Nov. 2—Jon Gray and Josh Jung celebrated destiny in the desert Wednesday as the Texas Rangers earned the first World Series title in franchise history with a 5-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. But both players had already showcased their talents in their early years in southeast Oklahoma.
Gray, a native of Chandler, Okla., spent his freshman year of college at Eastern Oklahoma State in Wilburton. As a starter for the Mountaineers, he earned a 6-2 record with a 2.89 ERA and 61 strikeouts. The Mountaineers battled to win the 2011 Region 2 Championship, advancing to the South Central Regional Tournament.
Former Eastern coach Aric Thomas coached Gray, and said in a speech at the 2019 Junior Sunbelt Classic banquet that Gray was a hard-worker and was heavily critical of his own performances.
"He worked and worked and worked, and if anything, he was his own worst critic," Thomas said. "He wanted perfection so fast and would get frustrated at times when he didn't have success, but he worked at it and worked at it and worked at it."
Gray was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 10th round of the 2011 draft, but he elected instead to transfer to the University of Oklahoma. Gray earned multiple accolades in his time as a Sooner, including Big 12 Pitcher of the Week three times, first-team All American and All-Big 12, and the National Pitcher of the Year award.
Gray was ultimately drafted by the Colorado Rockies as the third pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. He pitched for the Rockies until 2021, when Gray became a free agent and signed with the Texas Rangers.
He transitioned from a starter to a bullpen role, where he flourished for the Rangers. Gray's number was called in the 2023 World Series several times, including a pivotal Game 3 in relief for an injured Max Scherzer — with Gray finishing the postseason with eight strikeouts and allowing only four hits and one walk with one earned run through 5.2 innings pitched and the official win for Game 3 of the Fall Classic.
EOSC baseball congratulated Gray and the Rangers in social media posts Thursday morning.
"Congratulations to former Mountaineer Jon Gray and the Texas Rangers on winning the 2023 World Series!"
Fellow Oklahoman Andrew Heaney joins Gray as being two former Oklahoma high school pitchers to make significant contributions to Texas' World Series win.
Jung's connections to Oklahoma come from the 2015 Junior Sunbelt Classic in McAlester. A native of San Antonio, Texas, Jung was selected as a member of Team Texas that traveled to McAlester to face the competition that summer.
Jung and Team Texas powered their way through the highly-talented matchups, setting up a rematch between Texas and Team Tennessee. Jung did his part and scored as Team Texas blasted out to a 7-3 win at Mike Deak Stadium.
"This is a really tough tournament to play in, there's a lot of talent and if you don't come bring your A-game every day...it's a grind," Texas coach O.J. Holcombe told the McAlester News-Capital after the matchup. "We just brought another great group of kids to do this two years in a row."
Following high school graduation, Jung attended college at Texas Tech University. He earned multiple accolades, including All-American status, as well as 2019 Bobby Bragan Collegiate Slugger Award — handed out to the top Division I baseball player in the Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico region. He finished his junior season with a .343 batting average with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs.
Jung was selected as the eighth pick of the 2019 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. After spending time in the minor leagues, he was called up to the majors in September of 2022.
In his 2023 rookie season with the Rangers, Jung earned a regular season .266 batting average and a .315 on-base percentage with 23 home runs, 70 RBIs, and 75 runs scored, with a .988 fielding percentage at third base. In the postseason, Jung powered to a .308 batting average with a .329 on-base percentage with three home runs, eight RBIs, and 13 runs scored, as well as a .979 fielding percentage in the hot corner.
The Rangers are two years removed from a 100-game losing season, and appeared in the World Series for the first time since back-to-back trips in 2010-2011.