ASHLAND, Va. — Chris Ray went to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Cooperstown, New York one time. He went in 2007 when Cal Ripken Jr. was inducted. By Ray's own estimate, he was there approximately 24 hours, not long enough to see much of anything in the home of America’s pastime.
Ray's next trip will be far longer and far more memorable.
Ray was drafted in the third round of the 2003 draft by the Baltimore Orioles and spent six seasons in the majors as a relief pitcher.
His 51 career saves and 4.10 career earned run average may not qualify him for induction into the Hall of Fame, but he will be taking part in this year’s Hall of Fame Classic Legends game at Doubleday Field on May 27, representing the Orioles.
“I never expected it,” Ray said from the beer garden at Center Of The Universe Brewery, which he owns, in Ashland. “It made it nostalgic and made me feel like I’m a piece of Orioles history.”
One former player from every organization will take part in the game, be they Hall of Famers or recently retired players.
Ray pitched for four teams in his Major League Baseball career but spent the majority of his time in Baltimore where he still makes appearances during team events.
In his prime, he once had a fastball clocked at 101 mph.
But, he has not thrown in over a decade beyond playing catch with his 10-year-old son.
Over the last few weeks, the 41-year-old Ray has been spent getting back into reasonable baseball shape.
"This is the first time where I’ve actually put some effort behind [pitching]” Ray explained. “I think my arm is starting to get used to it a little bit more."
Ray has been working out with the team at Randolph-Macon College.
Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets head coach Ray Hedrick coached Ray in the Valley League back in 2001. He is under zero illusions about trying to make a professional comeback. He’s more interested in making a good impression on the friends and family that will be coming to see him pitch.
“I have a goal in my head that I want to hit 85 mph,” Ray said. “I asked the catcher in my last throwing session ‘Do you think the 80s are in my future?’ He was pretty confident that I wouldn’t have any issue with that.”
Ray and his wife have two children. His daughter was a toddler when Ray retired and his son had not yet been born.
While this trip is nice for his nostalgia, it’s an even better opportunity to show his kids what their dad did before they were born.
“Being able to show them what I used to do is really the only driving force behind me doing it,” Ray explained. “To be able to go out on the mound with that kind of atmosphere, and to be able to show them ‘This is what I did’ is something I’m really looking forward to and having some memories that we’ll keep forever.”
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