CHICAGO — Former White Sox Amateur City Elite outfielder and Simeon star Corey Ray was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers with the fifth overall pick out of the University of Louisville in Thursday night’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Ray, a 21-year-old junior, is the highest ACE player selected in the history of the draft, and the highest pick in Louisville history.
His baseball journey began as a 5-year-old boy running up a hill on Chicago's South Side.
Ray was just a young boy when he began sprinting up and down the 40-foot-high hill at Robichaux Park, a few blocks from his family's Washington Heights home. Under the guidance of his father, also Corey, Ray headed to the hill to churn his legs and build up a good sweat.
He worked out at the hill — running to the top of it as many as 45-50 times in one session — as he became a baseball standout with the Amateur City Elite travel program and eventually a standout player at Simeon High School.
"I did it until I graduated from high school," Ray said of the hill days. "I remember when all my friends would be sleeping, my dad would wake me up to make sure I got my workouts in."
Ray's father has driven snowplows and street sweepers for the City of Chicago for the last 19 years. He works a 6 a.m.-2:30 p.m. shift and usually starts his day around 4 a.m. He said his son shares his love of long days and hard work. His hill idea was a way for him to keep his son centered and away from the distractions of the city's South Side.
"Being in the city of Chicago, you can get detoured by any little incident," said Ray's father, a Lindblom high school graduate. "Running up the hill was a way from him to build up his stamina and strengthen all of his muscles. The older generations, they didn't have weights. They worked out with nature."
Said Ray's mother, Kathy: "What his dad did is set a foundation for Corey. At this point, he has that specific mindset and discipline and structure to do what he likes to do, which is to play baseball."
Kevin Coe, who runs the Sox's Amateur City Elite program — which has placed several inner-city players in Division I universities and professional organizations — said he's not surprised Ray has excelled in college.
"He has always outworked everyone in the weight room and in the batting cages," said Coe, of McKinley Park. "He has matured and shown tremendous growth at Louisville under the tutelage of their tremendous coaching staff. I can't wait to see what the future holds."
This season, Ray is batting .319 with 16 doubles, one triple, 15 home runs, 60 RBI, 55 runs scored, 44 stolen bases, a .396 on-base percentage and .562 slugging percentage in 62 games for No. 2 Louisville. Ray ranks among Division I leaders in steals (2nd), total bases (T25th), home runs (T31st) and RBI (T40th).
Ray, who spent six years in the ACE program, is the 15th ACE player (17th time overall) to be selected in the MLB draft. He originally was drafted by Seattle in the 33rd round of the 2013 draft. The ACE program has helped 122 players receive college scholarships since its inaugural year in 2007. Right-hander Blake Hickman, who was the previous highest ACE selection, was drafted by the White Sox in the seventh round out of the University of Iowa in the 2015 draft.
“I am so proud of Corey,” Coe said Thursday. “Since the first day I met him, he has always wanted to be great. He knew he had to outwork everyone on and off the field. Today is a reward for all of his hard work and passion. This couldn’t have happened to a better kid. Congratulations to Corey and the entire Ray family.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound Ray was named to the All-ACC First Team, Baseball America Second-Team and a Louisville Slugger All-American, and was a semifinalist for the USA Golden Spikes and Dick Howser Awards in 2016. Ray entered the draft rated by MLB.com and Baseball America as the No. 6 prospect overall.
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