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East County Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022 2 months ago

Former Lakewood Ranch High outfielder now a Single A star in the minors

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Grant McCray is on a quest to reach the big leagues with the San Francisco Giants.
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Editor

Grant McCray's professional baseball career began three years ago, in 2019, when he was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and sent to Rookie League ball. 

To McCray, now 21, high school baseball — in which he starred as an outfielder at Lakewood Ranch High — feels much longer ago than that, given everything that has happened in the world.

In strictly baseball terms, it has been shorter. The 2020 minor league season was canceled because of COVID-19 and McCray missed approximately three months at the start of the 2021 season with a UCL sprain in his elbow. 

In 2022, the timing finally feels right. 

McCray, the Giants' No. 25 prospect according to MLB.com, is hitting .295 as of July 30 for the A-level San Jose Giants. His 15 home runs and 29 steals are the most on the team and his 49 RBIs are second behind shortstop Aeverson Arteaga's 53. McCray's .955 fielding percentage, mostly coming in centerfield, prove he's more than just an offensive threat, too. He, and his organization, believe he can become a well-rounded player at the highest level of the sport. 

For someone of McCray's potential, waiting for his opportunity can be the most difficult part of the path to the major leagues. Thankfully for McCray, he has plenty of people in his life who are pushing him forward, most notably his father, Rodney McCray, who spent nearly a decade in the minor leagues before earning 14 major league at-bats with the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets.

Grant McCray said his father, who became known for running through the outfield wall while attempting to make a catch during a game against the Portland Rockies, has advised him to not think about call-ups at all. You do that, Grant McCray said, and you lose sight of your current responsibilities, which are to help your team win and to be the best player you can be, wherever you might be. In other words, control what you can control and forget about the rest. 

"Growing up around minor league baseball, I knew what to expect when I got here," McCray said. "The hardest thing wasn't the baseball or the travel, it was learning how to interact with my teammates. There are some cultural differences, like with guys from Latin American countries. I had to learn how they play and how to talk with them."

Right now, the place McCray finds himself is A-ball, a location he took to right away. Even though the start of 2021 season was derailed by injury, he finished strong, and that success has carried with him ever since. This year in particular, McCray is focused on feeling comfortable. 

"I'm trying to be as minimal effort as possible at the plate," McCray said. "When I try too hard I strike out too much. I need everything to be as easy as possible. A lot of that is mental but I did make make a small technical change as well. My hands are now a little more upright."

Former Lakewood Ranch High outfielder Grant McCray said he has a goal of nabbing 50 steals this season. (Photo courtesy of Shelly Valenzuela via San Jose Giants)

It’s working. McCray had a goal of five home runs this year; he’s already tripled that. He has also put an emphasis on steals, though that is for a more lighthearted reason. He and his offseason trainer, Sarasota's Jason Riley, have a friendly bet on whether McCray can reach the 50-steal mark. If he does, McCray will get a few free sessions out of it. 

Even though McCray is technically a professional — he's getting paid to play baseball, after all — he said it does not feel like that to him. There have been moments where things felt right, like McCray's first at-bat for the San Jose Giants, which came Aug. 20, 2021 and saw him send hit a homer. But even those moments are only satisfying for a fleeting second. There is only one Giants team he dreams of playing for — and those Giants play in San Francisco, not San Jose. 

McCray said his contact with his former Lakewood Ranch friends and teammates is infrequent. He simply doesn’t have time to think about much beyond his baseball life, and most of his teammates are now out of the game. It’s one of the sacrifices McCray has had to make in his quest to be the best. 

MLB.com estimates his big league arrival time to be 2024. Whether that is accurate or not remains to be seen, but whenever, if ever, McCray does make it, all the work he’s putting in now will be the reason why. He’s thankful for the support of the community along the way. 

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I’m the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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