A Mile-High Hurler

Shawnee-born, Chandler-raised Jon Gray has found his niche in Denver with the Colorado Rockies.

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Jon Gray PLAYS AT HOME IN DENVER AT COORS FIELD. Photos by kyle cooper courtesy Colorado Rockies

Considering that Jon Gray is 6-foot-4, it seems fitting that the towering pitcher throws for the Colorado Rockies in Denver, the city with the highest elevation in Major League Baseball.

Born in Shawnee, Gray grew up in Chandler, which for four decades had a renowned baseball school before closing in 1999. The affable right-handed starter says the camp is something people ask him about upon learning where he’s from.

Jon Gray PLAYS AT HOME IN DENVER AT COORS FIELD. Photos by kyle cooper courtesy Colorado Rockies

“Yeah, I never attended the camp but, everywhere I go, people ask me about Chandler,” says Gray, 26. “I don’t think they will have heard of Chandler, a town of 3,000 people, but the old baseball camp there [and] the cabins used to be so hot. I heard all these stories about it. That’s what it’s famous for.”

Since debuting with Colorado in 2015, he has been a fixture in the Rockies’ starting rotation. Six years earlier, as a freshman, he pitched for Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton before transferring to Norman for his final two collegiate seasons at the University of Oklahoma. He earned national Pitcher of the Year and the Big 12 tournament’s Most Outstanding Player honors for the Sooners before Colorado selected him third overall in the 2013 draft.

Playing two seasons at OU was nothing short of a dream come true for the hard-throwing Oklahoman.

Photo by Kyle Cooper courtesy Colorado Rockies

“Growing up, I always wanted to go to [the University of Oklahoma] to play football,” he says. “It was the biggest thing in the state. All my heroes I watched growing up played OU football. But baseball panned out, not football, but that’s OK. I’m glad it turned out that way. I don’t really feel I could handle all that beat-down [from football].”

Gray plays half his games each season at Coors Field, which redefines a hitter-friendly park because a batted ball travels further than normal through thin mountain air – 5,249 feet above sea level to be exact. He makes some tweaks while pitching at Coors, but he doesn’t let the unique environment be an excuse when he struggles.

“It’s just a bigger yard,” he says of the stadium. “It plays really big. You’re more than likely going to give up a lot more hits or homers there. It can get in people’s minds a little bit. If you acknowledge it, you can unconsciously back away from being yourself, being aggressive and sticking to the game plan.”

Besides pitching, Gray’s other notable claim to fame is being a ghost hunter, a passion that led him to spend a few nights at the hotel which inspired The Overlook in the Stephen King horror novel The Shining.

“I went to the famous Stanley Hotel in Colorado after the season,” he says. “I just wanted to stay there a couple nights because I was a big fan of the movie. I took a thousand pictures there because it was so haunted. People loved it. It ended up being a good story. Now I’m an everyday ghost hunter, I guess.”

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