KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former Lee University outfielder Chris Grayson was sitting at his computer around 4:30 p.m., on June 7. The 2011 Major League Baseball draft was taking place, but the Internet was holding him back from knowing if his name had been selected. The frustration started to settle in.
Then he got a text message from Lee coach Mark Brew. “Congratulations” the text said as Grayson found out that he had been selected in the 13th round by the Texas Rangers.
Grayson was one of four Flames taken in the 2011 draft, which was the most of any NAIA team this year.
Grayson reported earlier this week to the AZL Rangers, which is the Texas Rangers minor league rookie team in Arizona.
Also alomst giving up was Flame right-handed pitcher Maxx Catapano, who was chosen in the 46th round and will be right across the street from Grayson with the Seattle Mariners team in the same league.
Outfielder Jonathan Clark, a 17th-round pick, was signed by the New York Mets and is in Brooklyn, N.Y. to play with the Cyclones in the N.Y.-Penn League, in the Class A short season.
Left-handed All-American pitcher Shay Crawford, taken in the 41st round of the draft, has been assigned by Tampa Bay to the Gulf Coast Rays of the Florida Rookie League.
“At first it was surreal and I didn’t believe it because I was shocked,” Grayson said. “It took a couple days for it to settle in.”
Grayson came from a football family, but his brother influenced him the most to branch out and start playing baseball.
Ever since Grayson was eight years old, his dream was to have a chance to play professionally. He said his goal is to make his major league debut by the time he’s 24 years old. Grayson is on pace to do so as he is 21 and said he will do anything to make it all come true.
Grayson didn’t have a particular choice in what team he wanted to play for, but did say the warm weather and the South was one of his biggest interests. He said he would like to make some improvements to help in his path to the major leagues.
“I want to get stronger and become more of a consistent player, offensively,” Grayson said. “I want to be able to put the ball in play with two strikes and if I do that it will help put pressure on the defense.”
Grayson batted .364 and was second on the Flames with 79 hits and third with 51 RBIs. He also led the nation with 11 triples in 2011.
One of his best days was on Feb. 18 when he knocked in a total of six runs and stole three bases in a double header against Illinois Tech.
The Flames won both games 8-0 and 11-1. Lee finished with 51 wins, which was tied for the most by a team this season. The team also finished third in the World Series with a 4-2 record after they suffered a 10-2 loss to Lubbock Christian (Tex.) in the semifinals to end the season.
Brew said Grayson was always a key player in the Flames lineup day in and day out.
“He was one of our top hitters in the middle of the lineup and a game changer at the plate,” Brew said. “The combination of his speed and power was intriguing to scouts and he’s been a phenomenal athlete. He was never greater than one player, but his work ethic has really paid off and we are excited for him. It’s something that any player dreams of from their youth to now.”
Even though Grayson is a junior and still has another year of college eligibility left, Brew said Grayson has proven he has what it takes to play at the next level.
With four players taken in the draft this month, the total number of former Flames playing in the Minor Leagues has swollen to 11.
Lance Zawadzki is the only player currently above the Class A level as he played 20 games in the Majors for the San Diego Padres last season and is currently on the Class AAA farm team of the Kansas City Royals after being traded last winter.
Having played in 42 games this season for the Omaha (Neb.) Storm Chasers, the former Flame shortstop has 10 doubles, three triples and four home runs in his 39 hits. He has scored 22 runs and driven in 26, plus stolen 10 bases.
Also playing in the Kansas City organization, in the Midwest League (Class A long season), is former Lee standout Ryan Stovall.
Playing third base for the Kane County (Geneva, Ill.) Cougars, Stovall is hitting .306 with five homers and 26 RBI in his 56 hits so far this season.
Scott Swinson is with the Greenville (S.C.) Drive, a Class A long season squad for the Boston Red Sox. The big right-hander is 2-1 with a 3.34 ERA with 29 strikeouts and only eight walks in 29.1 innings of work.
Jeff Ibarra is also on the Class A level, playing for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Tin Caps. Working mainly in middle relief, the 6-foot-6 lanky left-hander is 2-2 with a 4.24 ERA in 15 games. He has 19 Ks and seven walks in 17 innings on the hill, posting an 0.94 WHIP.
Junior Rodriguez signed with Tampa Bay last July and played a dozen games for the Hudson Valley (N.Y.) Renegades. although he had just five hits in 24 at bats, one was a home run and another was a double as he drove in four runs. He is returning the Renegades for the short season again this summer.
Shortstop Jose Cuevas was drafted San Francisco last June and had five doubles and a pair of home runs in his 27 hits. He drove in 19 runs and scored 22 times while playing for the Giants in the Arizona Rookie League.
Aaron Larsen is a pitcher in the Oakland A’s organization, going 5-3 last season with a 3.56 ERA in low A ball before being bumped to the Class A long season Burlington (Iowa) Bees this season.
— Lee University Sports Information Department and Banner sports writer Joe Cannon contributed to this story.