Frederick Keys pitcher Chris Ray always appreciated being a big fish in a small pond while playing college ball at William & Mary. It was only after returning to the Williamsburg campus last offseason, however, that he came to realize how much the school appreciated him.
"It was kind of neat. Guys were just coming up to me always asking how I was doing," said Ray. "I think it's kind of different from most schools because we don't really have too many athletes turning pro, since it's so small."
A third-round draft pick (74th overall) by the Baltimore Orioles last June, Ray had been the school's highest-drafted player until pitcher Bill Bray was taken No. 13 overall by the Montreal Expos earlier this month.
Despite his short time as a professional, Ray already has left his mark.
After beginning his career last year in short-season Aberdeen, the 22-year-old is playing on his third level. Promoted to the Keys on June 3 from lower Class A Delmarva, he is 1-1 with a 4.64 ERA for Frederick.
Even more than what he's done, however, the Orioles like his vast potential. Using a fastball consistently clocked around 95 mph and a baffling split-finger he likes to use as his out pitch, the 6-foot-3 right-hander has struck out 111 batters in 1092/3 professional innings.
He credits much of his success to his countless hours working with William & Mary Coach Jim Farr, who pitched professionally from 1978 to '85 in the Texas and San Francisco organizations, including parts of two seasons at the major league level.
"He really helped me to smooth out my mechanics," said Ray, who became a closer his freshman year with the Tribe, earning a save in the 2001 Colonial Athletic Association title game.
Note: Bowie Baysox infielder James Lofton Jr. was released from Bowie Health Center late Monday night after being hit on the jaw by a 91-mph fastball. Lofton suffered a contusion and laceration, and received two stitches, according to trainer Mark Shires. He was expected to sit out last night's game, but Shires said he would likely play today.