One of the best things about having Minor League baseball right here on the Gulf Coast is getting the chance to see future stars in the making before they become stars.
Last year, there was no doubt the Biloxi Shuckers had one of those guys in Corey Ray who became the first player to ever lead the Southern League in both home runs and stolen bases in the same season.
He appeared to be well on his way to stardom, but now finds himself back in the AA ranks where it’s one step back, two steps forward for the former first round pick.
“For me, it reminds me how good this place has been to me. You come here and it is AA and I didn’t have all the confidence in the world when I got here. And just the fans believing in me, even through the slumps, even with the year that I had before I got here last year. They still believed in me and they still were interested in me. They took care of my family well, and I think that that all added up to me having a good season.”
It took Corey Ray all of two innings to reintroduce himself Thursday night, robbing a home run in his first game back with the Biloxi Shuckers in more than 10 months and it’s a catch he’ll remember for much longer than that. “Definitely at the top. I think I made a play like that last year. Kind of similar, more into left-center gap. But that’s definitely at the top, one I’ll remember. One I’ll tell my kids about when they get older.”
It was also Ray’s first game back from his second trip to the injured list this season for a finger he says he broke during spring training. That largely contributed to his .178 batting average through 25 games with AAA San Antonio Missions as did his 49 strikeouts. “Just control the strike zone more. I think for me, when I control the strike zone more I’m at my best. When I’m not going as good I’m chasing, trying to do too much. Just controlling, making consistent contact is something that I’m really focusing on moving forward.”
Considering Ray was a career .318 hitter at Louisville that shouldn’t be much of a problem for the third-ranked prospect of the Milwaukee Brewers. Now that his grip strength has fully returned, it’s all about making up for lost time. “To be on the field. I missed so much time, you kind of feel like the season has gone past and it’s the end of the season now. But realize there will be some bumps in the road, just because when you miss as much baseball as I have it’ll be a little tough to get consistent. But just to continue to get better every day. Come in and punch the clock and do what it is that my team needs me to do to win.”
Anything resembling his league-leading 27 home runs and 37 stolen bases would be an ideal place to start. For now, patience is the name of the game for the reigning Southern League and Brewers minor league player of the year. “I don’t know the plan. They tell me where to go and that’s where I go. I try to play the best baseball I can play and whatever happens after that happens. I would guess an extended rehab sort of thing trying to get my feet back under me, but if I’m here for a week or if I’m here for the rest of the season, whatever it is, I’m playing baseball and I’m blessed to be back on the field.”
Ray hit out of the lead-off spot in his first game back with Biloxi last night, going 2-for-5 from the dish with a run scored and a second inning home run robbery in right center.
He also tells News 25 he didn’t miss the rain while he was in San Antonio.