunday, the only league in pro baseball with that policy, he said. But on his first Sunday morning, nobody was there to make him go to church, so he skipped out. A few days later, however, the 18-year-old had a game-changing epiphany.

“My parents made sure I knew the biggest priority in their life, besides us, was the church. But you have to decide whether you will go or not. My family is 3,000 miles away. They are done checking up on me. I can’t rely on their testimony anymore,” Wright said. “I realized right then I needed the church in my life and made a conscious decision to stay true.”

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