“That was another thing that I wanted to do, play here at OU,” Gray said. “The cool part about that is I get to be a part of the program and play at the school I always wanted to, but also, my family is close by and they get to see me play.”
Gray first flashed his potential at Chandler High School, earning The Oklahoman's Little All-City Player of the Year nod and making the All-State Team. That's when the Royals came calling, to no avail.
He spent a year at Eastern Oklahoma State College, pitching well there, too, before joining the Sooners a year ago.
“For me, I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, always wanting to be a part of OU athletics,” Gray said. “And to actually have a chance to, it's a big deal. I love it. I don't take any of it for granted. I love every moment I'm here. It means so much.”
Even Golloway recognizes that Gray's time at OU is down to the final few months. And he jokes that he keeps that in mind when he makes a rare trip to the mound to either talk strategy with Gray, or consider a pitching change.
“I've got to be nice to him,” Golloway told reporters last weekend. “He's going to be a booster in June.”
Indeed, it's serious when someone like Epstein shows up at your game, although Gray said he didn't even know the man now charged with rebuilding the Cubs organization had made the trip.
Even more serious, Gray could go No. 1 overall, amid reports that the Houston Astros are developing a fondness for the big Sooner and considering taking him to open the draft.
Regardless, Gray vows to stay true to what got him here.
“It doesn't matter if I have a good outing, I'm always looking to do better,” he said. “I'm always looking to climb.”
Now, in this spring of 2013, and the months ahead, it might not go any higher.
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Shades of Gray
OU right-hander Jonathan Gray is dominating college hitters and tempting professional personnel men, with his draft stock climbing toward to the top of this June's MLB Draft — maybe all the way to the top. The vitals on Gray:
Stuff: Fastball that sits at 94-97 mph and can touch 100; cut-slider that ranges from 83-88; changeup that runs low 80s.
Stats: Gray is 6-1 with a 1.19 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings. He's allowed 34 hits and 11 walks. Opponents are batting .167 against him.
Draft stock: Rising. Gray is now being mentioned for the No. 1 overall pick in MLB's June Draft, alongside Stanford's Mark Appel and Indiana State's Sean Manaea, two other noted pitchers.
Compares to: According to baseballdraftreport.com, scouts have favorably compared Gray to several successful pros — Detroit's Max Scherzer, the Mets' Matt Harvey, former Sooner Garrett Richards of the Angels, Pittsburgh top prospect Gerrit Cole. And then there are the eye-opening comps — Roger Clemens and Justin Verlander.