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Father, daughter returning Tuesday to West County softball field

MAC Cardinals face off against the Three Rivers College Raiders

Contributing Writer

“What I miss most is sharing the field with my dad.”

That’s what Three Rivers College freshman Gracie Wright recently said. She is a 2023 West County High School graduate and now plays softball for the Poplar Bluff-based college.

C.J. Wright might have been daughter Gracie’s softball coach for many years, but he and his wife Melanie’s most important role has always been being Gracie’s biggest supporters. Submitted

CJ Wright was a teacher and softball coach at West County for several years. He recently left there and took on the role of softball coach at Mineral Area College.

Even though the father-daughter duo is no longer on the same team, they return to play against each other on the same field.

CJ and Gracie meet again on West County High School’s softball field for back-to-back games on Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. when the Three Rivers Raiders take on the MAC Cardinals.

Ever since she was little, Gracie has loved softball and has been coached by her dad.

“Having my dad as a coach was like having my best friend as a coach,” said Gracie. “He obviously was always harder on me and took most of his aggravation out on me, but it made me a better person and player.”

Gracie said she misses her dad as her coach, especially sharing the field with him.

“I’m so excited to get to play on my high school field and see everyone there,” she said. “I am so excited to step on that field again as a player and just share the field with my dad again, even if we are on opposite sides.”

Gracie has been adjusting to college life in Poplar Bluff. She said it’s going well, and she’s slowly adjusting. She attends both in-person and online classes.

Gracie was about 6 years old in this photo when her dad and coach, CJ Wright, stepped in to give her instructions on getting a hit during a softball game. Submitted

As a Three Rivers Raider, Gracie practices daily and lifts weights twice a week with the softball team, where she pitches and plays second base. Training mainly consists of defensive and hitting groups and a few weekly team practices.

The girls’ softball team plays about 60 games during their fall and spring seasons.

“It’s neat to be out on the field and know that it was all my hard work over the years that got me here,” she said.

Gracie added that she’s enjoyed getting to meet and know her new teammates.

After she graduates with her associate’s degree from Three Rivers, Gracie is planning to transfer to a four-year university to continue playing softball and finish her education to become an elementary teacher.

“I hope to return to my roots at West County to teach and coach,” she said.

One of the things she misses from high school is the relationships she had with her softball teammates.

“I grew up playing with most of them throughout my whole softball career, and the relationships we had on and off the field are unbeatable,” she said.

Gracie added, “I took pride in wearing West County across my chest, and the opportunities I was given at West County are some of the best times of my life. I will never forget them.”

CJ Wright joyfully hugs daughter Gracie as the team celebrates their success against Central in the conference softball championship game. Submitted

She expressed her appreciation to her West County family for everything they did for her and her dad over the years.

“Thanks for allowing us to come back to the field that we love to share the game that we love.”

CJ said that Tuesday’s MAC vs. Three Rivers games should be exciting for a lot of people, including his wife Melanie, who will be cheering on both teams.

Jessica Hulsey is his assistant softball coach at MAC. She is also a graduate of Three Rivers College and has played with or against Gracie during their softball careers.

The coaches have 19 players on their team. They play anywhere from 40 to 50 games a year.

“So far, it’s been a very busy year with lots of new and good things on tap for 2024,” CJ said.

That includes a new clubhouse coming in the spring.

CJ and Gracie Wright are all smiles after their softball team earned a second-place finish at the 2023 MSHSAA Class 2 Spring Season Softball State Tournament in Springfield. Submitted

He added that they’ll likely face some challenges, but his team is working hard together so far.

“The girls seem to be buying into what I’m trying to build,” he said.

CJ is looking forward to not only returning to the West County softball field but also seeing his daughter on the same field.

“I miss getting to spend every day on the field with her,” he said.

He also misses interacting with his high school softball team and talking over practice and game plans with them at school.

Of all the successes CJ experienced while a West County softball team coach, he said that coming up with his favorite moment is easy — being at the Class 4 state tournament.

“Calling Gracie’s pitches in a record-breaking performance of a semi-final game was something I’ll never forget.”

Don’t miss this special father-daughter duo’s return to the West County softball field starting at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 3.

Pam Clifton is a contributing writer for the Daily Journal.

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