Gray still embodies the student-athlete mindset

April 7th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato's Nationals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

WASHINGTON -- It is fitting that was speaking to aspiring players about his path in baseball at the MLB Dream Series in January before hitting send on the final assignment to complete his undergraduate degree later that evening.

After enrolling at Le Moyne College in 2015, Gray was drafted by the Reds in the second round in '18, debuted with the Dodgers in '21 and finalized his bachelor’s degree in business management and leadership as an All-Star for the Nationals this past offseason.

“Once I went to Le Moyne College, I knew I wanted to play professional baseball, but I went there for my degree,” Gray, 26, said. “Once I got there, the first day on campus I put my head down in the books. So here I am in 2024, 2015 [being] my first fall semester feels like so long ago. But I just kept that same mentality.”

Gray was highlighted on Saturday on National Student-Athlete Day, which honors young people who excel in academics and athletics while also standing out as strong school and community leaders.

As the player ambassador to the Nationals' Youth Baseball Academy and an alumnus of the MLB Develops and Breakthrough Series programs, Gray incorporated his experience into his education. Tasked with writing a paper for the completion of his degree, Gray chose a topic he was knowledgeable in and on which he could expand his knowledge at the same time.

“The last assignment was actually really cool,” Gray said. “I decided to tie in youth sports and economics. I talked about the landscape of youth sports nowadays, travel baseball, and how a lot of kids are priced out of travel baseball, how MLB and USA Baseball are creating these initiatives to give kids from all backgrounds opportunities to play high-level baseball, [have] high-level training, things like that. … Once I hit ‘submit,’ I felt relieved.”

The Nationals play in Philadelphia during Le Moyne’s commencement ceremonies in May, which makes it unlikely Gray will be able to attend. But even with a demanding schedule -- he was named the Nationals' 2024 Opening Day starter -- Gray hasn’t shut the books yet. He is open to continuing his education with a master’s degree.

“I think it’d be great to have, and it would advance me in the business world,” Gray said. “Once my career is all said and done, it would be something I can take to the next level and join the business world. We’ll see. [I would start it] sooner rather than later, probably.”

For all the accomplishments Gray has checked off early in his baseball career, completing this educational milestone was just as important.

“I signed up for this goal,” Gray said. “I was fully committed back in 2015 to 2018. Now to finish it out, obviously my job and my occupation might be a little different … I owe that to myself. I owe that promise to myself.”