Corey Ray admits that attending Louisville is the best decision he’s made.
However, coming out of high school Ray didn’t even want to go to Louisville. After being selected in the 33rd round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft by Seattle, Ray wanted to go straight into professional baseball.
However, his father insisted on him attending college to improve as a baseball player and have a degree as a backup plan.
“As a young athlete it is always your dream to play in the professionals,” Ray said. “Professional baseball was knocking at my door. As it being my dream my entire life to have a career as a professional baseball player the first thing and the only thing I wanted to do was play baseball and get paid to do it.
“My dad humbled me a little bit and told me I wasn’t ready. He saw something in me that I didn’t see. He saw that if went to college for a few years and got better that I could eventually be an elite player.”
Now after 2 ½ seasons at Louisville, it looks like Ray’s decision has paid off. Ray enters his junior season as a preseason All-American and MLB.com’s No. 5 prospect for June’s draft.
If he remains one of the top prospects when the draft rolls around, he’ll be the highest pick in Louisville history and the first top 10 pick Chicago has produced since Philadelphia drafted Jeff Jackson fourth in 1989.
“I just look at it as no ones expectations matter to me besides my own,” Ray said. “People can say what they want about you, whether it’s good or bad. You can’t pay attention to it because that can get you off your square and can lose focus.”
Ray became a top draft prospect after his productive sophomore season. An All-American selection, the left-handed swinging outfielder hit .325 with 11 home runs, 56 RBIs, 15 doubles, five triples and 34 stolen bases.
He then continued to star in the summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, where he led the team in slugging percentage, extra-base hits and steals.
“It was a lot of fun (to play with Team USA),” Ray said. “I can’t put into words the feeling I had when I first put on the Team USA uniform, and I’m standing on the foul line and they play our national anthem, then they play Chinese Tapi’s national anthem. It’s surreal because you’re representing your country doing what you love to do.”
Ray spent the offseason working on making hard and consistent contact and improving his plate discipline in order to come back and have a productive season.
Ray profiles as a centerfielder at the next level, but has played all three-outfield positions during his time at Louisville.
All though he is only 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, he possesses more power than most would assume. He’s capable of hitting in any of the top four spots of the batting lineup, but will likely be a leadoff hitter in the pros.
Ray has plus speed and uses it well on the bases. He also is solid defensively and has a strong arm.
His versatility offensively and defensively will make him an attractive prospect for teams selecting in top five picks of June’s draft. If he is able to have another productive season, there is no question that he will likely be the first position player selected.
However, Ray isn’t focused on his success. Instead, he’s only worried about doing whatever he can to help Louisville win ball games.
“My No. 1 goal is to find away everyday to help my team win,” Ray said. “If I do that, everything else will work itself out. I think if you go out and play hard your personal stats will come. At the end of the day it’s about how you can contribute to your team’s success.”
Louisville is expected to compete for a national championship, after going 47-18 and falling one win away from making it to the College World Series last season, which makes it easier for Ray to focus on his team’s success instead of his own.
“I think it’s easier to focus on your team and to focus on your brothers when you are playing for something that’s bigger than you,” Ray said. “We are trying to go out and win a national championship.
“Whether Corey Ray hits 10 home runs or 15, it doesn’t matter. Whether Corey Ray went out there and played defense and competed in the box, that’s what matters.”