The phone didn’t ring.
No, as Sonny Gray and more than 30 family members, friends and teammates watched the Major League Baseball Draft on Monday night at his Smyrna household, Gray’s phone remained silent.
So the Vanderbilt pitcher was as surprised as anyone when it was announced that he had been selected 18th by the Oakland Athletics in the first round.
“I didn’t know before everyone else did,” Gray said. “It was like a shot of adrenaline. To hear your name called was something you dream of for a long time.”
That set off a frenzy in the Gray residence and many stuck around an hour later as Gray beamed in front of a small gathering of reporters and television crews.
“Behind my tears, I was very, very happy for him,” Gray’s sister, Jessica, said. “I think he was in shock. He didn’t really have a reaction at first. His head kind of went down and a big smile came across his face. We were all pretty happy for him.”
Shortly after the celebration, Gray received a call from an A’s team official. It was a team low on Gray’s radar as he said he had a brief conversation with an area scout a couple weeks ago.
“I haven’t really had too much communication with the A’s,” he said. “You just feel like a big weight is off your shoulders. It is something you dream about. It has been a good day. It was exciting and it was moment I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Gray, Vanderbilt’s right-handed ace, was projected by some to go as high as 12th overall. His draft stock rose after a strong 2011 campaign, which is still in progress. Heading into this weekend’s Super Regional against Oregon State, Gray has an 11-3 record, with a 2.01 ERA, 115 strikeouts and just 39 walks in 107.2 innings pitched. In three years at Vanderbilt In three years at Vanderbilt, Gray has compiled a record of 26-9 and a career ERA of 3.41. In 275 innings pitched, he has 300 strikeouts and 107 walks.
In 57 collegiate appearances, he has made 36 starts. He does have relief experience as he worked out of the bullpen as a freshman in 2009 and led the team with five saves that year.
But when Gray talked to the A’s, it was clear to the 6-foot, 180-pounder that they see him as a starter.
“I know they drafted me as a starting pitcher. That will be what we are going in there doing,” Gray said. “I love starting. I don’t mind closing. It is actually fun as well but I am going there with the intentions of starting and we’ll see what happens.”
Gray was drafted in the 27th round by the Chicago Cubs in the 2008 draft after his senior year at Smyrna High. But he decided to forego the big leagues and has instead led Vanderbilt to three Regionals, two Super Regionals and – this year – a share of the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship.
Still, to play professional baseball was a dream of Sonny’s since he was five years old. He grew up rooting for the Atlanta Braves and he constantly practice in the backyard with his father, Jesse.
But Jesse never saw that dream come true as he was killed in a car accident in 2004 when Gray was just a freshman in high school.
Gray, Jessica, and his mother, Cindy, all agreed that Jesse would have been beaming on Monday.
“He would have been ecstatic,” Cindy said. “He would have been walking on air, beyond belief. No words. This is something he wanted for Sonny for his whole life, something he worked for.”
“He would have been very proud,” Gray, who held back tears, said. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him, especially on a day like today. That is special.”
• Garvin picked by Tampa Bay: Gray wasn’t the only Commodore drafted Monday.
Fellow starting pitcher Grayson Garvin was selected 59th overall in the supplemental round by the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I don’t think it has really sunk in yet. It is definitely a surreal feeling,” Garvin said late Monday when reached by phone. “It is just kind of a culmination of a lot of hard work. I just feel extremely privileged to have enjoyed this opportunity, just thankful for all the people that have helped me get to where I am. I guess more than anything, I just feel extremely, extremely grateful.”
Garvin, who watched the draft with a small gathering of friends and family in Brentwood, broke through this season on the mound.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound left-hander was named the SEC Pitcher of the Year. The junior from Suwanee, Ga. is 13-1 with a 2.31 ERA and has thrown 89 strikeouts and allowed just 21 walks in 102.1 innings. In Saturday’s regional victory against Troy, he broke the school record for wins in a season.
Prior to this year, he had started just three games and made only 22 appearances in two years. Last season, he got a late start after an offseason elbow injury slowed him.
“I have just been extremely blessed to have the opportunities that the coaches have given me and the successes I have been able to have,” Garvin said. “I definitely would not have thought this but I am definitely pleased with where it ended up.”
He won’t be the only hard throwing lefty in Tampa who took the field at Vanderbilt. Former Commodore and Murfreesboro native David Price, who was drafted first overall in 2007, current anchors the Rays’ staff.
“To have a person in that organization, especially of his ability level and knowledge of the game, I feel really blessed to have that camaraderie in the sense that we did go to the same school,” Garvin said. “I do know him a little bit but hopefully I’ll get to know him better in the years to come.”
• Toronto drafts two Vandy commitments: The Toronto Blue Jays selected a pair of future Commodores.
With the 21st overall pick, they selected right-handed pitcher Tyler Beede, who has committed to Vanderbilt. The Massachusetts native, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, possesses an arsenal of fastball, curveball and changeup that the Jays obviously feel like is worth using a first-round pick on.
The Blue Jays then drafted right-handed pitcher Kevin Comer with the 57th pick in the supplemental round. Comer, also a Vanderbilt commit, is a hard-throwing 6-foot-4, 210-pounder from New Jersey.