Mazey Shares A Special Bond With Gray
At the end of any season emotions flow strongly, be it a championship season or one which ends with elimination.
It is difficult to understand the way a team comes together over the course of a year, a season, a career. It may not be a family, as such, for the relationships are not built from blood, but they grow stronger as they are constructed more from blood, sweat and tears.
Players come from different backgrounds, have different goals. Some, on the college level, are seeking professional greatness, some are simply thankful for a free education, while others are too young yet to have really made such life decisions and are simply having a good time.
Led by a coach, who to be successful has to be a father figure rather than one of the guys, they celebrate each victory, be it on the field, in the classroom or in any other life endeavor, and they support each other through troubled times, be they related to on the field, academic or personal problems.
It is no different with any team, at least a relatively functional team, but eventually it comes to an end.
And so it was for West Virginia on Saturday when a brave team — seeded seventh but capable of reaching the Big 12 Tournament’s semifinal by knocking off both the second and third seeds — saw its season to come an end.
When WVU coach Randy Mazey spoke of them, you not only heard the emotion but you could feel it.
“I’m super proud of these guys, the way they grinded it out at the end. What these guys have put on the field this year has been amazing,” Mazey said in his postmortem. “The kids poured their hearts into the game. I just love these guys.”
As Mazey spoke, he sat next to his best player, the team’s only first-team All-Conference selection, Kyle Gray, who closed out a miraculous season that included a 23-game hitting streak and a great run in the tournament with three multi-hit games and a .500 average for the tournament, leaving him with a .374 batting average.
You sensed there was a connection, a strong one, between the young man and his coach, but there was also a mystery tie that drew them together, that made Mazey feel so strongly about this one player.
“What he’s been through this year off the field and what we’ve been through together that only we know that you don’t know, it’s incredible,” Mazey said, leaving it there.
Certainly, Gray had to deal with something more than fastballs and sliders.
What it was … well, that’s his business unless he wants to reveal it, and if Gray did want to reveal it he certainly would already have done so.
But there were no complaints, not even while Gray got off a slow start, and the way he recovered certainly showed a resiliency of which Mazey would be proud, for resiliency is one of Mazey’s favorite traits for a team or a player.
Whatever the problem, Gray left no doubt of the appreciation he had toward his coaches and his teammates.
“I’ve grown a lot and that’s because of the coaching staff, that’s the No. 1 thing. And also my teammates as well,” Gray began. “I don’t know where I would be without them, they are like family to me and to be around this group of people that care so much about each other is like nothing I’ve ever been around, other than my family. And to have them there for me in any aspect of life, whether it be school, baseball or off-field problems, they’re always there for me.
“Having that, and going into a season if you make a mistake, having other people around you will help you out.”
Certainly, Gray will hear his name called in the June draft, as will any number of his teammates, which is an annual dilemma for any college baseball coach as they can’t really put their team together for the next year until after seeing who’s drafted and who will sign.
Mazey, deep down, is hoping that maybe Gray might hang around for another year, probably hopeless hope, but you just don’t know how much that went on this season within the clubhouse will draw Gray back.
“That’s the thing we don’t know, who is coming back and who isn’t. We have a lot of guys who will have an opportunity to play baseball now, Kyle Gray included, but I think you heard what’s in his heart, being around people who care about him,” Mazey said.
“You can throw a bunch of guys in that, and throw a bunch of incoming freshmen in that hat, I don’t know the complexion of our team for next year is right now,” he continued.
“For the people who are in this program next year, we’re going to grind and we’re going to grind and we’re going to put the Mountaineers right back on the map. We’re a game or two away every year. It’s going to happen. We know it’s going to happen. We need people who want to be part of something special and do something that’s never been done before.
“This guy sitting next to me his heart is a Mountaineer and when we finally do something that’s never been done before, I want him sitting right here beside me.”