Hoover, AL -- “Parker Ray has a story that needs to be told.” This is how Texas A&M Head Coach Rob Childress began the solo portion of the post game press conference after defeating the top ranked Vanderbilt.
Childress was asked a question regarding the game, but asked to make a statement about his starting pitcher before he addressed Ray’s three hit, eight inning performance on short rest. Coach Childress was passionate speaking of the hurdles Parker Ray has overcome to be an Aggie, and within the last few weeks, a starter.
The Aggie skipper looked on with pride and admiration as Ray answered questions regarding his performance as if he were a seasoned veteran. Ray, his last name- not his first as some have published, began his statements thanking his coach for his opportunity to start and the game he called.
What we learned as junior righty exited was why player and coach respect each other. Childress told how Parker Ray was always something special, as are all athletes who have quarterbacked the prestigious Katy High School in Katy, Texas. The coach however, did not see this in the “deaf mute” that he first met. He asked Ray, “Who called the plays at Katy High School, the center?”
He said those words to a kid he also had to tell he was not ready to be a Texas A&M Aggie and should go the junior college route. After two years in the bullpen of Texarkana College, Ray was ready to be an Aggie, but not a starter. In his first season with the team, Ray made 16 appearance in relief and boosted a .191 ERA.
Ray remained in the bullpen this season, all the while keeping his down and working tirelessly at his craft. His summer ball and after hours worked paid off when Coach Childress approached him and said, “I think you’re ready.”
One loss and three no decisions later, Parker Ray found himself starting against the top ranked team in the country that accepted the Southeastern Conference Regular Season Championship trophy in pregame ceremonies. Few of us in attendance had any idea that we were watching a “deaf mute” transform into a team leader.
The right hander threw 110 pitches in 8 innings of 3 hit, shut out baseball. At the time, I had assumed Rob Childress was beaming with pride and emotion because his team that even their Hoover hotel banked on leaving the first day of the SEC Tournament just knocked off the number 1 ranked team in the country.
When he asked for a moment to explain to us in the media what we had witnessed, I felt privileged to have been present. As my job, I get to see years of hard work play out in front of my eyes on a daily basis. As CSS analyst Joe Beckwith likes to say, “Baseball is not something you can fake your way through.” When it is your job to talk about what players and coaches did right or wrong, you sometimes forget just how difficult the journey is for some we critique.
Thank you Rob Childress for telling the story that needed to be told, but more importantly, thank you Parker Ray for reminding us what can happen through hard work and perseverance.