WHEN Columbus East pitcher Peyton Gray took the mound last year against Columbus North, he wasn’t the focus of everyone’s attention.
Opposing him on the mound was Daniel Ayers, a lefty who threw a 90 mph fastball. Every time Ayers released a pitch, a gaggle of radar guns were raised in the bleachers, which were stocked with scouts.
When Gray would deliver, most of the radar guns were left in the scouts’ laps. One or two would be raised.
“I usually don’t pay any attention to that stuff during a game,” Gray said. “They were all pro scouts, and Daniel is a friend of mine. I was happy for him.”
Ayers, who had committed to Western Michigan, eventually signed with the Baltimore Orioles after graduation.
Now a senior, it might be Gray’s turn to capture the attention that goes along with being the area’s top pitcher.
Already committed to Western Michigan, a professional opportunity might be on the horizon.
“Possibly I could see it happening,” Gray said of drawing attention from the pro scouts. “I hit 92 (mph) this summer, and right now I am in the high 80s.”
Ace in control
WHO: Columbus East pitcher Peyton Gray
SIZE: 6-foot-4, 210 pounds
COMMITTED: To Western Michigan to play baseball
2014 DEBUT: Saturday in 9-3 victory against host Silver Creek, 4 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 3 strikeouts
DID YOU KNOW?: Besides playing baseball and basketball at East, Gray is an accomplished bowler, earning a spot in the state tournament earlier this year.
Columbus East head coach Jonathan Gratz doesn’t care about the numbers, except for wins and losses.
“I’m not concerned about how high he throws,” Gratz said of Gray. “I’m more about command. He had good command on Saturday and all last year. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has been good.”
Gray, who is 6-foot-4, opened the 2014 season with four scoreless innings in East’s 9-3 win against host Silver Creek on Saturday. East also won the second game 3-2.
In earning his first win of the season, Gray allowed just one hit.
“I’m completely loose,” said Gray, who relieved some stress by committing to Western Michigan. “I don’t have to communicate with all the schools now.”
He can concentrate on getting better, which he has done throughout his high school career.
“I have gained a lot of velocity and developed my pitches,” Gray said about his development at East. “I have pitches I have kind of grown into, that have developed their own personalities.
“My curveball has a late break, and it’s quick. I throw my change-up out of the same arm slot with the same action.”
What would be his fastball’s personality?
“Probably ‘mean,’” he said with a laugh.
Like Gratz, East pitching coach Justin Denney isn’t concerned with the exact speed of Gray’s pitches.
“I don’t care about radar guns,” Denney said. “I’m not a scout. Obviously Peyton has the pitches, the repertoire. He has a fastball he can throw by people.
“His composure is off the charts. I’ve never seen him let one pitch affect another in the four years he has been here. He can think his way through a game or go on cruise control and let me call the pitches.”
Gray, who always has been a San Francisco Giants fan, had a 1.31 ERA last season with 54 strikeouts in 42-1/3 innings.
“He has as much upside as anyone in our recruiting class and possibly anyone I have ever coached,” said Western Michigan coach Billy Gernon. “We have watched his velocity continue to climb over the last two years, and with his remarkable size and frame it would be an understatement to say I am excited to see what level Gray might go to in another year.
“I am excited to continue to watch him develop, especially when his focus turns to only one spot.”
Besides being a three-year letter winner in basketball, Gray qualified for a spot in the state high school bowling championships.
For the time being, Gray will concentrate on helping East earn its first sectional title since 1999.
“We have a lot of younger guys who are stepping up, and they will play a key factor as much as I will,” Gray said.
Still, Gray is East’s ace.
“He has a presence on the mound,” Gratz said. “He is confident out there. He definitely is one of our team leaders, both on and off the field.
“And he is a great kid and a good student.”
It all should grab the attention of the pro scouts, who might want to get those radar guns off their laps when Gray pitches. Perhaps a few scouts might talk their teams into taking a shot at Gray in the amateur baseball draft in June.
“I’ve thought about it a little, and I really would like to go to school,” Gray said. “But it’s (the professional scouts’) choice. All I can do is perform.”