The St. Rita High School graduate and Roseland native also happens to be good friends with Granderson, an outfielder for the New York Mets who he texts or calls daily.
"He is a great role model," said Ray, who's playing the same position as Granderson for the St. Louis Cardinals' rookie league team in Johnson City, Tenn. "My relationship with Curtis is really close. It's not every day you can talk to someone like him."
Justin Breen chats about Anthony Ray's relationship with Chicago-native Curtis Granderson:
Like Granderson, Ray is a 6-foot-1, left-handed hitting outfielder. They met during this past offseason, when Ray took part in private workouts in Chicago with Granderson, White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham and Indians infielder Jason Kipnis.
"Anthony Ray is an exciting and eager young athlete always looking to learn and improve," Granderson said in an email. "It's been great to work with him and help him as he starts his professional career."
Granderson, a University of Illinois at Chicago graduate, and Ray took an immediate liking to each other, said Ray's mother, Adrian.
"Curtis is laid back, just like Anthony is," she said. "He's really taken Anthony under his wings, generally teaching him the ropes and just befriending him."
The Cardinals selected Ray in the 36th round of last year's draft after one season with the Mustangs, when he stole 21 bases.
"I think with his work ethic, personality and ability to play the game, he's got a great shot to go all the way," St. Rita coach Mike Zunica said.
Ray, 19, hit .233 with six stolen bases last year for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals, enough to earn a recent promotion to Johnson City — St. Louis' top rookie league squad — this season. Through four games in the Appalachian League, Ray, the team's leadoff hitter, sports a .389 batting average with seven hits and three RBIs.
Ray's goal is clearly to reach the majors, which would be a step further than his father, Arthur Ray Sr., who made it to the Pirates' Triple-A Portland (Ore.) squad in the early 1980s as a pitcher.
Both Rays agree Anthony is already a better player for his overall skills, defensive prowess, speed and ability to make contact at the plate. Arthur started teaching the game to his youngest son when the boy was 4 years old and dad was competing in 30-and-over leagues on the South Side.
Ray has been hooked since.
"He's just a natural ballplayer," Arthur Ray said. "The main thing is that he's playing and he's happy. He loves the game."
He also brings a piece of his father's legacy with him for every game. After he was drafted, Ray was given a 18-karat gold chain from his dad, who had bought it in 1982 while he was playing pro ball in Cartagena, Colombia.
"It's a honor to wear it. It's something I will always have of my dad," Ray said.
Ray said his determination to become a major league player comes from his older brother, Arthur Jr., a former Mount Carmel and Michigan State offensive lineman who survived bone cancer. Ray vividly remembers switching out his sibling's IV daily while he recovered at home.
Arthur Jr., who graduated from Michigan State, is now using his last year of athletic eligibility at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo.
"Just to see all of the things that my brother went through in his life and still have the drive to accomplish his goal is amazing to me," Ray said. "My brother is my hero."
Like Granderson, Ray hopes to one day become a hero for the next generation of Chicago ballplayers.
He said it's a privilege to represent the city on his trek to baseball's biggest stage.
"Never let somebody tell you that you cannot make it," he said. "I feel like I'm a proven fact that if you put your mind to it, you can be whatever you want to be."