Seth Gray can tell by family photos he was no ordinary kid.
“Whenever I see pictures of myself, I have a bat and ball in my hand,” he said. “While everybody else played with toys, I always had a baseball.”
Wright State’s slick-fielding, power-hitting third-baseman decided as a tyke to pursue a career in the Major Leagues — though not everyone was supportive of those goals.
“I had a teacher in third grade, and we had to go around the room and say what we wanted to do when we grew up. Some said, ‘I want to be a doctor.’ Or, ‘I want to be a firefighter.’ I told them, ‘I want to be a professional baseball player,’” Gray said. “My teacher told me to pick another profession because not a lot of people get to do that.”
Asked how he responded, Gray said, “I actually just told her I don’t have anything else I want to be.”
The Springfield Shawnee grad won’t have to look for another line of work at least for the foreseeable future after being picked in the fourth round of the Major League draft by the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.
Three other Raiders also were selected. Horizon League player of the year Peyton Burdick was picked in the third round and NCAA steals leader J.D. Orr in the 10th, both by the Miami Marlins, while pitcher Bear Bellomy was plucked in the 28th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
After slumping a bit in 2018, Gray, a lefty clean-up hitter, turned himself into a top prospect with a strong showing in the Cape Cod summer league and a breakout season this spring for the Raiders.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior earned first-team all-league honors after batting .351 with 11 home runs and 70 RBIs in 59 games.
He hit .267 with three homers and 37 RBIs last year.
“He really matured this year. He went up to the Cape Cod League, which is the premier league for college. And to me, he just came back a different hitter. He was a lot more confident,” Wright State coach Alex Sogard said.
“He came in talented, but he really grew as a player and person. I’m really happy he’s being rewarded.”
As the 119th selection overall, he’s the highest draftee from Springfield since Kenton Ridge’s Dustin Hermanson went in the first round in 1994. The Twins see the 20-year-old Gray as a player with a high ceiling.
“They believe I’ll be a lot better in three, four or five years. They like that I improved my power numbers this year, and they like my glove,” Gray said.
He credits assistant Matt Talarico for his growth on and off the field.
“He’s kind of turned into my second dad. He’s probably hit me a million ground balls. He’s stayed after practice and put in so much work with me. I wouldn’t be where I am as a player today if it wasn’t for him,” he said.
The 6-foot, 210-pound Burdick, who was picked 82nd overall, batted .407 (eighth nationally) with 15 home runs and a league-high 72 RBIs.
Of the 36 Raiders drafted, only two — Brian Anderson (third overall in 1993) and Keith Gordon (47th in 1990) — were picked higher.
“It hasn’t really set in yet that I was picked in the third round, but it’s a great feeling knowing you’re valued so much by an organization,” he said.
The fourth-year junior was redshirted as a freshman, which wasn’t he expected after arriving from Glen Este High School near Cincinnati.
“It was for sure tough, but it allowed me to invest the time in my body and diet and nutrition, and, honestly, it helped me find a relationship with the Lord, too. I had so much free time that I was able to invest in myself as a person and a player,” said Burdick, who’s been part of Athletes in Action and is co-leader of a discipleship group on campus.
Like Gray, he’s been dreaming of the big leagues for as long as he can remember, and he was willing to do whatever it took to get there.
“Peyton is just a worker. He’s going to out-work everyone he plays with and against. That’s just who he is,” Sogard said.
“(Scouts) are saying he’s got elite power, and he really learned how to hit for average this year. His patience at the plate was huge. A lot of guys could have gotten impatient with as many times as he was walked and pitched around, but he really matured as a hitter this year, which is really going to help him at the next level.”
The second-team All-American said he learned to be diligent from his his dad, former NFL player Tyler Burdick.
“He really ingrained that in us when we were little,” he recalled. “He just said good things don’t come easy in life. You have to work for everything.”