Like many Cardinals that play under Dan McDonnell, Corey Ray has developed and performed as the Louisville head coach projected.
As a freshman, Ray heard his number called more often as the season wore on, eventually moving into the starting lineup during the season's final week and then proceeded to help fuel an offense that led the Cardinals to the College World Series. As a sophomore, he earned All-American honors after hitting .325 with 11 home runs and 56 RBI for the ACC regular season champions. He spent most of his summer as one of three Cardinals on the US National Collegiate Team. That's quite the resume in just two years under the guidance of McDonnell.
With two seasons under his belt, Ray will now be leaned on for more than just his on-field performance. Leadership has now become an important role for the Chicago native and it is one that he welcomes.
“I'm enjoying it,” Ray said of his new leadership responsibilities. “I had good teachers. When you play under Cole Sturgeon and Jeff Gardner, then last year with Sutton Whiting and Zach Lucas, you are prepared when its time for you to step up. I think I'm prepared, I know what it takes and I'm just trying to contribute to the team in any way that I can.”
Known to make late night trips to the Shad Mason Hack Shack to get in some extra batting practice, Ray now brings a rookie with him.
Freshman outfielder Chris Botsoe, also a product of the Chicago area, has worked closely with the Cardinals centerfielder since arriving on campus in July.
“Corey pretty much took me in since day one,” said Botsoe. “Since we're both Chicago guys I've known him for a little while now and since I first got here he's been helping me out. We come here late night sometimes and hit in the cages. We work on stuff. I help him, he helps me. Even though he's an older guy, I can still help him a little bit. He always gets on me and tries to make me a little bit better each day and that's what I love about him.”
Ray's approach is to help his teammates overcome mental errors during the fall ball season, so that things are corrected prior to the season.
“I credit the young guys, because they've adapted well,” said Ray. “If they do something wrong, you tell them right away. Either they pick it up or you keep telling them day in and day out. You try to instill in them what Louisville baseball is early, so you don't have to go over the small things in the spring, you can worry and fix things on the baseball and not worry about the mental mistakes as much.”
His impression of how the newcomers have responded?
“They're pretty good. They all bring special talents to the game. For me, I like where they are mentally and the type of players they are and the make-up that they have, because they receive information well and that's always good.”
With fall ball competition now complete, Ray has shifted his focus to the weight room and improving his swing. It's a time he calls “reconstruction.”
“This is the time that you can slow it all down and you can break your swing down and you can mentally grow as a baseball player.”
The Cardinals will resume full-squad preparations for the 2016 season on Jan. 29. The opening weekend of college baseball in 2016 is set for Feb. 19-21.