As expected, University of Louisville outfielder Corey Ray became the highest-ever drafted player from the Cardinals program on Thursday evening. The Milwaukee Brewers selected the Chicago native in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft with the No. 5 overall selection.
Ray, a junior, was projected to be a high first round selection for much of the season, as his consistent play since the first day of season in mid-February kept him high on the draft boards.
Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell, who described Ray as a "super athlete" during Super Regional preparation said that the outfielders desire to continually learn the game has helped him succeed to this point.
"In one sense he's a student of the game, he takes notes and wants to know what's happening, and in another sense, when he steps in the batters box, just let it fly, just see it and hit it," said McDonnell, adding that, "he's got that balance of being a student of the game, with the scouting report and taking notes, but trusting your ability when you get in the batters box."
He enters the Super Regional as one of just three Cardinals to start all 62 games, joining Devon Hairston and Blake Tiberi. He's currently hitting .319 with a team-high 15 home runs and 60 RBI. Nationally, Ray is second in with 44 stolen bases, 25th in total bases and 31st in home runs. Not only a consistent hitter, but he's proven to be clutch at the plate. During his 16 NCAA Championship starts, Ray has a .338 batting average with four doubles and 13 RBI. Even more telling is the fact that of his 27 career home runs, 12 of them have either tied the score or given the Cardinals the lead.
In addition to driving in key runs, the first team All-ACC choice also ignited a number of scoring bursts for the Cardinals. When leading off the first inning, Ray is hitting .338 with three home runs and 14 runs scored.
A Louisville Slugger and Baseball American second team All-American selection, Ray is a semifinalist, along with teammate Brendan McKay, on the Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser award watch lists, both given to the nation's top player. He was also a key member of the U.S. Collegiate National Team last summer.
While focused on the upcoming contest during the past few weeks, discussion of the draft has risen. Ray described that goal is to keep the draft separate from the upcoming game and to not let it distract you while on the field.
"I'm excited about it but I've learned to separate," he explained. "When it's time to talk about the draft or it's time for the draft to happen then that's where I am. I'm just trying to be in the moment and be with everything that happens this time of the year."
This evening, he will celebrate the moment with family, friends, coaches and teammates at Jim Patterson Stadium. He'll also join in the celebration of many of his teammates as they hear their name called over the next three days.
Already with his image on the program's outfield wall designating All-Americans, Ray will be remembered by the Cardinal faithful for many highlights and postseason runs. However, without question, his first Sports Center Top 10 appearance will always rank among the most memorable: