Of course, the coronavirus pandemic shut baseball down weeks later, and the status of the season remains a question mark as players and owners trade proposals and take turns releasing statements of frustration to the media.
Since driving home from Florida in March, Gray has spent the spring at home in Springfield. He's had access to a batting cage at the Springfield Baseball LAB near the Ohio Masonic Home and recently hit against Tecumseh graduate J.T. Brubaker, a Triple-A pitcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization who spent much of the spring at their spring training facility in Bradenton, Fla.
» BASEBALL FEATURES: J.T. Brubaker | Adam Eaton | Mike Hauschild | Craig Stammen
Gray thanked Matt Fultz, a former Shawnee assistant coach who runs the Springfield Baseball LAB, for giving him free rein at the cages during the spring.
“I’m in here about every day,” Gray said. “I’m able to stay sharp and stay ready for when we hope we get called up to play.”
Whenever that happens — this year or next — Gray will be able to continue a pro career that got off to a promising start last summer.
Gray hit .225 with 11 home runs and 36 RBIs with the Elizabethton Twins (Tenn.) in the Appalachian League at the rookie level. On Aug. 30, the Twins promoted Gray to the Class-A Cedar Rapids Kernels in the Midwest League, and he .313 (5 for 16) in four games.
“I learned a lot about myself,” Gray said. “I learned some things I need to work on, but overall it was a good learning experience. I showed some good things, some good signs but also saw some things I need to improve on and tweak and work on in my swing. I thought it was a great first year for me. I showed some power. I learned a lot about myself and took that into the offseason and got a lot better.”
» SETH GRAY STORIES: Earning respect of foes at Shawnee | Shining as a sophomore
Gray spent the offseason in Springfield, splitting time between Wright State, before its facilities got shut down by the COVID-19 crisis, and the Springfield Baseball LAB. Gray would often work out with Gabe Snyder, a former Wright State teammate now in his third season in the Twins organization.
Gray and Snyder, a 21st-round pick in 2018 who hit .261 with 22 home runs in 2019, played together at the end of last season for Cedar Rapids. Now both are in the same situation as every other minor-league prospect. It’s a waiting game.
“I don’t know if the minor leagues will have a season,” Gray said. “We have to wait until the big league (situation) shakes out and see what they’re going to do. Even if we don’t have a season, I’ve heard talk of a taxi squad for the big-league roster. I don’t know if there’s a chance I get on that. I think there might be.”
Gray said he can’t remember going this long without playing baseball.
“It is kind of a weird time,” he said. “Everyone is anxious to get back. They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do to keep people healthy. I understand that. I’m definitely ready to play some ball.”