When Margie Wright was 10 years old, she wanted to play on her Little League Baseball team. She wasn’t allowed to – the league only allowed boys – so she was determined to make her mark in the sport.
On Saturday, she notched one more achievement it when Fresno State’s 3,288-seat softball stadium was renamed in her honor. The scoreboard in dead-center field and banner that greets Bulldog fans to the facility now read “Margie Wright Diamond.”
Wright, the winningest NCAA Division I softball coach in history, returned to Fresno from her native Illinois for the renaming ceremony. Fresno State President Joseph Castro, athletic director Thomas Boeh and former player and current Fresno fire chief Kerri Donis all spoke honoring Wright.
U.S. Rep. Jim Costa presented Wright with a Congressional Record of Honor on the softball diamond, and then she threw out the first pitch before the ‘Dogs’ match against Colorado State.
“I can’t really describe the feeling,” Wright said. “It’s one of great pride, but also I’m very humbled. There are so many people who helped make this happen. It’s just a great day for everyone.”
Wright began her coaching career at Illinois State in 1980 and spent six seasons there, tallying a 163-92-2 record. She began her Fresno State tenure in 1986 and spent 27 seasons, finishing her career in 2012 at 1,457-542-3.
She pioneered the construction of her eponymous stadium in the mid-1990s after years at the old softball diamond near the Residence Dining Hall.
“We used to play mid-week games at 1 o’clock, because we didn’t have lights,” she said. Then she pointed at the alumni in attendance. “Some of you might have lost your jobs over the years from making sure you came by those games.”
And despite the conditions at the old softball field, the average attendance still remained over 1,000. That motivated her to seek a better facility for the Fresno State faithful.
At first, she assembled a stadium committee that met every Friday to discuss renovating the old diamond. But the chance to build a state-of-the-art facility quickly surfaced.
“From there, as we kept meeting, we just got more and more motivated to do something bigger and better,” Wright said. “It was too important to the fans and players to have a facility that this community could be really proud of.”
Finally, the committee secured financing, and groundbreaking for the new stadium began in April 1995. It only took 10 months to build, and the diamond was ready by Fresno State’s home opener in February 1996.
The Bulldogs went on to have a successful record at the facility. They won 82.5 percent of their home games and have yet to lose 100 in 19 seasons (467-99). From 1996-2013, the ‘Dogs averaged 1,741 people per game.
Some 18 years later, Wright looks at the scoreboard and sees her name in large letters. It is Fresno State’s big “thank you” for her contribution to Division I softball.
“It gives me goosebumps,” she said. “I’m really happy they were able to do it so that I can at least enjoy it. So many people never get to know about their legacy, so I feel really fortunate that Dr. Castro got it through quickly.”