SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Connor Grey, a former pitcher for the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, said playing for the Bonnies gave him a chance to play against better competition.
“It gave me the opportunity to get looked at by scouts, and definitely getting stronger was a big advantage having strength coaches,” said Grey, who made his first Triple-A start Sunday. “The coaches also helped me prepare to move to the next level and instilled a good mindset in me.”
Pitching for the Reno Aces, the Arizona Diamondback Triple-A affiliate, Grey struck out six batters in a four-and-two-third-inning stint against the Sacramento River Cats on Sunday. The River Cats are the Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
Grey joined the Diamondbacks organization after the team selected him in the 20th round in the 2016 Major League Baseball draft. He began his professional career with the D-Backs Single-A affiliate, the Hillsboro Hops.
Adjusting to the quality of professional hitters was Grey's biggest challenge.’
“With college, there are usually some weaker hitters in the lineup somewhere, but in pro ball there are not too many easy outs,” the Frewsburg, New York, native said.
Through college and now the professional ranks, Grey said his older brother has been his greatest role model.
“It was always playing against him and him pushing me to get better to be able to play with kids two years older than me,” he said. “He was always better than me, so it was me always competing to try to beat him and he did things the right way, so I tried to be like him.”
Grey did not originally expect to get any looks in the draft, but eventually scouts started to notice his performance on the mound.
“I have all the confidence in the world in myself, but it was just getting the right people to see me,” he said.
Grey said two perks of playing professional baseball are “to tell people your job is a professional baseball player, and that I’m getting paid to play a game I love to play.”
Since starting his professional career, Grey said his managers have been the most help to his game and confidence.
“They always believed in me and always kept putting the ball in my hand, and that gave me more confidence on the mound and to keep getting better because you don’t want to let your coaches and teammates down,” he said. “Having both of them being former big leaguers, that is a huge advantage of using them to help you get better and picking their brain on things.”
Grey’s managers in his first season with the Hops were Shelly Duncan and Joe Mather. Duncan played six years in the majors for the New York Yankees (2007-2009), Cleveland Indians (2010-2012) and Tampa Bay Rays (2013). Mather played four seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals (2008-2010), Atlanta Braves (2011) and Chicago Cubs (2012).
Now that he has his own professional experience, Grey has some advice for aspiring athletes:
“Give it your best and always keep your head up and leave it all on the field because you never know when it’s going to be the last time you step on the field. You never know who is watching so always act professional.”