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Gray credits coach for Vandy's rising success

Special to MLB.com

MESA, Ariz. -- The Vanderbilt University baseball program has opened the eyes of many in recent years, winning the national championship in 2014 and reaching the title game last season against Virginia.

Including Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray, there have been five first-round picks out of Vanderbilt in the past four years, another sign of the program's growing success. 

MESA, Ariz. -- The Vanderbilt University baseball program has opened the eyes of many in recent years, winning the national championship in 2014 and reaching the title game last season against Virginia.

Including Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray, there have been five first-round picks out of Vanderbilt in the past four years, another sign of the program's growing success. 

"It all really starts at the top," Gray said of his time at Vanderbilt. "It starts with coach Corbin."

Tim Corbin has been the head coach at Vanderbilt for 14 years, reached the NCAA tournament 11 times and made three trips to the College World Series. Corbin also coached David Price, who was the No. 1 selection in MLB's 2007 Draft.

The location is a positive for the program.

"Nashville is also a great place to play," Gray said.

Gray described his college coach as a father figure who wants his players to feel part of a family.

"He means it when he says that, too," Gray said. "He doesn't just say that to get you to come to his school. He and [his wife Maggie] really meant that."

Corbin's attitude toward coaching is critical to a college player's growth.

"For a lot of those kids, it's their first time away from home," Gray said. "So he does act like a father figure to all of his players."

With the recent success, Gray said the school has upgraded its facilities to match its new national-powerhouse status.

"They had just done work to it but they have to add more to it," Gray said. "It wasn't big enough."

Since leaving Vanderbilt after he was drafted by Oakland with the 18th overall pick in the 2011 Draft, Gray has remained in touch with Corbin.

Gray does not get involved with recruiting players to his old team but has spent time working out with players who have left the school for the next level.

Vanderbilt baseball alums Dansby Swanson and Carson Fulmer, both first-round picks in 2015, and Tyler Beede, a first-round pick in 2014, have worked out with Gray.

Swanson was drafted by the D-backs and dealt to the Braves this offseason. Fulmer was drafted by the White Sox. Beede was picked by the Giants. Both received non-roster invites to Spring Training for their respective clubs.

Walker Buehler, a Dodgers first-rounder from Vanderbilt, underwent Tommy John surgery in August.

These players won't be in the big leagues right away but shouldn't spend too much time in their respective farm systems.

As for Vanderbilt, Gray said the sky's the limit.

"As long as coach Corbin is at the helm, there is really nowhere to go but up," he said.

Bill Slane is a senior majoring in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Oakland Athletics, Sonny Gray