"I have committed to Mississippi State," said the left-handed hitting Ray, who also considered an offer from Samford and also talked with UNC at Greensboro, UAB and Tulane. "Mississippi State started recruiting me the last week or two. They got new coaches up there and Lane Burroughs saw me play when he was at Southern Miss. They talked to my high school coaches and my summer coach and offered me a roster spot.
"I have a lot of family in Mississippi and both of my parents are Mississippi State graduates so it seemed like a pretty good decision because it allows them to see me play."
And it didn't hurt MSU's chances at all that they have one of the great traditions in college baseball.
"I like the facilities, the program and the atmosphere is pretty much the best in the nation in my opinion," said Ray, who will fill one of just five walk-on roster spots that college baseball programs are now allowed to have according to the latest NCAA rule changes. "I saw the (2007 Mississippi State) Super Regional on television and I think they had a record crowd. That was pretty awesome to see. And I've been to a couple of games and I really liked it a lot."
And one of those games was a MSU Junior Day when State played Kentucky, which was coached by new MSU head coach John Cohen.
"I know Coach Cohen turned the Kentucky program around when they were like bottom tier," said Ray of his future coach. "He did a good job of getting them back at the top and made them pretty competitive since he was there."
Ray, who earned numerous honors his senior season (2008 Under Armour Pre-Season All American Team, Clarion-Ledger Dandy Dozen selection, a GenesPage.com "Fabulous Fifteen" selection, "Top Prospect Award" at the Perfect Game World Showcase in Fort Myers, FL, "Top Hitter Award" at the Tulane University Winter Baseball Camp, consensus All-State selection), is optimistic that he will have a chance to compete his true freshman season at State.
"I think there will be a lot of consideration of me playing as a freshman because (MSU starting first baseman) Tyler Moore was drafted and signed," said Ray, who hit .440 with 7 home runs and 42 RBIf and fielded at a .996 clip his senior season. "Because of that, I think I will have a legitimate shot of competing for a spot, but nothing's guaranteed. But if I play up to my ability that is certainly an option."
Ray not only has high expectations for himself this coming season, but for the Mississippi State baseball program as well.
"It's the first year for Coach Cohen and I really think he's going to take it back up to where it's been known to be for a really long time," said Ray, an excellent student who had a 4.0 grade point average and a 26 ACT score. "I think he's going to do a lot for the Mississippi State program.
"I am really excited."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.