Two Texas Rangers have connections to McAlester, Wilburton

On November 2nd, Jon Gray and Josh Jung made history in the desert as the Texas Rangers claimed their first-ever World Series championship with a dominant 5-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. But their journeys to this momentous achievement began in southeast Oklahoma, where they first showcased their exceptional skills.

Hailing from Chandler, Okla., Gray spent his freshman year of college at Eastern Oklahoma State in Wilburton. As a starting pitcher for the Mountaineers, he boasted an impressive 6-2 record with a 2.89 ERA and 61 strikeouts. Gray played a crucial role in leading the Mountaineers to victory in the 2011 Region 2 Championship and advancing them to the South Central Regional Tournament.

Gray was under the guidance of former Eastern coach Aric Thomas, who praised the pitcher’s relentless work ethic and self-criticism during a speech at the 2019 Junior Sunbelt Classic banquet. Thomas highlighted Gray’s determination and his constant pursuit of perfection, even in the face of setbacks.

Initially drafted by the New York Yankees in the 10th round of the 2011 draft, Gray chose instead to transfer to the University of Oklahoma. During his time as a Sooner, Gray earned numerous accolades, including three Big 12 Pitcher of the Week titles, first-team All-American and All-Big 12 honors, and the prestigious National Pitcher of the Year award.

In the 2013 MLB Draft, Gray was selected as the third overall pick by the Colorado Rockies. He played for the Rockies until 2021 when he became a free agent and subsequently signed with the Texas Rangers. Transitioning from a starting pitcher to a bullpen role, Gray thrived in his new position. Throughout the 2023 World Series, Gray was called upon multiple times, making a significant impact, including a crucial relief appearance in Game 3 as a substitute for an injured Max Scherzer. Gray’s postseason performance was remarkable, recording eight strikeouts and allowing only four hits and one walk with one earned run in 5.2 innings pitched, ultimately earning him the win for Game 3 of the Fall Classic.

EOSC baseball took to social media to congratulate Gray and the Texas Rangers on their historic World Series victory.

“Congratulations to former Mountaineer Jon Gray and the Texas Rangers on winning the 2023 World Series!”

Another player with strong ties to Oklahoma, Andrew Heaney, contributed significantly to the Texas Rangers’ World Series triumph. Both Gray and Heaney hail from Oklahoma high schools, showcasing the state’s prowess in producing talented pitchers.

Josh Jung’s connection to Oklahoma stems from his participation in the 2015 Junior Sunbelt Classic held in McAlester. Born in San Antonio, Texas, Jung was selected to represent Team Texas, which traveled to McAlester for the highly competitive tournament that summer.

Jung and Team Texas performed admirably, navigating through challenging matchups and setting up a rematch against Team Tennessee. Jung played an essential role in Team Texas’ resounding 7-3 victory over their opponents at Mike Deak Stadium.

Reflecting on the tournament, Texas coach O.J. Holcombe acknowledged the tough competition and commended his team’s resilience.

“This is a really tough tournament to play in, there’s a lot of talent, and if you don’t bring your A-game every day, it’s a grind,” said Holcombe in an interview with the McAlester News-Capital. “We just brought another great group of kids to do this two years in a row.”

Following his high school graduation, Jung attended Texas Tech University, where he garnered multiple commendations, including All-American status and the 2019 Bobby Bragan Collegiate Slugger Award, presented to the top Division I baseball player in the Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico region. Jung’s junior season statistics were impressive, boasting a .343 batting average, 15 home runs, and 58 RBIs.

In the 2019 MLB Draft, Jung was chosen as the eighth overall pick by the Texas Rangers. He initially spent time in the minor leagues before finally receiving his call-up to the majors in September of 2022.

During his rookie season with the Rangers in 2023, Jung proved his worth with a solid .266 batting average and a .315 on-base percentage in the regular season. Additionally, he recorded 23 home runs, 70 RBIs, and 75 runs scored, while maintaining a remarkable .988 fielding percentage at third base. In the postseason, Jung continued to excel, with a .308 batting average, .329 on-base percentage, three home runs, eight RBIs, 13 runs scored, and a .979 fielding percentage at his position.

The Texas Rangers’ journey to the World Series victory comes just two years after a dismal 100-game losing season. This triumph also marks their return to the World Series following consecutive trips in 2010 and 2011.


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