BUFFALO, N.Y. — Connor Grey knew that 2020 was his year. He followed a career year with an offseason program that helped his fastball top out at 94 miles per hour, the fastest he had thrown in his career.
"I felt like I wasn't even trying to throw hard, and it was coming out hot," he says. "I felt that would've been my year, and then, obviously, everything got cut short."
What You Need To Know
- Frewsburg native (and St. Bonaventure product) Connor Grey has reappeared in the minors more than a year after he was released by the Diamondbacks in May 2020
- Since there was no minor-league season last summer, Grey, along with hundreds of other players, was released
- Grey is pitching with the Brooklyn Cyclones, the High-A affiliate of the New York Mets. Grey signed a minor-league deal with the organization on June 17
COVID led to the cancellation of last year's Minor League Baseball season and, as a result, Grey was among hundreds of players who were suddenly out of a job. The Frewsburg native has never doubted his ability to pitch, but he occasionally harbored thoughts that his path to the majors was gone for good.
"I'd like if I said it didn't cross my mind," he says. "I always thought that. I believed that in 2020, if we would've had a normal season and I would've made a team, I think last year I could've maybe debuted [in the Major Leagues]."
After four years at St. Bonaventure, the Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Grey in the 20th round in 2016. He spent four years with their affiliates, topping out at Triple-A. Last May, when Grey was released, a former manager of his reached out with a proposition - pitch with his Independent League team, the Chicago Dogs, and try to impress an MLB team.
Grey finally made the call in December.
"I said 'hey - is my spot still open?' He said 'yeah, I'd love to have you. I'll send you the contract.' And then I signed it," he says. "The deal was done."
After five starts, a scout confirmed Grey's thoughts.
"He liked the way I compete. How I attacked the zone, and my make-up, and all my pitches," he says. "He said 'you have the make-up and stuff to get back into affiliated ball.'"
At least three MLB teams spoke with Grey's agent. The Mets let Grey make one more start before snatching him up, giving Grey his first minor-league team in 13 months. As glad as he was to return to an MLB organization, Grey might have been happier to hear how the Mets wanted to use him; unlike the Diamondbacks, who monkeyed around with Grey as a starting pitcher and a relief pitcher, the Mets project Grey to be a starter.
"Once I get going, I'll be better on the back half of the game, rather than early on, when you're trying to get your feet set," he says. "I like starting better than relieving, and I think that's one of the biggest things. Your mentality of 'I need to go 5-6 innings to give my team a chance to win.'"
The only drawback is that the Brooklyn Cyclones are High-A ball, a notch below where Grey ended 2019, not that he minds much.
"This is just for me to be able to start every week and be able to keep my innings, instead of putting me in a bullpen and throw whenever," he says. "This was a way to keep me stretched out. Just pitch well here and force their hand."
At least he has an opportunity, something he didn't have last summer.